By Kelsey Goeres
Netflix viewers first met Katherine Song-Covey (Anna Cathcart), aka Kitty, in the trilogy To All the Boys I Loved Before. She’s the younger sister to Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Margot (Janel Parrish), and she’s always been interested in love. While To All the Boys I Loved Before focuses on Lara Jean, the series XO, Kitty tells the younger sister’s story.
Kitty has decided to spend her junior year of high school in South Korea at the school her deceased mother attended as a teenager. Not only does Kitty crave to connect with her mother’s memory, but the school located in Seoul, and appropriately called KISS, also happens to be where her long-distance boyfriend, Dae (Minyeong Choi), attends.
The series is about Kitty’s yearning to learn more about her mother. She does. She also learns a lot about herself. While it’s not the entire story, for Kitty, discovering her bisexuality is a prominent part of her journey. It was this part of the series that both comforted and pained me to watch unfold.
I grew up Catholic. And while I’ve always liked girls, and even had my fair share of physical experiences with them, I didn’t allow myself the label of bisexuality until my late 20s.
My first kiss with a girl took place when I was nine. My neighbor and I would “practice” for when we were older, for boys. But it never felt like practice. It felt like kissing. It also felt like I was doing something especially wrong—not a feeling I got when I kissed boys. And why would I feel bad kissing boys? Entire films, TV series, and books were dedicated to how sweet, romantic, and special it is to kiss a boy.
Kitty, naturally, was surrounded by straight kiss hype growing up, too. We find her laser focused on getting her first kiss with Dae upon surprising him at school. But when she finally sees him at the welcome dance, there’s another girl on his arm, Yuri (Gia Kim), the ultra-wealthy, ultra-cool daughter of the principal. We learn that Yuri is essentially paying Dae to act as her fake boyfriend to hide from her conservative parents that she is dating a girl named Juliana (Regan Aliyah). But Kitty doesn’t find that out until later. Eventually, the confusion is remedied and Kitty and Dae get back together. But along the way, Kitty starts to develop feelings for Yuri. It all starts in episode six when Kitty is hypnotized by the sight of Yuri DJing at an under-18 club. At the end of the episode, Kitty has a sexy dream about Yuri. The dream is just as exciting and romantic as the moments Kitty shares with Dae. Tonally, the feelings she has for both people are very similar. One is not presented as “better” than the other.
As Kitty struggles with her feelings for Dae and Yuri, she’s not portrayed as a greedy bisexual heartbreaker (a tired stereotype often slapped on bisexual fictional characters). She’s still the same charming protagonist we met in episode one when the audience assumed she was straight.
It isn’t often we get to witness a sweet, innocent portrayal of budding bisexuality in the media. Bisexual individuals by no means need to be sweet or innocent to be worthy of love and understanding. But I can’t help but think about what my teenage years would have been like had they been colored with more characters like Kitty—a young girl who is simply discovering herself as she grows up, and who is trying her best.
The first time I heard the word “bisexual” was when I was 12 and in a theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. I and my play “sister” were the only young people in the cast, which was mostly comprised of conservatory students in their 20s. I loved listening to them talk. They were so different from the adults I grew up around. One handsome male dancer with big muscles in a tight white tank top mentioned during a rehearsal break that he was bi. I asked what that was, and he simply said, “I like both girls and boys.” A warm flash of light bolted throughout my body. My heart sang “me, too.”
As the years went on, I pushed down the label I’d learned. Bisexuality was certainly not common vernacular in the circles I was in. “Gay” and “lesbian” came up in hushed tones from time to time in the hallways of my Catholic school, but they were not “good” things to be. I remember one specific morality worksheet I completed in class in which being gay was literally the wrong answer. Bisexual people have the privilege, and the pain, of being able to shut off part of themselves to allow the societally acceptable version, the safe version, to face forward.
In the final episode of the season, Kitty calls her father searching for a comforting, listening ear. She tells him she’s confused because she has feelings for both Dae and Yuri. He tells her that confusion is a part of growing up, and it certainly sounds like she’s growing, which is a good thing.
In the end, Kitty and Dae go their separate ways. And Kitty never gets the chance to tell Yuri how she feels because Juliana arrives back in Seoul—an apt metaphor for an experience many bi (and queer) folks have, missing out on the chance to be completely honest about ourselves for one reason or another.
I’m just so glad this generation of young people has characters like Kitty to validate their experiences and their confusion, and that they have labels and role models to apply to themselves. It’s one small area in which it actually feels as though things are getting better, not worse, for young people.
Kelsey Goeres is a journalist, essayist, and poet based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.