I just adore the fact that Ianto never openly defined his sexuality.
Head canon: if he learnt something from Jack, it has to be to not put everything in neatly checked off boxes and just enjoy the moment. Screw labels, and just enjoy what is happening.
To play devil’s advocate here…what if accepting a label or definition helps someone better understand themself? Or what if someone rejects a label or definition because they are afraid of what it might mean?
Once again, I love reading your brilliant responses!
I especially thought what you had to say about the writers themselves at the end was telling. And the first thing that jumped to my mind was that scene in ‘Twilight Streets’ where Gwen talks to Ianto about being bisexual and he gets extremely defensive and even angry about it. I always found that rather out of character. Now, Gwen’s approach is rather crude and awkward, but I tend to think he would have blown it off rather than react. He’s private, for whatever reasons we assume. To look at it from the writer’s perspective rather than the character’s makes the whole scene even more interesting. Even though I thought it was out of character for Ianto, it seemed like something that a bisexual person might say or struggle with (I don’t know, I’m not bisexual but frankly reading and watching TW has really opened my mind to the ‘it’s the person, not their gender’ way of thinking). Now I wonder if it’s more on the author and society’s thoughts in general.
Great points about Jack growing up in a different time but living through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. What a struggle it must have been! And great point about Ianto possibly needing that support and vocabulary. Do you think he was against labels because it was still confusing for him, in context of society? I’d imagine he was comfortable with himself, with Jack, even within TW, but maybe it was harder to take a label stepping out into the real world.
But since the writers never went there, who knows.
My thoughts about the labels didn’t apply to their sexuality so much as their relationship. But this is long enough. More later, I suppose. :)
I have a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot of feelings and headcanons about the way that every single member of Torchwood viewed their sexuality tbh (including Suzie and Rex) and, honestly, I headcanon Ianto as closeted more than as completely rejecting labels.
I mean, sexuality is complicated. Labeling your sexuality is very, very hard, especially when you don’t have a supportive community to help you. But for Ianto, from a character-analysis standpoint rather than a criticizing-the-writers standpoint, I feel like his reluctance to label his sexuality probably comes down to three things:
1. Ianto’s discomfort with discussing his relationship with Jack in front of Mica is a sign that he has internalized the lie that same-sex relationships are hypersexual by default, while different-sex relationships are innocent unless the participants are having a BDSM orgy in the sacristy. If Ianto was raised in a conservative environment and was taught that same-sex relationships were something shameful, some horrible vice that couldn’t be discussed in front of children, that could significantly influence his ability to define his sexuality. Framing it as “No, no, I would never do this with anyone else—I’m not one of those people—but I am just so in love with Jack that I can’t help myself!” can be a way to make it seem more innocent, and it can be a way to sort of ease into the idea that you are one of those people. YMMV, but I remember the exact moment I realized I liked girls. It wasn’t a fun experience. I got over it, though, and I think Ianto would be working through it too, even if he had to work through it on his own. He wouldn’t want to come out while he was still working through it, though.
2. And then there’s the matter of the homophobia and the biphobia that Ianto knew he’d have to face from the outside world, including from his family. Rhiannon and Johnny do not rub me as particularly progressive people, though they’re clearly not the sort of bigots who’d cut contact with him over being queer. The fact remains, though, that if Ianto picked up a negative view of queer men and same-sex relationships when he was young, Rhiannon probably picked it up too, and they don’t really seem to be close enough for Ianto to have any idea how much of that she’s unlearned as an adult. Ianto seemed surprised that she took the news that he was sleeping with a man as well as she did, and even the most well-meaning straight people can and usually do hurt queer people just by being ignorant or buy into stereotypes. Queer men have always been viewed as dangerously hypersexual, and for bisexual men, that’s compounded by biphobic stereotypes about bisexuals in particular being promiscuous and untrustworthy. Even many gay men (to say nothing of straight women!) admit that they won’t date bisexual men. That’s not really an issue for Ianto, since he’s already in a relationship with another polysexual man, but the sentiment behind it is still important. It’s possible that when Ianto denies that he’s attracted to men other than Jack, what he’s really trying to say is “I am not everything that we’ve been taught that bisexual men are supposed to be. I am not promiscuous. I am not a cheater. I am not dangerous. I am not dirty…” And whether or not Rhiannon would actually believe these things about Ianto is beside the point. Ianto just has to be worried that she would.
3. I mentioned in my last reply that the distinction between homosexual men and bisexual men is a relatively recent thing, and because society is slow to evolve, that can really fuck bisexual people over. Conservative and often even mainstream dialogue about sexuality does not allow for polysexuality to exist, but in the modern day it still treats homosexuality as the attraction exclusively to members of the same sex. The overvaluing of male partners and the undervaluing of female partners by the patriarchy means that all polysexual people, regardless of gender, will be be assumed to actually be exclusively attracted to men unless they are openly in a monogamous relationship with a woman, in which case they’ll be assumed to actually be exclusively attracted to women. The way that Rhiannon and Johnny spoke to Ianto about his sexuality strongly indicates that they fell into this trap, which makes it extremely likely that Ianto’s father and their general social circle during his formative years viewed sexuality as a strict dichotomy. This is a big problem for Ianto (and for many bisexual people) because Ianto would never want to betray or cheapen his relationship with Lisa. There’s a very good chance that he was concerned that admitting to liking men would be interpreted as admitting that his entire relationship with Lisa was on false premises and he never really loved her, and he couldn’t do that. (Hell, look at how often the fandom denies or cheapens Ianto’s relationship with Lisa as it is.) He would never want anyone to think that he didn’t really love Lisa, so if he had to choose between people thinking of him as straight and people thinking of him as gay, I think he’d want people to think of him as straight. I think part of insisting that Jack was a one-off thing and that Ianto was REALLY AND TRULY ATTRACTED TO WOMEN was that it was a way of protecting the memory of his time with Lisa.
And I do agree with what you said. The show spends a lot of time showing us how Gwen is straddling two worlds, because she is struggling to live equally in both of them, but it doesn’t really acknowledge that Tosh and Ianto are also living in two different worlds. They just don’t split their time equally like Gwen does, but they do both have families outside of Torchwood and on Chirstmas and birthdays and whatever else, they have to leave Torchwood world and go into the real world. Ianto must think of his relationship as being something that takes place in “Torchwood World,” and I think he has a much better handle on what it is and what it means in “Torchwood World” than he does on what it is and what it means in the “real world.”