Praise for Buck’s Bisexuality Keeps Erasing 9-1-1’s Black Lesbians (Who’ve Been There THE WHOLE TIME)

9-1-1 Praise for Not Queerbaiting Needs to Stop Erasing Hen and Her Wife from the Narrative

9-1-1: Hen and Karen smile, Hen with her hand on her wife's knee

🎶”Don’t you forget about me.”🎶 (Photo: Disney/Chris Willard)

The first thing I want to say before I get on my soap box and go on a little rant is this: I am SO excited that 9-1-1′s Buck is bisexual. I do think it’s a huge deal that the show took their womanizer male character, saw the internet commenting on his chemistry with his best guy friend Eddy, and gave him a boyfriend and a coming out arc. I’m also thrilled about how many people, on and off screen, are using the word “bisexual” to describe it. I’m glad that this news has brought a lot of new fans into the fold for a show that was cast aside by one network only to be embraced by a brand new one. I am a notorious misandrist, but I have genuinely loved Buck for quite a few seasons now and I am genuinely happy for him.

THAT SAID. I have a huge problem with how a lot of fans and, more importantly, mainstream media outlets are framing it. Take this Rolling Stone article that came out today, for example.

First, the is the article’s definition of “queerbaiting” — which is almost correct. They say, “Queerbaiting is a term for when shows use queer relationships to draw viewers in, but never actualize them. It gained widespread use in online fandoms in the 2000s, with television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Rizzoli and Isles, and Teen Wolf, which all included peripheral gay characters but never committed to allowing their main character to be queer.” The first sentence is a true definition of queerbaiting, but the last line misses the point.

Queerbaiting is not about allowing a main character to be queer, as much as it is portraying a couple as queer in external media to tease viewers and get them to watch the TV show, while not actually committing to said queerness it on screen. Rizzoli and Isles is indeed a perfect example of that, as their posters and billboards often showed the duo in very romantic-looking positions (lying on a picnic blanket together, for example) and would sometimes give them flirty lines but never actually went there. Queerbaiting is an intentional thing shows do. Like giving two female characters a scene that almost shot-for-shot matches a heterosexual romantic pairing in the comic book the show is based, on but then swearing up and down the women are just friends. Not following characters’ chemistry isn’t always queerbaiting. This Rolling Stone piece was written by a nonbinary culture writer, which makes me think we (queer journalists and fandoms) have been failing to define “queerbaiting” correctly publicly for far too long.

In my opinion, 9-1-1 was never intentionally queerbaiting. It sounds like, according to the quotes in that article, that the showrunner and actors were on board with bisexual Buck for a few seasons now, but Fox higher-ups said no, which is why it took them moving to ABC before it could be greenlit.

Now on to my second, bigger problem with this discourse: In praising 9-1-1 for making one of their main (white, male) characters bisexual, not once in this entire article did they mention Hen, who has had AN ENTIRE WIFE since Season 1. And this is not just about this one article, this is reflective of a lot of conversations that have happened online since Buck’s coming out. Hen was gay and married long before the show started, and Tracie Thoms showed up playing her wife as early as the fifth episode of the series, and has been back in various capacities every season since. To not even mention the Black lesbians in your article once in an entire piece about queerness on 9-1-1 is absolutely absurd. And again, I’m not harping specifically on this one Rolling Stones article, because as egregious as it is, it isn’t the first article to do so, just the most recent. I’ve seen a slew of articles, tweets, and TikToks praising 9-1-1 for “finally” being queer, when it’s been gay literally the entire time.

And it’s not even just Hen and Karen! The series starts with Athena’s husband (who is also Black) leaving her because he realized he’s gay. Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character’s coworker Josh has been out and gay and has even had gay-specific storylines. Even though those are recurring characters and not main characters, they’re other examples of why some of the conversation about 9-1-1 recently has put a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s frustrating to have to write so negatively about this whole situation, when I should be celebrating alongside everyone else. If the conversation was about adding another queer character to a show that already has some queer characters, that’s an interesting conversation to have, because a lot of shows seem to think there’s a quota they have to fill, and don’t like having more than two queer people in a cast at a time. If the conversation was about having a character that was previously a bit of a womanizer not only be bisexual but come to terms with it relatively quickly and excitedly, that’s also an interesting conversation, because I have genuinely really enjoyed watching Buck’s journey. But to accuse the show of queerbaiting, or celebrate it “finally” having a queer main character is disingenuous at best, misogynistic and/or racist at worst.

End rant.

Hose Off with Some Less Enraging News

+ Bisexual actress and former Pretty Little Liar Shay Mitchell has an upcoming travel show about beverages around the world

+ Saturday Night Live did a JoJo Siwa skit, which JoJo herself found amusing; my favorite part was when she exclaimed, “I’m the first gay girl in the world!”

+ Devery Jacobs is going to star in a queer cheerleading movie called Backspot alongside Evan Rachel Wood Bisexual, which is firmly up my alley

+ Janelle Monáe is going to be in a musical movie from Pharrell, said to be a coming-of-age story set during the summer of 1977

+ Madonna answered the call to “come to Brazil” amassed 1.6 million people at her free concert

+ We Are Lady Parts dropped an official trailer

+ Mara Wilson joined her former costars for a Mrs. Doubtfire reunion

+ Queer horror author Kalynn Bayron has short stories in two upcoming anthologies, We Mostly Come Out at Night and The White Guy Dies First and these anthologies could have other queer authors in them I just know I added them to my wishlist SO FAST when I saw Kalynn’s name because she’s one of my favorite authors ever

+ To celebrate this year’s Tony nominations, please enjoy this breakdown of the queerness of this season’s Broadway shows

+ Fear Street: Prom Queen is in production; let’s hope it’s as queer as the last batch of Fear Street films

+ The P.Valley team has kicked off production on Season 3

+ Khloe Kardashian is not opposed to the idea of being a lesbian someday

+ Kylie Minogue’s sister Dannii, who is the host of upcoming queer British reality show I Kissed a Girl is not queer at all despite sort of saying she was and also hosting a queer reality show

+ It looks like Rosie O’Donnell will be joining the cast of And Just Like That as a love interest for Miranda – to quote Drew in our TV Team Slack, “L Word/A League of Their Own/Sex and the City is a wild trifecta for Rosie I love it”

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 558 articles for us.


  1. I saw a youtube essay, “Queerbait and Doctor Who: Trial of a Time Lady”, that has a really great definition of queerbait: When a piece of media encourages a queer interpretation, and then discourages it. That cuts the line on early queer media that couldn’t be openly queer, such as Xena: Warrior Princess, and other media that might be openly queer, but puts its queerness on the sidelines.

  2. Maybe the RS writer hasn’t been watching the show. Queerbaiting is such a weird word because I do feel like it’s taken on different permutations. Buck is not my favorite character but I’ve been trying to stay away from “Buck” related media mostly because I don’t want to read anything negative. Oliver Stark even said it himself the show’s always been queer (we know it). I don’t know if it’s because Hen was establish from the start as a “married with children” character so viewers were like “okay Hen’s gay move on” and Buck being such a dude it makes waves. We’ve seen the side character jock type in many shows and movies come out before the end so it’s not breaking new ground. But whenever it’s a main character coming out as LGBTQ+ people feel blindsided and shocked. Happens in mainstream comics all the time. I mean happens in real life too. I do feel like it’s a great arc for Buck because it’s been established he always felt left out and something was missing. He literally gave his sperm to a friend because of that. So this realization for his character makes sense. I love Hen and Karen. I’m super happy they haven’t been pushed aside up to now. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen.

  3. I don’t even watch the show but I’ve always known about Hen and Karen and seeing them being left out of articles and posts about 911 ‘finally being gay’ was weird. But unsurprising. The dismissal of black gay women is nothing new but still disappointing and I’m glad you mentioned it. And that the actor for Bucky highlighted them in an interview as well. Like yay for Bucky but let’s not forget the women who were there the entire time.

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