Why Every Lesbian and Bisexual Woman Should Be Watching “The Bold Type”

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Freeform has a stellar track record when it comes to lesbian and bisexual representation. From the romantic endeavors of Emily on Pretty Little Liars to the exploration of marriage in The Fosters the network doesn’t shy away from giving us strong protagonists and allowing viewers to see characters whose love for women is woven into the fabric of who they are. Sadly, both of the aforementioned shows have wrapped up in the last year. But fear not, because The Bold Type is the sexy, smart, spunky, progressive show you’ve been waiting for.

In case you haven’t heard, Kadena is the new lesbian “it” couple, and their love story is one not to be missed. Kat is a biracial social media department head for Scarlet magazine, TV world’s version of Cosmopolitan. Adena is a Muslim lesbian photographer who continues to struggle to remain in the US due to her work visa. Their romance began budding last summer during the first few episodes of the first season of the show, and the continuous sexual awakenings we watch Kat have as the relationship progresses is one of the most delightful and refreshing things I’ve ever seen on television.

We often see painful, awkward, and even sometimes positive coming out stories unfold on screen, but rarely do we watch the journey of a woman who thought she was straight come to terms with her attraction to a woman in such an open, casual, and positive way. Even in pivotal films like Carol or lighthearted romantic comedies like Imagine Me & You, we see a quieter, more internal struggle within characters as begin to understand their own feelings and desires.

The revelations of realizing as an adult that you’re not straight is one that took me right back to adolescence, where I asked myself those questions girls talk about with their friends in their teenage years when you’re all first experimenting with boys together. As a grown woman, when I fell in love with another woman, I didn’t run and gossip and work through those feelings with my friends. They couldn’t relate, and I didn’t know how they would respond.

In The Bold Type, Kat is surrounded by gal pals who excitedly encourage her to dish on every new emotion and experience, and the joy over their support is infectious. They beg her to dish on what oral sex is like, in a way that’s anything but exploitative, and tease her for being nervous about her first outing with Adena’s crowd, exclaiming, “Awe, baby’s first lesbian bar!”

As the second season of this Freeform show hits its stride this summer, we’re treated to this same newness, acceptance, and encouragement for Kat, along with a deeper dive into her love with Adena as they settle into an actual relationship. The Bold Type approaches the milestones of a woman’s first lesbian relationship with the tenderness, comedy, and honesty the experience deserves.

 

The most poignant, and my favorite episode of the series is the second season opener, titled “Feminist Army”. In it, Adena confronts Kat about her overzealous flaunting of their romance when that enthusiasm isn’t translating to the bedroom. Kat won’t go down on Adena, partly because she’s afraid she won’t like it and partly because she’s worried she’ll be bad at it. Slightly spoilery, but the episode culminates in a smoldering scene between the two where Kat pushes past her nerves, and well, comes out on top. It’s sexy, edgy, and I’m proud as hell of Freeform for giving the scene the attention it deserves.

The next day, when Kat’s friends ask about her sexcapades, Kat responds that she realized that she has the same body, so she just did what feels good to her. I found myself watching Kat voice thoughts and feelings that I had every step of the way, but never spoke about. To see that unfold on screen is an incredible sense of validation, relief, and inclusion. I wish I’d had this show to watch when I was afraid to say all of these things out loud, for fear I’d be either be scoffed at by my straight friends or mocked by my gay friends for not knowing what the hell I was doing. Watching Kat work her way through these uncertainties has been transformative, like I’m coming out all over again on TV.

I’m bisexual. Kat has yet to label herself, but I think both bisexual and lesbian women who didn’t realize their sexual orientation until adulthood can relate to her journey and connect with her lesbian journey. Although Adena’s unapologetic character seems to be a bit stuck narratively, shining the most when she faces down politically charged trials like being detained at the airport because of an attempt to smuggle contraband (read sex toys)in her luggage back to Peru, her role as seasoned lesbian to Kat’s “baby” status makes for a sweet, nuanced love story.

The tropes of the lesbian community are poked fun at with sensitivity and delightful respect, from a bar full of women who have clearly all slept together and are trying to remain best friends, to the U-Haul concept of hopping from one serious relationship to the next. Each stereotype is handled with a wink and a side of delicacy though, as only this show is proving to know how. In the latest new episode when Kat grumbles about Adena’s unwillingness to divulge the number of people she’s slept with, she bemoans that she doesn’t “really know what lesbians count as sex.” Where this offhand comment could easily be deemed offensive, its delivery somehow isn’t because it comes from the mouth of someone who is in love and innocently trying to figure it all out along the way.

Images via Freeform

 

And isn’t that what we’re all really doing, figuring it out along the way? Adena is teaching Kat that if you go with your instincts and your feelings, you can do no wrong, and Katis teaching all of us that it’s okay to ask the questions so many of us are afraid to admit we wondered when we were learning the ropes. For the seasoned lesbian and bisexual women, may we gain a sense of nostalgia over this stage in our lives, and gratitude that these stumbles are being shown on TV now. For the newbies, may you feel validated by this representation and comforted by the fact that there are no dumb sex questions, and you’re never too old to be asking them.

The Bold Type airs Tuesday nights on Freeform.

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