Kit Connor’s Heartstopper “queerbaiting” controversy explained

Kit Connor in the Heartstopper header, who was accused of queerbaitingNetflix

Heartstopper is a heartwarming story about coming out – unfortunately, this was not the case for actor Kit Connor, who recently came out to avoid accusations of queerbaiting.

Heartstopper has become a pinnacle of LGBTQ+ media in the past few years, but the cast of the show haven’t had it quite as easy.

The series is described by Netflix as thus: “Based on the graphic novels of the same name by series creator Alice Oseman, Heartstopper follows high school sweetie Charlie (Joe Locke), who develops a crush on jock classmate Nick (Kit Connor). The series always chooses heart-stopping romance over trauma, a welcome tone for teen coming-out stories.”

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The series is incredibly popular, with a second and third season already in the works. But the popularity of the show and its actors has taken a dark turn for star Kit Connor, who has recently been forced to come out amid harassment by the show’s viewers and allegations of queerbaiting.

Heartstopper star Kit Connor forced to come out amid queerbaiting accusations

Due to the LGBTQ+ themes of the show, and the blatant queer representation within the cast, many fans were inclined to know about Kit Connor’s sexual identity, as he plays a bisexual character within the show. However, this curiosity turned into a sense of entitlement amongst some viewers, who believed that Connor should not be in the show if he wasn’t openly LGBTQ+.

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Things took an even darker turn when the actor was spotted holding hands with A Cuban Girls Guide to Tea and Tomorrow co-star Maia Reficco. Reficco is openly queer, but seeing Kit Connor hold hands with a girl, while playing a character who dates a boy, and overall him not wanting to explicitly share his sexual identity with the public, was apparently enough for some fans of the show to accuse him of queerbaiting.

The harassment, which was most prevalent on Twitter, was clearly getting to the young star, who later spoke about the situation on the Reign with Josh Smith podcast. He said: “I just think that there’s a danger with things on social media.

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“In the cast, I’m 18, and we have a few people in their early 20s, and even with those older members of the cast, we’re all so young, and to start speculating about our sexualities and maybe pressuring us to come out when maybe we’re not ready.

“I mean, for me, I just feel like I’m perfectly confident and comfortable in my sexuality, but I’m not too big on labels and things like that. I’m not massive about that. And I don’t feel like I need to label myself, especially not publicly.

“It’s 2022, it feels a bit strange to make assumptions about a person’s sexuality just based on hearing their voice or seeing their appearance. I feel like that’s a very interesting, slightly problematic, sort of assumption to make.”

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However, the harassment didn’t stop, and eventually got to the point where Kit Connor felt forced to come out as bisexual.

Within the tweet, he explained his sexuality, but also took viewers of the show – which is about accepting people wherever they’re at with their sexuality and coming out journey – to task, claiming that they had missed the point of the show entirely.

Coming out is meant to be an empowering and beautiful thing, but accusations of queerbaiting had ultimately turned Connor’s journey into a twisted mess.

What is queerbaiting?

Queerbaiting as a label has been thrown at a lot of celebrities and a lot of characters. We even made an article about Will in Stranger Things in regards to the topic. But what is the actual definition of the term?

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According to, “The term queerbaiting refers to the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction (in a TV show, for example) to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience or otherwise generate interest without ever actually depicting such relationships or sexual interactions.

“For example, a TV show may be accused of queerbaiting when interactions between two same-sex characters are consistently suggestive of sexual attraction or a sexual relationship but the characters never actually enter into such a relationship (including and especially when their sexuality isn’t otherwise discussed or portrayed).

“The term queerbaiting is used to criticize the practice as an attempt to take advantage of and capitalize on the appearance or implication of LGBTQ+ relationships without actually having real LGBTQ+ representation.”

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Queerbaiting has a much more complicated past and end-goal than you might think. YouTube creator James Somerton actually has a three-part series in the topic, which we would highly recommend:

But to put it simply, queerbaiting is a marketing tactic, most often used with fictional characters, co-opted by creators and/or executives in order to make money by stringing along queer audiences in the hopes of any representation. Therefore, the concept becomes increasingly messy when the label gets attached to real people.

Kit Connor wasn’t queerbaiting

For example, last year singer Billie Eilish was accused of queerbaiting after her video “Lost Cause” feature Eilish dancing with other women. Eilish posted the photos with the message “i love girls,” which was interpreted by some as a confession of sexual attraction to women. This led to other fans accusing her of queerbaiting and trying to pull in more views with false queer imagery.

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While one could argue that the video, which was no doubt helmed by marketers and executives, could be at least studied under the banner of queerbaiting, accusing Eilish herself was clearly a step too far. Thankfully, others – including many members of the LGBTQ+ community – defended Eilish, stating that no one should be pressured to explain their sexuality to anyone, especially not the wider public.

Sure, it can be frustrating to see assumedly straight people co-opting queer practises, such as having gay bars overrun with straight people, or having the majority of gay characters played by (outwardly) straight actors in films. But the bottom line is this: we will never know if they are actually straight.

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If someone is unwilling to come out, that is not them queerbaiting – even if they were straight, a straight actor playing a gay role is not the definition of queerbaiting either – and forcing someone to come out to avoid your wrath could put closeted people in extremely dangerous situations.

Not only that, but this situation brings to light how accusations of queerbaiting can easily become biphobia. Accusing a man of not being queer enough because he held hands with a girl, despite him actually being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, suggests that bisexuality in and of itself is queerbaiting.

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Heartstopper fans tweet in support of Kit Connor

Thankfully, while this situation is no doubt an awful one for Connor, fans have flocked to show him support and condolences.

Many have taken to Twitter themselves, posting about how anyone who accused him had missed the point of Heartstopper completely.

Hopefully this situation will be a learning moment for many. The audience for Heartstopper skews young, so perhaps this may lead to some change for the better, and the term queerbaiting will be thrown around far less violently in the future.

Heartstopper Season 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix.