ABC's When We Rise was a groundbreaking portrayal of the struggle for LGBT equality in America. But some members of the community found it lacking in representation.
Yesterday, Grey's Anatomy star Sara Ramirez tweeted the miniseries' official account to complain about what she perceived as bi erasure. "@WhenWeRiseABC didn't include #BiHistory & our story needs to be told," the bisexual actress tweeted, adding a statement from activist-writer Lani Ka'ahumanu.
Dustin Lance Black, who wrote and produced the four-night series, responded by saying he admired Ramirez, "but this statement is not true. Real bisexual people & bi activists are portrayed in WhenWeRise."
Other bisexual activists soon joined the fray, including BiNet USA, the nation's oldest bisexual advocacy organization.
In response, the Oscar-winning scribe suggested "bisexual" didn't exist as a political identity in the period covered by When We Rise—a statement others were quick to call into question.
Asked to cite where the bisexual narratives in Rise were, Black instructed critics to "watch the show."
Writer Eliel Cruz-Lopez critiqued the show's lack of inclusion on Bisexual.org:
There are two points in the series that are being used as evidence of bi inclusion. In the first two episodes, Ken has a lover that is married to a woman. His lover, Richard, also has HIV and hides his sexuality in part by remaining married to his wife.
The wife acts more as a friend and beard than an actual partner. At one point, when Ken wants to be more out about his sexuality, Richard’s wife says: “Richard and I stayed married for a reason. It’s afforded us this home, our stability. We need more discretion now, Ken, not less.”
This character reads more that he came out to his wife, she reconciled herself to his gayness, and they remained together out of convenience. Not that he is bi.
Black called Cruz-Lopez's perspective "inaccurate" and questioned if he'd even watched the show.
He also claimed allegations that there were no bisexuals in When We Rise were "alternative facts."
One twitter user pointed out "the word 'bisexual' was not said once during the series," before clarifying that she loved Rise, "but wish[ed] bi contributions were more clear."
Black agreed that bisexuality was worthy of "a deeper dive" and expressed hope "filmmakers will tell that story"—though apparently not him.
Perhaps more productively, Ramirez tweeted that she respects Black's perspective and invited him to DM her to set up a meeting. He said he'd be "happy to help work on [a] solution."
Hey, if all of this leads to a When We Rise: Bisexual Edition, it will officially be the first time something awesome has ever resulted from a Twitter beef.