Xena Warrior Princess is scheduled for a reboot this upcoming year. In the original series, queer subtext and text suggested a romance between Xena and her companion Gabrielle. Press for the new series reports that Xena will be “out and proud” or “gay”.
This has some concerned about the potential for bi erasure. The original Xena character had several romances with men in addition to her sapphic flirtation and on screen kissing with Gabrielle. Many, many women who have a history of dating men and flirting with women are bisexual, and there is a dearth of positive bisexual characters on television. As someone who (mis) identified as bisexual for several years, I have an inkling how hurtful and harmful bi erasure can be.
But some women with a history of dating men and flirting with women are lesbians. That certainly describes me. Representation isn’t great for lesbians either, with too few characters who are usually killed. But that’s true of bi characters as well. Queer women’s survival rates in cinema and television are even worse than reality, where bi women face greater risks than straight or lesbian women.
I could be happy with an openly bisexual Xena, or with a late-in-life lesbian Xena. Queer women are diverse. We don’t all queer the same way. I do hope that, whatever sexuality Xena gets, it doesn’t perpetuate bi erasure. But lesbianism on its own isn’t that erasure. It’s an equally valid identity and sometimes we only find it after trying on the others and learning they don’t fit.