If you’re an LGBTQ+ person on the internet (hi!) then you know that everyone been popping off over photos of Demi Lovato with Lauren Abedini, and Janelle Monáe with Tessa Thompson. We clearly get very, very excited at the perspective of *visible* queer girl relationships.
But what happens when the celebrities don’t label themselves and the media does it for them? Janelle Monáe was recently declared gay by Popular Superstars but has not ever said that herself. Demi Lovato recently addressed her sexuality in her new documentary (only she didn’t).
While both these women have every right to keep their sexuality private, one can’t help but wonder why the media continues to publicize speculation while the celebrities remain unnecessarily coy. One reason for the media could be the pressing temptation of sensationalism and a headline. Nosiness. Invasiveness.
A reason for the celebrity-in-question’s secrecy is their own boundaries. But there’s something else at work. We want a lesbian pop star, dammit! (okay I want a lesbian pop star, and I’m sure you, dear GO reader, do too).
The simplest, most politically correct argument to make in these situations is that their lives are private and no one has to label themselves. While that’s true, I can’t help but agree with perhaps the more radical opinion like Noah Michaelson of the Huffington Post expressed.
Michaelson gives us insight as to why it’s important for queer celebrities to use their platforms and give visibility to communities that are still—in many ways—fighting for their rights and respect. Yes, tabloids can be invasive and problematic, but what about us lez fans that just want an icon to look up to?
If the media isn’t being speculative and inappropriate, they’re being a little too understanding about celebrities’ coyness. Glamour writer, Christopher Rosa, writes “Honestly, Lovato’s sexuality is none of our business; she has every right to be as vocal or quiet about it as she pleases.”
While its simple and benevolent to have a stance like Rosa’s, this phenomenon of refusing to “come out” calls for a more complicated discussion. We would never hear a magazine write that about heterosexuality. We make everything else about celebrities our business. We speculate endlessly about so many celebrities’ relationships. The way we treat queer celebrities, in general, is just baffling to me, and the following ongoing evasiveness of them is equally troubling.
Demi Lovato said “I feel like [my sexuality] is irrelevant to what my music is all about. I stand up for the things that I believe in and the things that I’m passionate about, but I like to keep my personal life as private as possible when it comes to dating and sexuality and all that stuff just because it has nothing to do with my music.”
So, “Cool for The Summer” has nothing to do with sexuality? I’m confused. Quite frankly, Lovato’s statement shows that performative lesbianism sells records and music videos but Demi doesn’t want to take the real risk of owning a marginalized identity. She also said, “Just because I’m refuse to label myself for the sake of a headline doesn’t mean I’m not going to stand up for what I believe in. If you’re that curious about my sexuality, watch my documentary. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”
Maybe she owes the queer community visibility after using queer themes to sell music and often speaking on our behalf at queer events. For the sake of a headline? What about for the sake of the community? There’s something off-putting that most, if not all, of our queer femme visibility, comes from a non-lesbian identity. Is a lesbian pop star not palatable enough? That’s obviously a larger problem of homophobia and misogyny in our world, but I can’t help but feel angry at a privileged pop star wouldn’t challenge those notions.
Janelle Monáe has made a similar statement: “You know what, I keep my personal life to myself. I think one of the things about that is that I want everyone to focus on my music and also I don’t want to let anybody down. I want women to still be attracted to me – go get my album! And I want men to still be attracted to me so I have to be political in this. I can’t really tell y’all.”
I’m not buying the “personal life” thing, yet again. And I find her statement of having to be political about this ironic and sad. She has to play to be still being palatable to straight men, while not being “political” for the group she might very well be a part of.
Most queer celebrities maintain a similar narrative: “I keep my personal life private.” But part of being a celebrity is putting your life on display, right? If that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t post on Instagram incessantly, make personal appearances, or do provocative interviews. Demi Lovato literally has a documentary devoted to her personal life.
If she can be so open about mental illness and eating disorders, why can’t she be open about something like sexuality? Especially if it’s “just love” like all these celebrities insist. Love is love, they all say, but won’t provide any concrete visibility to that love.
The world acts like it owns queer femme sexuality, as shown by all the aforementioned articles (and, okay, fine, this one) and it’s disappointing to see queer women refusing to own it for themselves. It’s never okay to out someone, to force them to label themselves or represent an entire community. But I’m desperate for a lesbian pop star that will actually use the label, wear the label, and give the label real representation.
I respect everyone’s right to privacy and I know labels aren’t right for everyone, but I know I’m not the only lesbian woman that feels frustrated when a pop star vaguely insinuates that she’s not straight—but won’t dare use the L word.