In Which Anna Paquin Had To Explain Bisexuality To Insufferable Larry King

This week, True Blood actress and out bisexual person Anna Paquin went on Larry King Now, presumably to talk about the upcoming and final season of her wildly popular television program. While they did discuss a great deal regarding Paquin’s acting career, her marriage to True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer and the cast’s feelings about the show’s conclusion, the interview included one particularly cringe-worthy exchange between the two.

Anna Paquin famously came out as bisexual in 2010, when she filmed a PSA for the Give A Damn campaign declaring herself as such. Although she’s told Zooey magazine that her orientation was “a minor biographical detail,” she has continued to publicly champion LGBTQ rights. Unfortunately, Paquin has also had the frustrating and all-too-familiar experience of having to explain her sexual orientation over and over again in great detail, and clarifying that her marriage to a man does not invalidate her identity.

During her sit-down with Larry, King asked Paquin if she considered herself a “non-practicing bisexual.” When Paquin replied that she was “happily, monogamously married” to her husband, King responded with, “But you were bisexual?”

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 10.05.58 PM

Suspension of disbelief miraculously includes vampires, not bisexuals.

As Paquin good-naturedly replied that she didn’t consider her orientation to be in the past-tense, King continued to press her for more details. Finally, she asked, “Are you still straight if you’re with somebody? If you were to break up with them or they were to die, it doesn’t prevent your sexuality from existing. It doesn’t really work like that.”

“Stop with the wishful thinking,” King joked. Just like that, the sounds of a thousand groans overwhelmed the Hulu soundboards as everyone with any basic understanding of human sexuality barfed in unison.

¿Que?

You sad little man

Paquin answered again, “I’m just saying, it doesn’t really work like that.”

For starters, I would imagine that trying to explain one’s sexual fluidity to an 80-year-old white dude who’s been married eight times to seven women would be a lot like trying to explain one’s sexual fluidity to their cranky old uncle, which is why I haven’t really ever explained my sexuality in depth to any of my cranky old uncles. The very concept of one’s longterm relationship or marriage magically transforming them into a “non-practicing bisexual” is not only invalid, it’s damaging and hurtful. There exists a great myth that committed relationships can invalidate a person’s orientation, which causes infinitely frustrated bisexuals to be perceived as attention-seeking, greedy or not “real.”

Although she handled Larry King’s clueless questioning like a pro, this certainly won’t be the last time openly bisexual celebrities are questioned about the validity of their identities. It would be fantastic for mainstream media to accept that bisexuality is real and that sexuality can be fluid, but in the meantime it’s still heartening to see stars like Ms. Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood fighting the good fight, being proud of their relationships and calmly explaining what bisexuality means and doesn’t mean to a large audience. Thank you, Anna Paquin, for taking it in stride… for all of us.

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Stef Schwartz is the Music Editor and self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at Autostraddle.com. She's a rock'n'roll jack-of-all-trades, vegan crusader and legit professional weirdo. She lives with her cat Scully in the wilds of Brooklyn, where she plays a bunch of instruments in some bands or whatever. Follow her on twitter.

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40 Comments

  1. Thumb up 22

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    good stuff, thanks for writing this. i totally agree and empathize with her, it’s so fucking frustrating when straight people don’t get that you don’t just stop being bisexual if you’re in a relationship with someone of a similar gender to yours or of a different gender to yours. plus, i feel like there was that nasty insinuation that bisexual ladies are inherently promiscuous…

  2. Thumb up 39

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    I don’t even understand the relevancy or purpose of berating openly bisexual people about their “status”. This was super gross, and the restraint expected on Anna’s part whereas assholes can say whatever they want is infuriating. Why is it “okay” to delegitimize someone’s identity but “rude” to tell someone else to fuck off?

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      I agree with you,POF. so totally! I try to keep myself in my female center and dismiss the skeptics. I know ME. If you want to ask me questions about me….like why I know I am female…..and why I feel so happy knowing that? Then ask ….but please don’t think you know me….better than I know myself. Because that is not true.

  3. Thumb up 30

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    When I went to uni and had my first ‘proper’ girlfriend I came out to my parents (which wasn’t the best but was relatively pretty fine). Then a couple of years later I got with a guy and certain members of my family put the girlfriend down to an experiment. When I got with my current (female) partner I came out again and I really now feel that I am seen as ‘confused’ by said family peeps. Bleh.

    I’ve been lucky to move in circles where ‘queer’ is common parlance – reclaimed and often taken to mean that any further labels are redundant. You fancy who you fancy and this could include any number of genders/gender identities. From time to time I forget that ‘bisexual’ still isn’t widely understood and then I see something like this and despair at my hope that I’ll one day be able to use ‘queer’ as easily as I can with my friends.

