Accusing celebrities of “queerbaiting” is not progressive

In attempts to “protect” the LGBTQ+ community, “fans” have been accusing celebrities of queerbaiting, but it only puts these celebrities in uncomfortable positions 


Photo courtesy of Netflix

Joe Locke and Kit Connor on Netflix’s “Heartstopper”

Maggie Blackburn and Irisa Serrano

“Queerbaiting” by definition is a marketing technique in which entertainment creators hint at a character being LGBTQ+ to draw in a queer audience but never confirm it, so they don’t lose their homophobic audience either. The nature of calling out queerbaiting is to protect the LGBTQ+ community from major companies profiting off of them, but it has gotten to the point of accusing real people of it. 

Harry Styles, Cardi B, Edvin Ryding, Billie Eilish, Joshua Bassett and many more celebrities have fallen victim to the accusatory notion that they were/are queerbaiting. Joshua Bassett was even being labeled as homophobic before saying in a video in 2021, “I guess this is also my coming-out video” after claiming Harry Styles was hot. Since then, he has been faced with homophobia, perpetuating the toxic cycle that celebrities are put in, both before and after they come out. 

The term queerbaiting comes from a history of LGBTQ+ discourse in entertainment as far back as the 70’s; however, wasn’t the term used for it until the 2010’s. Since then, the term queerbaiting has been thrown around by people who evidently don’t know what it means or where it comes from. The most recent and disgusting case of accusing a celebrity of queerbaiting was Kit Connor, who co-stars in the Netflix teen drama, “Heartstopper,” alongside Joe Locke.

In “Hearstopper” Connor plays Nick Nelson, who is bisexual. Since the release of the show back in April, people have been searching for answers to what Connor’s sexuality is, even when it was evident he chose not to label himself. There have even been articles titled things like “Is Kit Connor in a relationship? Here’s what you need to know,” “Is Kit Connor Gay? His sexuality explored” and “Is Kit Connor Bisexual? ‘Heartstopper’ Actor Sexuality.” There were adults spreading rumors and speculations about the sexuality and dating life of a teenager. 

“Fans” of “Heartstopper” wanted Connor and Locke to be together in real life because they played boyfriends on screen, but the two have made it clear that they are exclusively friends. At the release of the show, neither Connor nor Locke had put a label on their sexuality, so fans speculated, often forcing queer labels onto them in hopes they would get together. Locke later confirmed his sexuality as gay, but Connor didn’t confirm anything. 

In May, Connor tweeted “Twitter is so funny man. Apparently people here know my sexuality better than I do.” He then addressed it a few weeks later in an interview with Reign With Josh Smith and said, “In regards to my tweet, we’re still all so young, and to start sort of speculating about our sexualities and maybe pressuring us to come out when maybe we’re not ready.” In regards to himself, he says “I mean for me, I just feel like I’m perfectly confident and comfortable in my sexuality,” and went on to say “I’m not too big on labels, and I don’t feel like I need to label myself, especially not publicly.” And yet, people forced him to. 

Connor being openly unlabeled and comfortable provided a safe place for many audience members of ‘Heartstopper’ who are unlabeled because they felt seen and represented. Connor also deserved that safe place for him to either explore his sexuality further and figure it out at his own pace, or even live the rest of his life as unlabeled.”

Connor being openly unlabeled and comfortable provided a safe place for many audience members of “Heartstopper” who are unlabeled because they felt seen and represented. Connor also deserved that safe place for him to either explore his sexuality further and figure it out at his own pace, or even live the rest of his life as unlabeled. But even after explicitly saying that he did not feel the need to label himself currently, people persisted. 

The pressure only got worse when Connor was cast as the love interest to Maia Refico’s character in “A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow.” Connor and Refico seemed to be close on set and even started hanging out off-set. In the beginning of September, someone captured and posted a video of the two walking on the sidewalk together, holding hands. While neither of them has confirmed they are dating, “fans” have taken it upon themselves to do so. Now with the videos, speculations rose that the two were dating, and people were livid that Connor might have a girlfriend. 

In response to speculations, Twitter went nuts, encouraging Connor to “come out as straight,” for him to be “removed from the show,” that “straight people calling themselves unlabeled is a problem that no one wants to talk about” and so many more awful things, obviously missing the message from “Hearstopper” that queer people can like more than just one gender. Connor responded by tweeting “This is a silly app. Bit bored of it now, deleting twitter :).” 

The responses to this tweet were truly disgusting, and disregard the fact that Connor is a real person. Some responses include “Okay you make out with men on netflix, then get mad when people think your gay?,” “delete your queerbaiting career too if you can x” and “not our fault you’re straight,” but they did not stop there. 

Refico was also facing backlash simultaneously for queerbaiting because she identifies as bisexual, but was “dating” a man, a common issue within the bisexual identity. Refico also had to deal with Connor “fans” harassing her because they thought she “took him away” from them, despite none of these “fans” knowing him personally. 

We did not hear anything about the topic again from Connor until his return to Twitter on October 31. Getting more than a million likes, Connor tweeted “Back for a minute. I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18 year old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.” 

Kit Connor’s “coming out” tweet — as well as his account — has since been deleted (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Connor received endless support from all of his friends, castmates and true fans. Joe Locke commented, “You owe nothing to anyone. I’m so proud of you my friend” with a heart emoji at the end. Alice Oseman, the creator of “Hearstopper” replied, “I truly don’t understand how people can watch Heartstopper and then gleefully spend their time speculating about sexualities and judging based on stereotypes. I hope all of those people are embarrassed as F***. Kit you are amazing,” also closing out her message with a heart emoji. Netflix even changed its bio to say “We love you, Kit Connor.”

While it is great that Connor had the support from those close to him at an extremely hard time for any queer person, he should have never been put in that position. He deserved to have time to come out on his own terms like his character Nick did. Kit Connor is a real person, and he owed no one answers, especially about something so personal. This is not something to celebrate, that one of your favorite actors came out. A real person, a teenager, was forced to out himself to millions of people because people felt that he had an obligation to let everyone know.

Calling out people for “queerbaiting” puts them in a position which forces them to come out in order to not fall victim to cancel culture as well. Real people do not owe anyone anything about their personal lives that they wish not to share, and it is time people learn to respect that right, as they are just as human as us all.