Note: This is an essay that was written for and published by Bella Books in 2018. However, due to website changes beyond my control, my essay is no longer available on the site… But the internet gods allowed me to find it in its entirety, so I am re-posting it here since bisexual representation in media is very important to me—and I loved writing about Rosa. Enjoy!
If you’ve a fan of Brooklyn 99, then you probably went through a similar roller coaster of emotions as I did this past weekend: On Friday morning, I awoke to the news that Fox has cancelled the beloved cop comedy about Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta and the rest of the crew of Brooklyn’s 99th precinct after just five seasons. By the next morning, NBC had miraculously saved the show after fan outcries.
For those of us who are particularly fans of Stephanie Beatriz’s character Rosa Diaz, who came out as bisexual earlier this year, the initial news of the show’s cancellation was devastating. But now that it’s been saved, I couldn’t be happier for what this means for LGBTQ+ representation in network television.
Bisexual representation on television has always been tricky. When I was growing up, the only bisexual character I saw on television was Karen of Will & Grace who, to be perfectly honest, was basically bi-ish as a running joke. There were some examples of her flirting with Grace and having had a relationship with a woman in the past, but it was clearly something that was played up for laughs.
Then there were other quasi-bi examples like Samantha in Sex and the City, who was briefly in a serious relationship with a woman, Jane in the British comedy Coupling, who constantly made references to her bisexuality while only dating men, and Lily of How I Met Your Mother, who occasionally showed an attraction to women but went no further.
Today there are better examples of bisexuality: Callie Torres of Grey’s Anatomy (who is no longer on the show but was a regular for 10 seasons), Annalise Keating of How to Get Away With Murder, Petra Solano of Jane the Virgin, Darryl Whitefeather and Valencia Perez of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and William of This Is Us (who passed away). But the recent out Rosa Diaz of Brooklyn 99 stands out from the crowd for being a relatable, warm, caring, tough, funny, and not overly sexualized stereotype.
I’ve been a Brooklyn 99 fan since long before Rosa came out as bisexual, but I was particularly impressed by the way her storyline was handled. Many shows get this completely wrong: Often having the character act confused and not sure of what they want or, even worse, sexualizing their coming out. If it’s a female character coming out as bisexual or expressing an interest in women, then you can probably bet that there is a man nearby to be turned on by it.
But with Rosa, her coming out story was simple and realistic — she opened up that she is now dating a woman after previously showing interest in men and even being briefly in a serious relationship with unstable detective Adrian Pimento (Jason Mantzoukas). Later on, when she confessed that she is single again, Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) works to set her up with a woman. The way that her coworkers embrace her coming out story is inspiring, and it’s also inspiring that they make no big deal about it.
As a bisexual Latina myself, I dreamed of seeing people like me on television when I was younger. The only good example of sexuality that I remember seeing on television at the time was Willow of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was a nerdy redhead turned super witch who was in a relationship with Seth Green’s Oz in high school but eventually came out as a lesbian in college when she fell in love with Amber Benson’s Tara. And when it came to Latinx representation, the world of television was further lacking.
Today, all of that has changed and a big reason for that is Rosa Diaz. Unlike so many bisexual characters that came before her, not only was her coming out drama-free and without many stereotypes, her character is also treated like she was before — which is surprisingly unusual amongst others who have come out as bisexual.
After her simple coming out to Charles (Joe Lo Truglio), Rosa isn’t sexualized by her coworkers. Nobody makes lewd comments about her attraction to women, her newfound sexuality isn’t used as a bait-and-switch to further attract men to her, she isn’t seen to be dating both sexes at the same time, and she isn’t constantly shown as confused or unsure of her sexuality. She’s dating women now, and that’s that.
For those of us like myself who identify as bisexual, this is a definitely breath of fresh air. Even now, I am often questioned about my bisexuality by those who assume that it means I am constantly dating more than one person at a time and can’t be satisfied by just one gender (um, incorrect — I am happily married and monogamous). It’s nice for me to now be able to point to Rosa and say: No, actually, this is how many bisexuals are in real life.
The fact that Fox canceled a highly-rated, much-beloved show is a tragedy for them and could have been a tragedy for diverse representation. Other than Rosa Diaz, a bisexual Latina, the Brooklyn 99 cast also includes Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), who is an openly gay African-American man, Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), another Latina, Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), who is also African-American, and Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), a single mom.
Thankfully, though, Fox’s loss is NBC’s gain. It would have been extremely upsetting if we lost seeing Rosa Diaz’s further development as a bisexual character. She just came out earlier this year and now, we can at least look forward to a 13-episode season six for a show that has quickly become a favorite for complex, diverse, LGBTQ+ characters.