“The Real L Word” has a bisexual problem

Let it be known that I love and appreciate bisexual women. I know many, just as I know many queer women, or women who don’t prefer to label themselves but date without gender or sexual restrictions. So this is why I’m having some trouble with The Real L Word‘s Romi Klinger.

On this season of the Showtime series, Romi has pretty much run the gamut of what I’d consider to be terrible bisexual stereotypes come to life. It’s unfortunate because this show is the one representation specifically of gay women on television, and it should be one on which a bisexual woman could be fairly portrayed. Other examples of bisexual women on reality TV haven’t been the best — I’m looking at you, Real Housewives — and so it’s not a complete surprise that Romi has received an onslaught of negative comments directed toward her. The problem is that Romi and even creator/producer Ilene Chaiken are suggesting that viewers and other castmates are being hateful or upset at Romi for dating men. Well, that could be why some people aren’t big fans, but I suspect it has more to do with her behavior than the gender of her love interests.



Now I am smart enough to realize The Real L Word does not and could not ever accurately represent every lesbian/queer chick ever, but this is the one bisexual person they have on the show, and it’s truly face-palm inducing when Romi insists we’re mad at her because she’s bi. I can give you some other reasons why it’s maddening to see the portrayal of bisexuality on TRLW, and they all have to do with the collection of myths about bisexuality being perpetuated on Season 3.

Myth #1. Bisexuals don’t exist — you’re either gay or you’re straight.

In Seasons 1 and 2, Romi said she was a lesbian, even discussing her past marriage to a man as a speed bump on her path to gaydom. She made no mention of her other relationships with both Jay and Dusty, her ex-boyfriends who came back into her life on Season 3 as love interests. Her bisexuality seemed to only factor in when it was convenient this season. Early on Jay says to Romi at dinner, “When you’re with me, you’re heterosexual.” Even he’s confused as to why she’s still on this show.

Myth #2: Bisexuals are confused. You can’t be bisexual and in a monogamous relationship.

Romi jumping from Jay to Kelsey to Dusty had viewers wondering if Romi ever really had any feelings for the person she was saying she wanted to have kids with or who had moved into her place. She came off as an opportunist of the worst kind, just looking for anyone who would and could love her and offer her the most attention.

Myth #3: Bisexuals are more acceptable to mainstream society.

It seemed very suspect that Romi’s interest in attempting a musical career came about as she began to date men again. Bringing in Dusty as a musical co-conspirator, it was quite obvious from the start he was back for a reason other than doing some duetting. Lesbian pop star? Not so accessible. Bisexual performer? Probably easier for some to digest — if they like her music, that is.

In an interview with Ilene, Romi complains that she feels the most judged by the lesbian community. Ilene says, “Your fans felt betrayed, abandoned,” adding, “You almost get laughed at a little bit for being bisexual.”

Some lesbians might make Romi feel that way, but I also hear from most viewers of the show it’s not about that at all. We don’t feel betrayed because Romi dates dudes. We feel like this is another poor representation of a bisexual woman on a show that professes to be real. It’s offensive to “real” bisexual, queer or questioning women. I have no doubt Romi is bisexual, and I hope she’s happy with her partner, but it’s disheartening that lesbian fans of the show are being insulted and made to feel biphobic because we don’t think she’s the best one for the job. There are young, impressionable bisexual women or lesbians watching this show, too, and it’s scary to think they’d grow up to be a gaggle of Romis. Not because of whom she chooses to get in bed with, but because her decisions appear to be motivated by opportunity, selfishness and camera-time.

When Ilene brings up Tina from The L Word as an example of a fictional character she created and was able to use however she’d like, she tells The Huffington Post:

I got so much anger for letting the Tina go back to men. Because I was in control of it, I buckled under the pressure. When I had originally envisioned that story I had just thought of Tina as a person who would have a relationship with Bette and then when that relationship broke up, her next relationship would be with a man and I thought I’d get to tell that story. And I didn’t get to really explore it in that way. But in The Real L Word — because it’s real life — it just came to us and I was pleased to be able to represent that experience.

Interesting, though The L Word also had Alice, a bisexual character fans loved no matter who she dated. As for Tina, she was written to be very unlikable during her relationship with Henry. If viewers disliked Tina, it was because she was having cyber sex with men on the internet while sleeping next to Bette and then challenging Bette’s right to Angela once she’d had a new instafamily with Henry and his own kid. Seems that there’s a disconnect in how Ilene sees what she creates and what fans feel when they watch it.

When I spoke with Real L Word producers Jane Lipsitz and Dan Cutforth last month at TCA, Dan told me they actually went into production on Season 3 earlier than planned because they heard Romi was dating Jay.

“We weren’t shooting when we heard that Romi was seeing a guy and so we sprang into action and got cameras down there,” he said. “We had to get down there and had to shoot it.”

Ilene even said she was happy to tell the story of bisexuality on The Real L Word; that she’d been hoping to at some point, though she never seemed to have found a bisexual cast member until Romi surprised them all.

And when it comes to who dislikes Romi for being bisexual, Ilene said she has only really heard about it from one person.

“I have mostly heard from Romi directly,” she said. “I haven’t been that engaged with the fan reactions — they aren’t, for some reason, as easy for me to track as they once were — the conversations take place in so many different forums. But Romi has gotten a lot of hate. It could be for all kinds of reasons but certainly some of it has just been that reaction that you’re talking about from a community that feels if you’re not with them, you’re against them.”

You’re correct, Ilene. I do not feel like Romi’s with me. But I also don’t feel she’s against me. I feel she’s working against the women I know who see their sexuality as something other than reality TV fodder and are still being misrepresented and seen as wishy-washy bedhoppers.

Having watched the final episode of Season 3 that airs on Thursday, I can only say that Romi’s true motivations are even more clear when, as you can see in previews, she heads to the altar the same weekend as Sara and Whitney, cameras in tow. Shockingly, Dusty and Romi are also releasing their EP Love Thursday as well. Bisexuality: Get it while it’s hot!

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