“Should I have lied and said I am bi?”: Jessie J’s bisexuality was ‘just a phase’

Jessie J recently called her bisexuality ‘a phase’ in an interview with The Mirror.Jessie_J_in_NYC1

Her words aroused bitter disappointment despite my having very little interest in her music or personality. Yet, everyone’s sexuality is fluid. It is valid to rise and fall on the Kinsey scale over the course of your life. Everyone should acknowledge their own feelings.

So why did this inspire anger?

Initially, it was more the phrase than the sentiment. Jessie J’s wording trivialises her previous relationships with women. It seems dismissive and all too reminiscent of the kind of criticisms that bisexual people face from all sides. Her words will give ammunition to people who say that bisexuals claim their identity either for attention, in a rebellious ‘phase’, or as a prequel ‘phase’ before fully coming out.

On further reflection though, there was more to it than semantics. Whether she likes it or not, as a celebrity, Jessie J has taken on the role of spokesperson. She may well be the only bisexual woman some people have heard of. I have written previously about the value of celebrities coming out – it can be as powerful as if it were a friend or family member. So what damage might be done by a celebrity referring to her relationships with women as ‘a phase’? What will people think to see bisexuality used in what appears to be a publicity stunt? What might the consequences be for a bisexual person seeing the casual dismissal of their sexual identity?

So back to Jessie J’s question – should she have lied and said she she is bi?

In short – no. I couldn’t condone wanting anyone to lie about their sexuality. However this wasn’t Jessie J speaking honestly and openly about the evolution of her sexuality. These inflammatory comments were clearly a shameless attempt to interest the media in her and her 3rd album. There are better ways to approach the complex subject of fluid sexuality which is still widely misunderstood by many.

A more frank, thoughtful and above all tactful, discussion of her feelings and experiences might have caused less anger. It might even have gone some way to opening up the discussion around female sexuality.

Maybe this is too much to hope for. It is, of course, unfair to hold Jessie J, of all people, to a higher standard than the rest of us. She never claimed to be a role model or a champion for bisexual women. However, from a woman who still claims to care about her LGBT fans, a bit of tact was be hoped for.

Representation of bisexuality in the media is poor at best. Even nominally LGBT friendly shows like Glee continually get it wrong when it comes to bisexuality. This makes it worse when someone who has publicly come out as bi appears to be using their sexuality as a publicity stunt.

All is not lost, there are other bisexual celebrities out there – Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood spring to mind – but this is still a blow, particularly to the public perception of bisexual women and bisexuality more widely.

 

Do we owe it to people to come out?

English: Jodie Foster at the Academy Awards. P...Jodie Foster confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood last Sunday when she came out at the Golden Globes. Her closet, like Anderson Cooper’s, was made of glass and her announcement surprised only those who didn’t care or deliberately didn’t ask. Many and more have commented on the speech, notably Bret Easton Ellis who seems to have problems with famous women these days if his attitude to Jodie Foster and Kathryn Bigelow is anything to go by.

I liked the speech in general but as much as I appreciate Jodie Foster’s plea for privacy her juxtaposition of privacy and coming out made me think about what we owe people where sexuality is concerned. Does Jodie Foster, or anyone, owe it to people to be out?

As Anderson Cooper pointed out in his coming out letter, ideally it would be no one’s business who he or any of the other celebrities that have come out has slept with. However our world is not ideal. While it is easy to suggest that with so much progress on gay rights the days when visibility was paramount are behind us that ignores the dark undercurrent of homophobia that taints so many people’s experience of coming out. There are many people who still suffer for their sexuality, not only in far flung locals like Saudi Arabia and Uganda but in our own back gardens as well. While gay marriages are busting out all over for many there are still families who shun their LGBT children – just look at Chaz Bono and Cher for a very public example. Homosexuality remains particularly taboo in sports, UK Football being the obvious example where there hasn’t been an openly gay man playing at the top level since Justin Fashnu who was driven to suicide.

There have been studies that show a beloved television character or star coming out can have the same affect on a persons views about homosexuality as if they were a close friend or relative.  The value of a celebrity coming out should not be underestimated by them or by us.

Is this too much pressure to put on LGBT actors, singers and musicians? Should being born gay mean you are forced to be a role model or to be an activist or a spokesperson?

I think people ought to be able to choose their own approach to their sexuality. Except where hypocrisy and politics are involved I would not condone outing anyone. Once out, no one will force you to be an activist or even political. On the other hand I think all those in the public eye should have a long hard think about their life choices if they decide to stay in the closet. One simple act of honesty and bravery could change someone’s life. I think everyone who has ever struggled with their sexuality is owed and owes that.

Concerning Jodie Foster, coming out and bonus Bret Easton Ellis being a sexist dick: