• Willow was originally straight

    Willow doted on Oz when they were together. They had a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, except for Willow's brief fling with Xander, which she hugely regretted because she hurt Oz so much. After Oz left Willow she was utterly crushed and not looking for a lover.

  • Willow realises that she can have a relationship with a woman

    She starts a friendship with Tara because they both practice magic. This progresses for several episodes until Tara shows that she has a romantic interest in Willow. At this point it seems as though Willow realises she can be attracted to women and thinks "Yeah! Why not have a relationship with Tara?" and reciprocates. Willow doesn't seem to be aware that she can be attracted to women until this moment.

  • Willow is now a monogamous lesbian, not bisexual

    Willow reassures Tara several times during their relationship that she is gay, she is a lesbian and she is not attracted to men. How did her relationship with Tara change her sexual orientation, instead of expanding it? Or, why is Willow now a lesbian instead of being attracted to both women and men? She can still be monogamous if she is bisexual. It doesn't mean that she changes between gay and straight each time. I'm looking for an in-universe explanation because I guess that a bisexual character would have been even more controversial than a lesbian character at the time.

My definitions:

  • Straight/heterosexual: Only attracted to people of the opposite sex
  • Lesbian: A woman who is sexually attracted to women but not sexually attracted to men
  • Gay/homosexual: Someone who is only attracted to people of the same sex
  • Bisexual: A man or a woman who is attracted to both men and women
  • Monogamous: Having no more than one romantic interest at a time

When I am in a relationship I still find some people attractive, I just choose not to act on it because I only have monogamous relationships. Although I am heterosexual, if I was bisexual I would still be attracted to both other men and women, even though my partner would be only one of those.

  • Have a read of these interview quotes. You'll get a new perspective on her relationship with Tara, at least from the POV of those running the show
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 1:57
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    Just a note that who you are attracted to is not a choice - Willow did not make a conscious decision to 'turn gay', she recognized that the feelings she had been developing for Tara were romantic, not simply friendly. Following that, while in a committed relationship, she didn't pursue other relationships. While I'm sure your question was phrased in what could be seen as an offensive manner by accident, not malice, correcting that phrasing could alleviate the downvote parade you are experiencing.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 2:07
  • @Jeff I completely agree. What wording is attracting the downvotes? Tell me and I'll fix it.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 2:12
  • @Richard Thanks for the link. None of the comments are later than mid-2000 and Willow says many times during her relationship with Tara that she's not attracted to men, or that she is a lesbian. There is no on-screen suggestion that Willow could be bisexual, only Alyson Hannigan's interview comments.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 2:27
  • 1
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 21 at 13:29

4 Answers 4


This was discussed by writer/director Joss Whedon in an interview with Metro. In brief, at the time there were relatively few bisexual characters on television and the worry was that having her express ongoing interest in both males and females, it would confuse audiences and minimise her transformational decision.

‘There are you things you can’t do, thanks to [the society at the time],’ the Marvel director explained. ‘It [was] like, “OK, you can’t make Willow bi, you can’t say this is a phase, because that’s what people do to deny their existence. So, if I did it now, I’d be like yes she can be bi. Because some people are! But back then it was like, no…we’re not ready for that.’

Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator would make Willow bisexual in modern-day remake after being persuaded against it: ‘We’re not ready for that’

  • 1
    It seems possible. Of course, if Joss Whedon had thought back then (like Dan Savage did, for instance, or an unfortunate number of both gay and straight people did) that bisexuality did not exist, he would hardly say it outright.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 23:10
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    @Adamant - He claims that he discussed it with the studio and was overridden. It's also possible that he's full of crap.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 23:12
  • I specifically asked for in-universe reasons.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 0:42
  • 2
    @CJDennis - Sometimes it is what it is.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 5:27

Probably because of the prejudices attached to being bisexual.

I agree that bisexual seems the best term for Willow - not only is there the relationship with Oz, I seem to recall several indications of her being attracted to Xander. That makes it less likely there was no attraction or that she was only pretending. Ending up with Tara just makes it seem like she is attracted to both, not that her past attractions get retconned away.

It is possible that Willow uses her terms deliberately, to avoid certain stereotypes and expectations. You note she uses the term lesbian to reassure Tara of her lack of interest in other partners, and the stereotypes of being bisexual include being greedy, lusty, that they are always being attracted to both genders, and expectations of unfaithfulness. These stereotypes may also influence the out-of-universe reasons for the choice of terms.

