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Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Rosa Diaz is the bisexual sitcom character I’ve been waiting for

May 21, 2018

You would think that since bisexual+ people make up the majority of the LGBTQ community I would not have to venture to the dark recesses of the internet in order to find a realistic representation of bisexuality. Yet I found myself doing so for years. That is, until I found Rosa Diaz (played by Stephanie Beatriz), the badass Latina detective on Brooklyn Nine-Nine who is also openly and proudly bi.

Since it first aired in 2013, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been a success both as a sitcom and as a much-needed departure from typical television archetypes. Set in the fictional 99th Precinct, the series follows a team of NYPD detectives led by detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and their new captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) as they handle their daily duties with an endless supply of humor and workplace hijinks. I was so excited when, this year, the show won a GLAAD Media Award for "Outstanding Comedy Series" and was picked up by NBC for its sixth season. It's meaningful to see a show that means so much to me be validated by these leaders in entertainment media.

Detective Rosa Diaz is aggressive and intimidating yet fiercely loyal to those she cares about most. She’s a former ballerina who believes that every woman should carry an axe—perhaps best used to chop at any preconceived notions you may have about her. Rosa is played by Stephanie Beatriz, who came out publicly as bisexual via Twitter in 2016 and worked with the writers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to shape her character’s storyline to include her bisexual identity.

In episode “99” of Season 5, fellow detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) wants to play matchmaker for Rosa, only to find out that she’s already seeing someone. After he overhears Rosa talking on the phone with a woman who refers to her as “babe,” she tries unsuccessfully to brush it off before ultimately admitting to him that she is in fact dating a woman, bluntly stating, “I’m bi.”

After some encouragement from Boyle, Rosa comes out to the rest of the squad in the following episode, “Game Night,” as well as to her parents over dinner and Pictionary.

I remember watching these scenes and immediately thinking about my first time coming out as bisexual. I had questioned my feelings from a young age, but hadn’t told anyone until college. There is a special blend of fear that comes along with a bisexual identity, a sense of otherness that makes you feel initially displaced in both gay and straight communities. With every new date, you question whether or not you should even say that you’re bi; at family gatherings, you hold your tongue and count the minutes until the relationship conversations are over (and they never are). Being who you are can be exhausting, but you still can’t imagine being anyone else.

Stephanie Beatriz captures this essence so brilliantly in Rosa, thanks, in part, to her own experiences as an openly bisexual woman. Not only can I say that there is a character who reflects my identity, but also its actor, a living breathing person in the real world, that is living proof that bisexuality is valid and beautiful.

To say that I am forever grateful for Stephanie Beatriz’s unflinching advocacy for bisexual representation in television—and the showrunners’ enthusiasm to include her input in the process—would be a gross simplification of her impact on me. But for the sake of those reading this, I’ll be brief: As a bisexual and avid media consumer, I have watched too many bisexuals portrayed as hypersexualized and manipulative. This, of course, isn’t to say that shows have never gotten it right, but too few have done so and much of bisexual representation is hypothetical rather than intentional. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Rosa said it, owned it, defended it, and was overwhelmingly accepted for it. As a 23-year-old who spent much of my life with no one to look to who reflects my identity, this is powerful. For viewers still coming to terms with their sexuality, this is necessary.

Rosa Diaz is a core character in an ensemble cast and a bisexual woman of color in a media landscape still dominated by whiteness. She has a successful career as a detective in a predominantly male field of work, friends and family who love her and support her to the best of their abilities, and a personality that demands nothing less than complete respect for who she is and what she is capable of accomplishing. She is happy. She is hilarious. She is thriving. And damn, does that feel good to finally see.

So thank you, Stephanie Beatriz, for bringing Rosa to life and amplifying so many of our lives in the process.

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Gianna Collier-Pitts is an amp Contributor and former GLAAD Campus Ambassador. Gianna graduated from NYU in 2017 with a degree in Cinema Studies. She currently serves as The Friends of Education Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

the voice and vision of a new generation