Doin’ it like a dude

I read this week that, according to an unauthorised biography, Jessie J “was advised not to come out… [but] being bi was trendy, exotic and a fashion statement”. Aside from the hateful idea that a supposedly lesbian singer should hide her identity because it might alienate her audience, I am shocked that someone could actually think that bisexuality is merely a fashionable trend. I’ve heard of musicians keeping quiet about their sexuality, and about relationships so that deluded teenagers don’t end up heartbroken, but to be told to blatantly lie… if that’s true then it’s a disgrace.

I remember walking around The Doctor Who Experience with my two youngest nieces and hearing them talk all about how Captain Jack Harkness might fancy everyone, but the actor who plays him only likes boys. Because he’s gay. They didn’t like John Barroman any less because of this fact. It was just a fact. And I’m sure the younger of the two wouldn’t have been any less likely to sing and dance to Do It Like A Dude on the tube (much to the embarrassment of her mum!) if she knew that Jessie J only liked girls. It would simply be yet another piece of information about this pop star who she likes.

You might think that it’s a shame that Jessie J’s sexuality even matters. Some people say she should come out in order to be a role model to young lesbians, but why should she have to? Getting hung up on labels is no way to run your life. Surely she can be a role model to kids by saying that who she chooses to have a relationship with is unimportant to her music? The problem is that so many teenagers do have an issue with revealing their sexuality due to the opinions of others, and having someone in the public eye who you can relate to does mean an awful lot. You may not agree with everything they do, but the very fact they are well known just… helps. Your family may have preconceptions of LGBT folk, but famous people who are out and proud can help them realise that what they previously thought was incorrect. So-called friends might be quick to tease, but being like an international pop star is better than being like them, right?

Although a person’s sexuality shouldn’t matter, unfortunately it still does to some people. Everything we can do to try and start discussions about it is a good idea, because those people are then forced to deal with their prejudices. We might not like labels, but they’re a good reference point for those who are yet to understand. It’s a shame that what Jessie J said at G-A-Y last year was not more widely reported: “I’m not bisexual. I’m not gay. I’m not straight. If I love a girl, I love a girl. If I love a guy, I love a guy. I’m not going to label myself. I’m not going to put myself in a little box for people that don’t know who they are.”

Image via Jessie J’s website.

4 thoughts on “Doin’ it like a dude

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  1. This is so apt. The whole act of hiding, or convoluting sexuality for the sake of popularity makes me angry.

    Also, as much as I wish it wasn't so, it is true that having someone in the public eye to relate to means a hell of a lot. I think that's part of the reason I liked Chris Colfer's It Gets Better Video so much. Whilst Glee might not be high art, HE is certainly in the public eye and both the character he plays and the other awareness work he does really does help.

    And… I might not like Jessie J but I certainly sympathise with her situation. It shouldn't matter, but it does. And being asked to lie just makes it worse.

  2. Thanks very much for drawing my attention to that video. I had no idea it existed! You're right, stuff like that does help. One day there will come a time when no one has to make a big thing of it, but we're not there yet.

  3. As always Lori you are talking about a really interesting issue. I agree that biphobia is an issue that mainstream culture has problems in dealing with. I also agree that for many people the whole hetero/gay distinction doesn't fully capture the diversity of sexual experiences people have. We could go into so many different kinds of categories: sapiosexual, pansexual, heteroflexible, queer and i've heard classification terms within queer circles which are so beyond my head I can't understand how to cut through it at all.

    Someone like me who follows Theodor Adorno would tell you that mainstream culture follows categories that they can use to sell, they also use categories that are established and that people understand. There is a bit of this which is about how being mainstream necessarily involves being conservative, because the bigger your medium (whether television, internet), the bigger your appeal and accessibility will have to be. Mainstream culture is also inherently conservative towards preserving the status quo.

    Another point you make is something like: why should a famous pop star's sexuality matter? Pop music these days puts so much emphasis on sex and sexuality (and annoyingly to my view, too many songs on romantic love and sex!). Few people can play the pop game without being a sexual being or having sex appeal.

    Jessie J is a very attractive woman, and for many people part of the appeal of her music is her costumes, her lovely fringe and not so much the chord structure or what chromatic innovations the backing tracks have. Lets be honest, pop music is lowbrow and sex is a big driver for this kind of thing.

    Unfortunately if you are banking your career on image, you will eventually have to face public curiosity about sexuality. You won't find that in less mainstream things I grant you: nobody is bothered for instance that Rob Halford of heavy metal band Judas Priest is gay, he's still an awesome guy.

    The more present bisexuals and other people outside the gay/hetero division, the better the public consciousness will come to acknowledge wider forms of sexuality as normal.

    As a side point, I think its interesting how some bisexual performers are sidelined into being either gay or hetero because it seems easier somehow to accept them. Elton John for example: everyone conventionally considers him as the archetypical gay celebrity, even though in various parts of his career he said he's bisexual.

    sorry about long comment, like you this is something I too have strong feelings about.

  4. Thanks so much for this fantastic comment! You're right, mainstream pop music has always been linked to sex and sexuality, so it's a bit naive of me to suggest that only the music should matter. Hopefully this has got people talking though… the sort of people who wouldn't have discussed it otherwise.

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