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'Love Is Blind' Exposes Biphobia, Heterosexism, and Internalized Shame

The premise alone of ‘Love Is Blind’ is rife with issues and Diamond and Carlton’s relationship exposed many that are worth untangling.

CW: This essay has spoilers of the show ‘Love Is Blind’

For several days, Twitter has been set ablaze by the new hit Netflix series, Love Is Blind. I have seen endless threads about the premise of the show as well as the people on it, which led me to marathon-watching it. I have a lot of qualms with the show: the ableism in using disabilities and impairments as colloquialisms; the bastardization of legitimate social issues like race/nationality/ethnicity, sexuality, migrant status, age, and desirability; the fact that this show was so heavily and clearly scripted/overproduced; and the overall idea that love is something that can be quickly acquired and understood through a few-week experiment—though this is more of a personal critique rather than one necessarily rooted in a sociological framework. However, each of these points could be an essay of their own. What I am more interested in exploring is the current discourse happening wherein people are discussing one of the show’s short-lived couples, Diamond and Carlton.

Online, many people have had very long and exhaustive conversations about biphobia and how it played out in the show. I saw a lot of people—more notably, cisgender heterosexual Black women—arguing that it is wrong and deceitful for men to hide or not make clear that they are bisexual. This is a premise I am deeply uncomfortable with, not only because I am a person who both dates and has sex with people of varying gender identities, but also because it just does not make sense. If someone is looking to be in a monogamous relationship, who they’ve dated should not matter, nor should it matter what genders they take sexual and/or romantic interest in. The need to know who your partner has slept with is rooted in patriarchal violence and, in this case, heterosexism.

On the show, the participants went on dates in “pods” which were to act as barriers between the men and the women (yes, the show is that gendered). These dates were supposed to be “blind” dates, except you could not even see the person you were dating—and “falling in love” with—until they proposed. The intent is to remove the element of physical desirability from the equation to see how well you could get to know someone before falling in love. I’m sure that all of what was aired is not everything the participants discussed on their dates. However, what never came up onscreen from any of the participants was gender or sexuality.

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It was assumed that everyone on the other side of that wall was both cisgender and heterosexual. And this is indicative of a much larger social issue with regards to dating. Because of cis/heteronormativity and learned cis/heterosexism, many people don’t ever have raw discussions about the sexuality of the person(s) they are interested in. But it would be much more beneficial for everyone to not only learn about sexuality as to become more open to dating people who are queer/bisexual/pansexual but to also have these conversations with your partner(s) so that you are able to engage them as their full selves.

This said, the conversation happening online was a dishonest one. While Diamond could have taken the initiative to discuss sexuality—both her own and Carlton’s—while they were getting to know each other in the pods for all of 5 days before getting engaged, Twitter making her out to be this violently biphobic woman who berated Carlton for his sexuality simply is not supported by the footage.

It is important to me that conversations like these are fully contextualized. While Diamond did respond kindly and came around with a willing heart after a night’s rest, in a free world, she would have had nothing to consider; Carlton’s perceived bisexuality would not have been an issue, especially not enough to question whether or not he would “leave her for a man.” This said, it was Carlton who responded violently and that piece being omitted from the conversation is violently misogynistic. He yelled at Diamond, called her a bitch, and talked badly about her wig. These terms and these particular attempts to humiliate women by way of the quality of their wigs are racialized—especially considering how politicized Black women’s hair is. He then continued harming her by gaslighting her. It cannot be understated how violent it is for Diamond to have been engaged this way.

What makes all of this worse for me, however, is that Carlton never refers to himself as bisexual. In the show, he names that he is a preacher’s kid who, “in the past,” dated “both genders,” but that he wants a wife because women are “inherently nurturing.” This forced me to sit with the fact that Carlton is actually deeply embarrassed of his own sexuality, likely due to Christian indoctrination, and his violent response was one that resulted from this internal shame.

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Back in 2017, I penned an essay about the harms and violences perpetuated by DL and straight-assumed men in relation to Black openly queer people. What that piece did not explore, though, is the violence that Black women also experience at the hands of these men. Carlton was the perfect example of this. Internalized heterosexism can force one to see danger where there is only safety; Christian indoctrination can make one feel an immense amount of guilt for feeling free in your body and your being. It can cause you to self-sabotage. And while it is not fair to use your trauma as an excuse for the harm done, I can sympathize with Carlton. Still, how he treated Diamond was wrong, and that is the story here. Carlton has yet to name himself as bisexual, and so any conversation about sexuality should be centered around the response to Carlton from people with a very limited and simple understanding of sexuality.

A more responsible takeaway from this show is that Carlton has a deeply harmful politic; one in which he dehumanizes and discards of Black women either to protect his own heart or to make himself feel more powerful than his shame. I have witnessed this on more than one occasion with men like Carlton. The internal shame makes them feel small, and the only way they feel they can protect themselves or feel better in their bodies—other than living fully in their truth—is by harming Black (feminine) gay men/queer people and Black women. Leaving bodies in the ground on the path to their healing. It’s a conversation worth having, and it has nothing to do with bisexuality and everything to do with a culture that enables and employs heteronormativity.

Da’Shaun Harrison is a nonbinary abolitionist and organizer in Atlanta, GA. They write and speak publicly on race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, disabilities, fatness, and the intersection at which they all meet. Harrison is the author of the forthcoming book, “Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness,” which is expected to be published in July 2021. Their portfolio and other work can be found on their site: dashaunharrison.com.

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