Why a Debate Over 'Queerbaiting' Led This Actress to Come out on Twitter

April 19th 2017

Anna Albaryan

Stranger Things and Riverdale actress Shannon Purser came out as bisexual on Wednesday after an argument on Twitter.

The revelation came after Purser found herself arguing with Riverdale fans over "queerbaiting," or what some see as the mainstream media pandering to the LGBTQ community.

Early on in the series, two female characters, Betty and Veronica, share a passionate kiss on screen. While some welcomed the development, others feared it was a cynical attempt to lure in more LGBTQ viewers, with the relationship likely to go nowhere.

In a tweet that's since been deleted, Purser called out the Beronica fans for being "angry" stans (super intense fans), which spurred backlash from some in the LGBTQ community.

By calling fans "angry," Purser may have unintentionally dismissed legitimate concerns the LGBTQ community has over queerbaiting, especially with The CW.

Purser responded to the criticism by speaking out about representation and reminding fans that actors on the show have no say in the writing. She later deleted the tweet. 

"I get that, representation is so powerful and important," she said. "But we didn't write the show? We have literally no say in what happens."

Since coming out as bisexual and apologizing for her "angry" fans tweet, Purser has been met with support and has even been praised for bringing to light the negative effects queerbaiting has on impressionable LGBTQ youth. 

Whether the brief feud sparked Purser's decision to come out on Twitter or not, it says a lot about the potential fumbles one can make responding to criticism. Purser, who admitted in her coming-out statement that she is "very very new to the LGBT community," has since continued tweeting about her sexuality.

But the hurdle Purser faced speaks to a much larger truth about coming out, particularly among celebrities.

All too often, when a celebrity comes out on Twitter they are immediately expected to be a voice for the whole community, while still navigating their place in it.

There are also challenges that non-famous members of community have to work through, including how they wrestle with their new identity in the workplace. 

One essay by Lori Messinger, PhD, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, notes these struggles perfectly. 

"I had begun to self-identify as a lesbian only three years earlier, and I was in my first serious same-sex relationship, so I was still feeling my way through my identity development process. Entering the field placement agency created even more challenges for me, in that I spent much of my time trying to figure out how to negotiate and to integrate my sexual orientation with my emerging professional identity as a social worker," Messinger wrote.