It is also possible that Willow was not aware the term should apply to her. If she was confusing her desire for monogamy (that is, buying into some of the stereotypes and finding they didn't apply) with lack of attraction. Or if she was only attracted to those she cared for (ie, demisexual) and was not attracted to anyone else while she was with Tara, but only noticed lack of attraction to men because of her confusion. Or even had a strong preference for women (once she noticed), and thought the term bisexual meant no preferences either way.

The other possibility is, I seem to recall her character had a tendency to run from extreme to extreme. From being addicted to dark magic to being the whitest witch, from relying on technology to using magic for everything, from being a follower to wanting to control everything. It could simply be that once she realized it was an option to be attracted to women, she ran to the extreme and declared herself a lesbian instead of finding a middle ground.

  • 3
    I just remembered a season 7 episode where Dawn, Buffy, Willow and Anya fall under the love spell of a magic football jacket. While under the spell Willow says her love is the strongest because she's willing to overlook that the mutual object of their affections is a man/boy. Later, she decides to cast a spell to turn him into a girl, but is interupted. This reinforces that she was being portrayed as solely lesbian, not bisexual.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 23:50
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    "I seem to recall several indications of her being attracted to Xander" — and several instances of her cheating on Oz with Xander, while Xander was dating Cordelia. High school! Commented Jan 21 at 20:46

Willow was lying.

She was always bisexual, whether she realised it or not. When she started her relationship with Tara, she decided to inaccurately describe herself as a lesbian. Maybe it was to protect Tara's feelings. Maybe she thought there was a stigma attached to being bi. But whatever the reason, it was her choice to lie about it.

We don't know whether she realised she was bi when she was with Oz. She might have dismissed attraction to women as platonic interest until she fell in love with Tara and learnt about this side to her sexuality. Later, her friends were used to her identifying as lesbian, not bi, so she mightn't have felt the need to correct their impression of her, and in fact, perhaps she had reasons for wanting to keep the label "lesbian".

However, the only thing that makes sense based on what science tells us about sexuality (i.e. a person's sexuality doesn't change) is that she was always bisexual, so was either confused or lying about her sexuality.

  • "based on what science tells us about sexuality (i.e. a person's sexuality doesn't change)" - you've got a reference for that?
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 21:32
  • Wow! Tough crowd! It's been five years since I asked my question, and people are still downvoting it! I've learnt a lot about gender, sexuality, sexual attractedness, romantic attractedness, and physical sex, how they're all different from each other, and how science supports what people's experiences about themselves have been saying all along. hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy This article gives many, many citations.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 1:25
  • I didn't downvote it :-) In fact, I asked myself the same question. To me, it always seemed like she felt pressured to be either gay or straight, so she sort of suppressed her feelings for men after some point. But I don't think we can know for sure. And I do think it happens sometimes to people that their sexual orientation just changes, so I was wondering why you thought it was considered scientifically impossible
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 2:59
  • I think people might not realise what their orientation is. They might feel pressured to "be" a particular orientation, and when they realise what their true orientation is, suddenly "Everything makes sense!"
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 3:25

I am super late to this but I have had an insight that may explain; if anyone is reading here we go.

I have spent many years pondering over this question and it is only now with my own life experiences that I feel I have a clearer answer. I have considered myself bisexual for almost all of my life (I am nearly 30) until now. I have only dated men and I went through an incredibly painful breakup with my last partner around 7 months ago and I now have zero attraction to men. I know I did and I figured maybe it was one of those things that would come back but if anything I'm getting gayer. I think sexuality is more fluid than we'd like to believe. And I feel quite sure now that the pain Willow felt when Oz left may have caused her to just no longer feel attraction to men or otherwise I believe now it is possible to change sexual orientation.

  • 2
    Whilst you may well be quite correct, I think the OP was looking for an in-Buffyverse answer. Welcome to Scifi, please take our wondefull tour and refer to the help center on an as and when basis for our rules. Enjoy the site. Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 22:33
  • You're probably getting downvoted for suggesting that a person's sexual orientation can change. The best current science says a person's sexual orientation doesn't change. I've had straight male friends who were "over" women after a bad breakup. Could you simply not want to be in a relationship with a man at the moment? Maybe you have zero romantic interest in men at the moment, which is different from having zero sexual attraction to men.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 0:49
  • @CJDennis personally I'm downvoting because it's a personal anecdote and a fan theory with no supporting evidence
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 21 at 23:03

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