Courtney Act on The Bi Life: ‘Bisexual people are usually portrayed as predators on TV’
E!’s The Bi Life is set to make history as the UK’s first reality bisexual dating show, with drag queen Courtney Act set to host.
Set in a villa in Barcelona, The Bi Life will see nine bisexual or questioning singletons trying to find love abroad.
The 10-part series will see the cast live and party together, following each of their dating experiences.
It’s set to show the group dating people of different sexualities and genders.
PinkNews speak to host Courtney Act about the discrimination faced by bisexual people within the LGBT+ community—and how her own sexuality has evolved as she’s got older.
This is the UK’s first bisexual dating show. Why is it so important that this happens now?
I mean it’s just important regardless of now. The bisexual community is the largest percentage of the LGBT+ community, but it’s the least visible. Whenever you see examples of bisexual people on the television, [like] Lady Gaga in American Horror Story, they’re always somewhat predatorial, kind of the way British people are portrayed on American television. They’re always like the Simon Cowells or the sort of villain.
But now the conversation around sexuality has come so far, and I’m genuinely excited. I’ve now seen the first episode… and the show is so adorable, which is not always a word you associate with reality television. There’s something really heartwarming [about it].
Q. Why does The Bi Life stand out from other reality dating shows?
A. There’s no competition, there’s no prize money, it’s just a group of bi-plus people living in a villa in Barcelona, going on dates with other people outside the villa and there’s something about it that just seems so refreshing. You’re really interested in their journeys. It’s like a high school love story. There’s something for everyone. The straight people will see people going on different sex dates, for gay people you’ll see people going on same-sex dates. It’s kind of like a good middle ground for the monosexuals of the world.
Why is there still such a stigma against bisexual people within the LGBT+ community?
A lot of gay men, in particular, use bisexual as a transitionary sexuality on their way to calling theirselves gay. And I think they’re not able to see someone else’s experience through another lens. So they’re like, “Oh, well, I used to say that I was bisexual and now I’m gay, so therefore all bisexual people must be that way.” I think that’s where the gay man problem comes from.
And, maybe for a lot of lesbian and gay people, especially who are over the age of 30—I know I grew up in a world where I needed it to be binary. I needed it to be ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I needed to know where I stood in the world in relation to straight people because there was no visibility. So, I just needed that support network of my community. And, in some ways, bisexual people felt like double agents. There was even less visibility then for bisexual people. But, now, because we have more visibility for lesbian and gay people on television, and for trans people, I think it’s now really exciting that we can tease out the edges of gay and straight.
Q. You host The Bi Life both under your drag queen moniker Courtney Act and as yourself, Shane Jenek. How does that work?
Courtney kind of comes out for the parties, when the lighting is more forgiving. Most of it, I’m Shane. Courtney is sort of in it every other episode. It was actually really fun. It was kind of like on Big Brother, where I’d come out a couple of times a week all dolled up.
This is a weird analogy… but I’ll just go for it. When you’re a divorced couple with kids, Courtney is like the weekend parent, who just kind of swoops in, has all the fun, gets everyone drunk. And then, I kind of go away, and Shane’s left to have the serious talks and conversations.
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How has your own sexuality developed with time?
In high school I was attracted to girls because that’s just what you did, even though I had posters of Leonardo DiCaprio and the Spice Girls up on my wall. I framed it in a way that made perfect sense to everybody… and then when I came out I did the thing that many gay men do, which is call myself bisexual. Then I was like, ‘Oh, actually, I’m gay.’ And then, as I’ve gotten older, I’m like, ‘Oh, I am attracted to people of different genders.’
And, all through my experience, I’ve had sex with women, trans people, people of different genders… I’d just always thought that was the exception. Now, it’s actually really lovely, and especially mixing with this bunch, [people] are really open about their sexuality. I’ve certainly had my own journey in my attraction and sexuality that constantly gets revealed and evolves.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Sexuality is on a spectrum. Being bisexual doesn’t just mean that you’re attracted to men and women fifty, fifty. It can mean that you’re attracted to people of the same gender as you, different genders from you—not necessary at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree .And the people going on this journey will show people that that’s the case.
The Bi Life premieres on Thursday at 9pm on E! UK & Ireland.