By Kayla Ngai
On October 31st, Kit Connor was forced to come out as bisexual. Connor plays Nick (one of the main characters) on Netflix’s Heartstopper based on the acclaimed Alice Oseman graphic novels, which are famous for their LGBTQ+ representation.
The original book series is about two young boys named Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson navigating their blossoming relationship and sexuality during high school. In the story, Nick gradually realizes he is bisexual and takes an interest in Charlie, but does not feel prepared to come out to the world yet. Through this narrative, the story depicts the general decency of not demanding too much personal information from others. It subtly instructs how someone’s coming out journey should not be forced.
However, after many complaints that a straight person should not be playing Nick’s character in the Netflix adaptation, Connor felt obligated to come out. There were also other tweets demanding that Connor announce his sexuality after the show aired and many other fans online accused Connor of queerbaiting (“benefiting from appearing as queer without claiming the community explicitly”). As a result— despite rarely being on Twitter— he posted: “Back for a minute. I’m bi. Congrats on forcing an 18 year old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.”
Connor’s tweet sparked a conversation about the prospect of queerbaiting. Popular on BookTok, Madi Lim (@limmadi8) related that “real people cannot … queerbait.” Other celebrities such as Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, and Ariana Grade have been accused of queerbaiting too, but the truth is, we know nothing about these celebrities. We do not know if they are a part of that community or not, because celebrities might choose to not disclose that part of their lives. They might also choose to leave the discourse entirely. Madi Lim continues by saying, “actors owe us nothing about their personal lives,” which is indeed true.
Kit Connor did not need to come out and I am not alone in this opinion. Many other celebrities and fans have come out to support him against the forces that painted him into some type of hypocrite. As Ranj Singh, a doctor and TV show personality, stated, “I wish this tweet was never necessary. Hope you’re OK. Sending love.”
That is the heart of the issue: Connor’s tweet was absolutely unnecessary. There should not be gatekeeping around gay and queer characters, as the whole concern of the movement is to practice inclusivity. The general public should not demand information from famous people in order to suit self-satisfying narratives that work against the idea of accepting people as they are, and not forcing an identity upon someone. The point of the Heartstopper TV show and the graphic novels were to depict young people trying to explore and come to terms with their sexuality in a healthy way.
As Connor’s character (Nick) is the one to discover he is bisexual over the course of the series, it becomes important that the other characters (especially Charlie) treat Nick with patience and understanding. Thus, it is especially disheartening that fans of Heartstopper missed the overall message and would coerce Kit Connor into coming out. Although actors create content for our entertainment, they do not owe us anything more about themselves.