Rosa Diaz’s Big Coming Out on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” Was Bittersweet — and Specifically Bisexual

Last week we got the long-hoped-for treat of queer fan favorite Rosa Diaz coming out as bisexual on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, an experience made better by the fact that she’s played by out bisexual actor Stephanie Beatriz, who’s openly advocated for her character’s queerness. As Heather wrote when the episode aired, a lot was done right that’s often done wrong with bisexual storylines — Rosa explicitly says she’s bisexual, something we rarely see, and the writers included Beatriz and her input in creating the storyline.

And it shows, even more so in “Game Night” than in “99.” After being kind of outed by Boyle’s nosiness in the previous episode, Rosa decides to intentionally come out to her coworkers and, later, her parents. It’s established that while Rosa’s coming out to others is new, coming out to herself is not — she tells Amy she’s known she was bi since seventh grade. It’s notable how much this arc is focused on sexual orientation as a character trait rather than a plot point — the focus is never on Rosa’s relationship with this new woman (although I do want to know more about that!) but the fact that bisexuality is an important part of Rosa’s identity and always has been, something that’s refreshing to see. Parts of Rosa’s coming out are probably pretty relatable to all queer people, like Amy asking “when did you know?,” Boyle’s awkward overcompensating allyship, and the implication that Hitchcock was going to say something gross and sexualizing if given the chance. Especially in her interactions with her parents, though, Rosa’s coming out arc feels specifically and uniquely bisexual in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen on television before.

There isn’t one conversation with her parents, like ripping off a bandaid; there are several, and even after all of them Rosa’s relationship with her parents as an out bisexual woman feels rocky and bittersweet in a way that’s very real. It’s clear they love her, but they still can’t readily accept her — and to the extent they do, it’s conditional upon an imagination of bisexuality as a version of heterosexuality. As her mother insists, “because no matter what you call yourself, you still like men. So you can still get married and have a child.” Rosa reminds them that she can do those things regardless of the gender of her partner, only to be told by her father, “Yes, but it will be a man, because this is just a phase.”

A minute later, we get to complete bisexual coming out bingo when he admits he thinks “there’s no such thing as being bisexual.” Rosa’s response is clear and simple and painful: “I know there is, because that’s who I am.” The entire scene is a more thorough exploration of the way that bisexual people’s acceptance by their loved ones so often depends upon our willingness to reassure them that we’re still “basically straight,” or that we can at least pretend to be. Later, when Rosa’s dad apologizes but explains that her mother “needs more time” and that maybe Rosa shouldn’t come by for family game night anymore, we see how Rosa’s refusal to cosign a straight-with-an-asterisk or going-through-a-phase narrative of her own erasure has at least for now cost her exactly what she was afraid it would. This is a coming out conversation that feels like it was intended to feel authentic from the inside out, not only to be legible or recognizable to straight viewers, something that still feels like an unexpected treat.

What stands out to me maybe even more than the nuances of Rosa’s coming out to her parents are the (unfortunately few!) interactions between her and Captain Holt, her openly gay captain. The homophobia and isolation Holt faced when he first came out in the police force decades ago has been previously discussed, something he alludes to briefly when Rosa comes out to the squad: “This is going considerably better than when I came out to my colleagues.” At the end of the episode, when the squad comes together to comfort Rosa after the complicated experience with her parents, Holt tells her,

“Diaz, you should be very proud of yourself. I know things aren’t exactly where you wanna be right now, but I promise you they will improve… Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place, so thank you.”

It’s very cool to see two entire openly gay/bisexual characters talking explicitly to each other about coming out in a mainstream sitcom. It’s also very cool that this reads as a moment of emotional growth and closeness between two characters who have been consistently socially and emotionally withdrawn. In fact, in previous seasons Holt has reacted to younger colleagues’ comparatively easier coming out experiences with (misplaced but understandable) resentment — it’s really neat to see him moving past that to be genuinely happy for Rosa, and to see her allowing him to comfort her about the hard parts of it. It made me wish Holt could have been the team member Rosa chose to help her with coming out, rather than Jake — and that we could have seen her discuss the process with other queer people too, like her mystery girlfriend.

Maybe in the future we can! The way this story has been unfolding so far, I’m hopeful that it will remain a tangible throughline on the show rather than an arc that opens and closes, and that we can see Rosa’s identity and ongoing relationship with her parents and girlfriend continue to play an active role in her storyline and dynamics on the show. Also, duh, that Gina Rodriguez or Jen Richards can play her girlfriend. Fingers crossed!