  4. Thumb up 33

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    I don’t understand this. I really don’t understand this. How can they not understand this? Is it because of a phallo-centric view of sexuality? Is it because they really can not understand “I’m attracted to men and women, and I don’t stop being attracted to men because I’m with a woman, just like you don’t stop being attracted to other women because you are with one woman.” I mean, if you can understand people dating casually and seeing other people, people cheating, people having more than one partner, monogamous people who comment on how hot a co-worker or star is, then you should be able to understand this. I don’t understand the lack of understanding. Is the need for compartamilizing so strong it overrides the ability to logic?

    • Thumb up 15

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      It’s probably for the same reason we think lesbians with a past of dating men must be bi, that if a lesbian has never been with a guy then she can’t be sure, that if a woman is bi it’s to attract men, that if a man is bi he just isn’t out of the closet yet, and that a bi woman must be straight if she is presently dating a man, or not ever dated a woman . . . Wait, all my examples are people trying to insist that anyone who is not a straight dude must be attracted to dudes. I guess that’s phallo-centrism but can I sit with you and be confused too?

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          Oooh but what about sexist cishet family members who think any female born person who falls too far out of their proper gender roles and aren’t additionally preppy heteronormatively attractive is clearly the gayest kind of gay? The kind to mocked because at least femmy gay men give the hets art and culture, butches just stink up the room and have poor people jobs.

          Tl;dr My brother and his wife are fucked up in a progressive way and have the sorta ideas as the “old white gal: lesbians (bisexual = dumb lesbian)

  5. Thumb up 31

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    Oh, you’re a heterosexual in a happily married monogamous relationship? Why do you still say you’re heterosexual? I mean, you’re only with one person, right? It’s therefore not possible to find anyone else attractive. Everyone knows relationships change your sexuality. You’re clearly just spousesexual now.

  6. Thumb up 14

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    I really appreciate this article. As a bisexual woman who is in a committed relationship with a dude, I’ve had similar infuriating interrogations from people who don’t understand queerness and relationship status’s effect on it. It’s weird for me to feel like I’ve kept my place in my queer community since being in a relationship with a man and it makes it way harder when people keep refusing to acknowledge sexual fluidity as a “real” way to be. I’m really happy that Anna Paquin didn’t let those kind of comments slide!

  7. Thumb up 8

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    THis entire exchange is just a massive facepalm. And bloody awkward. But I can see it being useful for people who honestly, yet openly just believe this sort of rubbish. Sad, but she explained herself really well, and for anyone with half a brain she’s obviously got a point. Let’s hope it means that other people won’t have to explain themselves so specifically in future.

  8. Thumb up 6

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    Come on guys, don’t you know you can only like one gender at a time? Just pick one already!

    As someone who has encountered poor confused human beings who can’t seem to understand the concept of a fluid sexuality or bisexuality, I am grateful to Anna Paquin for trying.

  9. Thumb up 6

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    This is a good example of how bigotry makes it difficult for even reasonably intelligent people to understand simple concepts. I’m really glad that Anna stood up for herself and explained her position so clearly. Hopefully a few ignorant people learned something from this.

  10. Thumb up 9

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    One thing though: bisexuality =/= sexual fluidity. I am bisexual. My sexuality is not fluid. I do not become gay when I’m with a woman and straight when I’m with a man. My sexuality is static. Sure, there are people out there whose sexuality is fluid, but ‘bisexuality’ is not an interchangeable term for ‘sexual fluidity’.

  11. Thumb up 3

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    I dated a woman at uni, then a man after. Unfortunately (sort of, for the purposes of this conversation) I am still with him ten years later and I’m pretty sure that all my friends and family put my girlfriend down to experimentation. More disappointingly, the LGBT (there were just the four letters, back then) group I joined when I went to do my masters pretty much froze me out when I announced I was dating a man. I’ve even hung back from commenting on Autostraddle at times because I feel like people won’t think I’m authentically ‘bi’ enough. I am happy and monogamous, but find it frustrating that people assume I’m straight, and dropping my bisexuality into the conversation never seems easy. Also it leads to comments like ‘I bet your boyfriend doesn’t mind’, as though I’m just playing bisexual to titillate him, or that it means he’s more likely to get a threesome out of it.

    I also like the above comment that bisexuality and sexual fluidity are different things. Some days I’m more in a girl kind of a mood, some days I’m in more of a boy kind of a mood. All days I’m bi, not gay or straight. A bit fluid, all bi, that’s me :)

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      On the flip-side of the titillation thing, my most recent male ex was asked several times by his friends/family if he minded that I was ‘bi’ (I identify as queer but what the hell) because surely that meant more to be jealous of.

      Bleh.

  12. Thumb up 4

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    This hits home so hard for me. I identify as pan and no one ever gets it. After they are done making cooking utensil jokes, they just start calling me a lesbian. My mom was talking the people coordinating the OWL program at our church and they were all excited about asking me to help facilitate because they would have a lesbian. My mom kindly explained that I am not in fact a lesbian and no one understood. One of the women actually said, “my daughter is proud to be a lesbian.” These are all people I love and respect greatly, but they can’t seem to wrap their heads around anything but monosexuality and it frustrates me to no end.

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