Arts, Culture & Media

Desiree Akhavan on why TV always gets bisexuality wrong

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Maxine Peake and Desiree Akhavan in “The Bisexual.”

Maxine Peake and Desiree Akhavan in “The Bisexual.”

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Tereza Cervenova/Hulu

Desiree Akhavan is the star, director and co-writer of “The Bisexual,” a television series now streaming on Hulu.

On the show, she plays Leila, a 30-something New Yorker living in London who decides to explore her unexamined attraction to men after ending a 10-year relationship with her girlfriend Sadie. Throughout the first season, which premiered in October, Leila struggles with shame about her attraction to men — something she’s ignored throughout her life.

Leila’s discomfort with her attraction to both genders is something Akhavan has also experienced: “My feelings about bisexuality have been really negative,” she says. “But like shame-based, you know. Whenever I see it reflected at me from the outside world, it seems incredibly tacky and in bad taste and also, yes, duplicitous. Someone who has no loyalty, someone you can’t trust. And I think that's purely because not many people have come out as bisexual.”

When Akhavan first began pitching the series, she had trouble selling the idea — both to networks and to some of her friends. “You know, it was lesbians in my life who said, ‘That's inherently offensive, and the narrative of a woman leaving a woman and dating men is just wrong.’ I want to know, why is it wrong?” she says. “So I definitely felt like I had to defend the premise of the series and the premise of a of a woman who wasn't entirely gay.”

“The Bisexual” is now streaming on Hulu.

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