We Failed Young “Heartstopper” Star Kit Connor


Kit Connor as Nick Nelson in Netflix’s hit series “Heartstopper” (Rob Youngson/Instagram).

On December 31st, Kit Connor, an 18-year-old star of Netflix’s queer romance “Heartstopper” came out on Twitter as bisexual, but not on his own terms according to PopStar.

“Back for a minute. I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself,” Connor wrote. “I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.”

When “Heartstopper” was first released on Netflix on April 22nd, 2022, it was one of the most talked about shows at Lambert High School. The show’s emotional storyline and relatability resonated with many viewers and caused them to instantly fall in love with it.

In the show, Kit Connor plays the character of Nick Nelson, a 15-year-old boy who is navigating his queer identity and overcoming personal challenges after falling for Charlie Springs. We learn that, in the past, Charlie was outed for being gay and was bullied because of it. After their relationship took hold, Charlie was excited to date Nick publicly but made sure it was on Nick’s terms since he was still in the closet. 

Throughout the show, we see Nick’s growth and understanding of his own identity as he slowly feels more comfortable accepting that he is bisexual and that Charlie Springs is his boyfriend. 

Fans around the world fell in love with their story but quickly started questioning and pestering these actors to reveal their sexualities in their own lives. Connor had just turned 17 when “queerbaiting” rumors arose, just less than a month after the show was released.

Queerbaiting allegations on social media pressured Connor into relieving his own sexual orientation. The public needs to stop accusing celebrities like Connor of “queerbaiting,” (a term used to refer to an alleged attempt by marketers or celebrities to appeal to a queer audience)  if they are just being themselves and especially publicly announce that they are not ready to share their sexual orientation.

Rugby coach shuts down speculation of another student’s sexuality on page 204 of the “Heartstopper” comics by Alice Olsemen (Webtoons). 

“Twitter is such a funny man,” Connor tweeted in early May. “Apparently some people on here know my sexuality better than I do…”

Connor further explains how he feels on the Reign With Josh Smith podcast, “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 publicly.” 

Unfortunately, even after explicitly saying that he does not feel comfortable sharing his sexuality, the public’s queerbaiting accusations persisted.

In August, Connor addressed the detriments of outing someone, via Hunger Magazine.

“That tweet I posted pressed the importance of respecting people’s own journeys and I think it highlights the risks of outing someone and making someone feel uncomfortable,” Connor said. “ I don’t feel like I have to tell the world about my sexuality. I completely understand that many fans want queer representation to be authentic and they want to know whether it is authentic, but at the same time you shouldn’t make someone feel uncomfortable to the point where they have to tell a stranger about their sexuality.”

Connor’s story is now worrying queer fans all over, as these allegations show that even a closet is an unsafe place in today’s world of pestering and pressuring opinions.

The fact that Connor felt pressured to return to Twitter and come out, despite the fact that both he and his “Heartstopper” co-star Joe Locke had deleted their social media accounts, demonstrates how corrosive and intense the atmosphere was. 

“I think some of y’all forget how dangerous it can be to be queer in real life,” another “Heartstopper” fan tweeted . “yall are so blinded by how much support and positivity there can be online, that you forget that outing yourself/someone in real life can lead to horrible consequences [sic ].”

Other fans are claiming that Connor should be proud of his sexuality and sharing it with others, but for many who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, this often is not their initial reaction.

“When watching the show, I felt excited, because it’s really rare for queer representation to be more accurate to the real queer story of many kids in high school,” junior Juhi Bhatia said. “Social media just really has a tendency to overreact.”

The show that provided comfort and even hopes for much queer youth at Lambert wouldn’t have been possible without Connor. It disappoints fans who related to the show to see the actor not come out on his own terms because of social media.

It is without a doubt that queer coding and the representation of queer stories on television have rapidly risen these past few years, with many claiming that it is making up for lost time. However, many are pushing for authentic representation of these roles, which started these queerbaiting accusations of Kit Connor in the first place. 

This is simply not possible without pushing these actors to come out, even when they are not ready to. It is also overlooked that sexuality and gender identity do not always have a label. Many queer icons are unlabeled or have an evolving identity. The best thing for us fans to do is provide an atmosphere of endless love, support, and time to let even celebrities navigate their journeys of self-discovery.

Queerbaiting accusations also underlined arguments that Billie Eilish needs to come out in order to defend somewhat sapphic passages in a music video, or that Harry Styles should not be allowed to wear a dress or paint his nails until he announces his identity to the world. This only furthers the idea that one should “dress their sexuality” or the narrative idea that “clothes have a gender.” Simply put, if an artist or actor wants the world to know their sexuality, they will share it, no assumption should be made because they are unlabeled, and no pressure should be put on the celebrity unless they are causing harm.