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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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20 Comments

  1. Such an awesome episode. My god, I related to Rosa so much. All her anxieties about coming out felt so damn real to me. You can really tell that the people writing this episode knew what they were doing, and I bet they got some insight from Stephanie Beatriz, because it felt so genuine.

  2. This is such a lovely continuation from last week’s episode, and it was so relatable and felt so real. I was so moved and alternatively aching at parts of it and just gasping. Everything was amazing. That old chestnut ‘representation matters’ but it really does, to see yourself on screen, to see yourself as human, to see how you could exist. That’s really something. And both Rosa and Stephanie are amazing.

  3. I have to agree with others here it was a great episode and lovely continuation from last week. I was watching it on tv and was like, wow this feels real and could have easily been based on real experiences. I was pleasantly surprised how well it was done.

  4. I’m looking forward to catching up with Brooklyn 99 soon (it’s part of my holiday retreat plan) and checking out these episodes in particular.

    I’d be curious to know if anyone who has seen these episodes also saw the episode of Jane the Virgin on bisexuality from a few weeks ago…and how they thought they compared? Granted, the JtV conversation was from a different POV, but I thought it was really, really well done…perhaps one of the best I’ve ever seen.

    • (Jane the Virgin spoilers)
      The Jane the Virgin episode about Adam being bisexual was from an extremely different POV. It was from the POV of a straight person being uncomfortable with dating a bisexual person and because of that it didn’t touch at all on how the bisexual person (Adam) actually felt about the situation – he just reassured Jane about biphobic stereotypes. The show then immediately wrote Adam off: he and Jane break up in the episode after he comes out and it’s his last appearance. Rosa coming out is actually about Rosa, and she will continue to be on B99 as an out bisexual character. I don’t know how you can compare them at all except that both characters are bi Latinxs. Why was it one of the best you’ve ever seen? Just because there haven’t been a lot of bi coming out scenes in tv/media? (I personally like Darryl coming out on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because he gets a fun song.)

  5. I don’t really identify as bisexual anymore, but I did when I was a teenager coming out to my peers/parents, and this episode was so scary relatable and perfect to me. The thing Rosa’s dad says to her about bisexuality not being real is almost word for word what my dad had said to me. I’m so super excited to see where this storyline goes!

  6. As a bi human considering coming out to her parents over the holidays, this one hit me right in the feels-gut. Cried through the whole thing.

    Since there were many things B99 got “right” about this, I’m wondering if anyone knows of other positive bi coming out scenes in pop culture? I personally haven’t seen any that prioritized the feelings of the bi person as much as this one, but would love to know if they’re out there!

    • I really liked the “do chicks dig scars?” conversation on Wynonna Earp, though there’s not a lot of focus on the coming out there. I remember Brenna’s coming out in Chasing Life as pretty good, but it’s been a while since I watched it. I think The Bold Type dealt amazingly with Kat’s whole arc, but honestly, there’s not that much coming out there either, is there? I wish I remembered better…

      If you choose to come out to your parents during the holiday – good luck and many positive vibes!!!

  7. I just watched this episode and absolutely loved it. I’m not bi or a regular fan of the show, but it felt authentic throughout and that scene at the end where the crew shows up for “Family Game Night” almost made me cry. In addition to everything else it got right, there was a real element of the importance and power of chosen family for many queer folks.

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  9. Circling back on this older article because I just watched this episode and WOW.

    I wanted Rosa to be queer because, well, she obviously was, and I dug her (and also wanted to be her a bit), but I didn’t think I’d need a coming out episode. It feels like there are so many of them on TV (even though objectively, I guess there probably aren’t, given the dearth of queer characters) and there’s only so many ways to tell that story, right? Plus I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about hearing all the old biphobic cliches thrown around, even though any story without them wouldn’t be true to life.

    I was so wrong. Rosa came out the same way I did – in anger at a queerphobic comment right when I was on the cusp of coming out anyway. I realized that not all coming outs are the same even if they look it at a distance and that my specific emotion state had never been represented before. The whole episode felt ripped straight from my memory, down to the awkward and stinging half-reconciliation she had with her father. I didn’t realize how much I needed this until I had it.

    I hope we never stop making coming out stories until every queer person feels personally and specifically seen on TV.

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