How a television character helped me accept my bisexuality


The road to self-acceptance is long, but Clarke Griffin made the journey easier by providing the representation of bisexuality that I needed.

Like most people, my transition into college was a period of intense change, growth, and self-discovery. I had stepped into an entirely new world and was confronted with the challenge of learning who I was outside of the constraints of high school, outside of the pressure to be as totally average as possible. And in high school, being average meant being unflinchingly, unquestioningly straight.

The idea that I could even be bisexual never crossed my mind until well near my 20s, because why would it? I’m a girl. I’m supposed to like boys. I don’t think I even fully understood what bisexuality was in high school (though I have now come to define it for myself as attraction to both my gender and other genders).

Girls liking boys was all I ever knew because it’s all I ever saw: at school, at the mall, in books, on TV… everywhere. Sure, there were a few token gays here and there, but for the most part, high school — and everything prior to that — was just one big blur of compulsory heterosexuality, and bisexuality was nothing but an unspoken myth.

These things were still true once I got to college, but the difference is that college affords people the chance to start over and, ideally, be who they are without fear of judgment. It’s a chance to self-reflect and consider the kind of person you want to be when the debilitating insecurity that follows you through high school finally disappears.

Now, I didn’t go into college expecting it to trigger some massive wave of self-realization, let alone a Big Bisexual Awakening. I thought I already had everything figured out. But when my mental health took a downturn and I was left feeling more alone and isolated than ever before, I needed an escape to make the hours on end that were spent by myself in my dorm room a little more bearable.

So, I turned to television. More specifically, I turned to The 100.

The 100 – “Shifting Sands” – Pictured: Eliza Taylor as Clarke. Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

I had been introduced to the show about a year prior to starting college and was instantly captivated by the rich storytelling and exceptional worldbuilding. More than anything, though, I was drawn to the characters. They were so full of depth and complexity; I could see myself in parts of all of them. Their fears and mistakes often mirrored my own. Their quiet strength resembled mine. Their unwavering love for one another reflected the way I care for those closest to me.

Bearing significant impact on the development of the characters is the context for the actual story, which takes place 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse has wiped out all but a few thousand people living on a space station. Showrunner Jason Rothenberg has stated that this society has progressed beyond the labels that divide us now, including race, gender and sexuality, because all that matters in this post-apocalyptic hellscape is one thing: survival.

Though problematic in its suggestion that these labels have no power or purpose — LGBTQ folk, for example, often rely on the existence of these labels to achieve a sense of validation and self-understanding — the idea does create a world where women, queer people and people of color are judged only for their ideas and actions rather than their identity.

The 100 – “Bodyguard of Lies”. Pictured (L-R): Eliza Taylor as Clarke and Alycia Debnam-Carey as Lexa. Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW

When leading lady Clarke Griffin was canonically confirmed bisexual, it was as though a switch flicked on within me. Here was this courageous, fearless, badass woman who was in love with another woman (who, for the record, was equally as courageous, fearless, and badass) — and no one cared. No one cared that it was a woman, especially not Clarke. All that mattered was the love.

She was never told that she was wrong or confused, as bisexuals often are. And most striking to me was the way she never doubted herself, she never questioned whether the love was real just because it was for a woman. For Clarke, love is simply love.

Seeing Clarke on my screen deeply and unapologetically in love with a woman and still allowed to be as strong and powerful as she always had been felt like an epiphany. Girls can like girls and boys? Who hecking knew?

Her story inspired me to think more critically about own. I considered my own love life, or lack thereof, and the fact that I had gone 18 years without ever being in a relationship. I began to think that maybe there was a reason, and maybe that reason was because I had never actually given much thought to who I’m attracted to or the kind of person I see myself spending my life with. And when I realized that I could just as easily see myself with a woman as I could a man, I was absolutely terrified.

Freshman year was filled with a lot of restless nights spent wondering whether or not I was bi. I would be so sure of it one day then completely deny it the next; it was a constant and exhausting battle. I was so afraid to peel back this layer of myself and discover what was hiding beneath the surface. What would my friends think if I were bi? What would my family think?

The 100 – “Hakeldama”. Pictured (L-R): Bob Morley as Bellamy and Eliza Taylor as Clarke. Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

Coming to terms with my bisexuality was a long and scary process, but eventually, I found myself more and more comfortable with it. After all, if Clarke isn’t afraid to be her badass bi self, why should I be? Granted, it’s a lot more dangerous to be openly bi in this world than in the world of The 100.  But with the privilege of living in a relatively liberal area with an incredibly accepting family, I always knew deep down that the biggest hurdle for me wasn’t what other people would think of me, but what I would think of myself. And if Clarke doesn’t let herself be plagued by self-doubt and isn’t afraid to fiercely love who she wants to love, I don’t want to be, either.

When I start to question myself or feel scared, I look to Clarke. I draw my courage, my strength and my self-assuredness from her. She is the light at the end of the tunnel reminding me that I am just as valid and worthy of love as anyone else. She is the reason I had the guts to look my fear in the eye and come out to my family and friends.

It’s because of Clarke that I know loving another woman doesn’t make me flawed or broken, it makes me whole. It makes me… well, me.

Because of Clarke, I have grown confident and comfortable with my bisexuality. She is the representation I didn’t know I was looking for; her journey sparked the beginning of mine. I didn’t know how to be my truest self or even know who my truest self was before I found her. I needed someone to guide me along the way to make the journey of self-discovery and acceptance a little less terrifying and lonely.

Clarke has been that person for me, empowering me and reminding me just through her existence that I have a place in this world.

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