Celebrities like Ariana Grande don’t owe us a coming out

Ariana Grande in the video for Monopoly

Do you ever get déjà vu? As a bi woman(ish person) who stays up to date with pop culture and the online queer community, I know I do.

How many times has this happened to you? A female celebrity, up until now assumed straight, releases a song or video in which they declare their attraction to women as well as men.

Suddenly, your timeline is alight with people calling them out for ‘queerbaiting’ and trying to make money off queer fans by pretending to be one of us.

We saw it with Demi Lovato’s Cool for the Summer (and when she was spotted holding hands with Lauren Abedini), Rita Ora’s track Girls, to some extent when Kehlani announced she was pregnant with a cis bi man, and now we’re doing it again with Ariana Grande’s latest single, Monopoly.

What do all these people have in common? They’re all women, traditionally feminine, and possibly multi-gender attracted.

‘Queerbaiting’

The term ‘queerbaiting’ was coined in 2010 in online fandom circles. It denotes character os the same gender that are stuck in eternal ‘will they, won’t they’ storylines, teasing queer audiences that they’ll get their representation eventually, except it never comes.

Sherlock and Watson in the BBC’s adaptation are a classic example, as are Dean and Castiel from Supernatural. The writers of these shows seem to deliberately put the characters in ‘wink wink, nudge nudge’ situations that could be read as homoerotic, without ever explicitly being so.

It can also be used to describe characters like Dumbledore, who the writer assures us is definitely one of us, she just didn’t need to show us in the text. In this way, JK Rowling can claim to have had queer characters without the messy business of chunks of her books needing to be edited out when selling them in countries like China or Russia.

However, the concept of queerbaiting doesn’t map onto real life people who have agency. Even if their actions are dictated by PR teams, they still have more control over them than characters in a story. A singer saying they like men and women is not queerbaiting: it’s coming out.

Ariana Grande can express her sexuality without using labels

If in the future it’s revealed that Grande’s team made her express this when it’s not true, then it’s justified to call them out for lying to queer fans. But saying people like Ariana, Rita Ora, etc, are queerbaiting for expressing attraction to men and women only serves to further the harmful stereotype that multi-gender attracted people aren’t really queer.

The stereotype that bi/pan people aren’t ‘really queer’ or ‘queer enough’ is still prevalent within LGBT+ spaces.

Just last week, controversial feminist Julie Bindel published an article accusing openly bi/pan women of faking lesbianism for attention.

This harmful notion stems from the heteronormative idea that all female sexuality is either for or about men. Women’s attraction to other women is seen as less valid or real than our attraction to men, and bi/pan women often feel pressured to prove that their attraction to women is real.

Bi women face high rates of mental illness

Not feeling welcome or accepted by the LGBT+ community is one of the factors that contributes to bi+ women facing high rates of mental illness, especially anxiety. Stonewall UK’s most recent report from 2018 shows that 72% of bi women experienced anxiety within the last 12 months, and a shocking 50% had considered life not worth living.

This was significantly higher than corresponding statistics for lesbians, bi men and gay men.

Ariana seems to have been pretty clear about liking men and women but not wanting to label her sexuality. While we may want her to, to validate our own labels, not labelling your sexuality is a perfectly valid way to be queer. After all, a person can never date or hook up with someone of the same gender and that still doesn’t negate their bi/pansexuality or queerness.

This is as true for celebrities as it is for everyday bi women who have boyfriends.

How this impacts young women

While it’s important to questions the factors that might be contributing to a celebrity not wanting to come out or to label their sexuality, we must remember that they’re not going to be the main people affected by our conversations.

Ariana is unlikely to see our tweets and posts saying she is queerbaiting for singing about liking boys and girls while never having publicly dated a girl, but young bi girls might see them and internalize the idea that they are queerbaiting, or using queerness, or even not queer enough because they’ve never dated a girl.

People being attracted to more than one gender and making art about it is not ‘bait’ for gay men and lesbians: it is an expression of queerness.

The articles and discussion that have followed Grande’s Monopoly have all managed to erase bisexuality, and presented representations or hints of it as teasing gay men/lesbians. Bi people deserve our own representation, even if it does not also fulfil the purpose of representing same-sex relations.

Lois Shearing is the founder of #DoBetterBiUs & @NetworkBi. Follow Lois on Twitter at @LoisShearing

See also

Man meets girlfriend’s parents and realizes he’s had sex with her dad

This is why I don’t regret coming out as bisexual in my 20s

No, bi people are not ‘appropriating gay culture’

Author: Lois Shearing

The post Celebrities like Ariana Grande don’t owe us a coming out appeared first on Gay Star News.

Meet with the woman using art and fashion to change LGBTI lives in Uganda

Kakyo Trinah is the founder of KakyoProject in Uganda

Growing up in a predominantly Christian ecosystem, I was constantly reminded that homosexuality is a sin. I was told it is un-African and a Western phenomenon. I received little to almost no conversations about sexuality and gender.

As I came to terms with my sexuality, I was very aware of how my entire existence is not validated.

Because of this, I felt quite unhappy when I first realized I am a lesbian. For a long time, I didn’t want to deal with this reality.

I avoided dealing with it until I was fortunate enough to discover the tools, friendships and connections able to help me gradually accept my sexuality.

Now I am out to everyone.

Negative reaction to coming out in Uganda

At first, I came out to a few friends. I officially came out to my family in 2016.

I received predominantly negative reactions from my closest inner circle. My close friends invalidated me. They ‘ghosted’ my existence.

My immediate family thought it wise for me see a therapist. He constantly amplified my nonexistence, labelling my queerness as ‘mental illness’ that I could be converted from.

I also received a negative response from myself, towards myself.

Trinah Kakyo

Trinah Kakyo (Photo: Supplied)

‘Perfectly queer’ and Kakyoproject

Here in Uganda, queer persons are able to meet safely and interact with one another, but of course, not as openly as other countries. We have to be more subtle. But we exist and are perfectly queer.

My project, simply titled Kakyoproject came together organically. The name was inspired by my personal experiences and surroundings.

For as long as I can remember, I created little, eccentric, DIY crafts for myself as a form of healing. Making crafts grounded me, personally. I never gave it much thought at the time. I was mentally battling many things.

Deep down, I knew somehow that my creations were one thing the world couldn’t take from me. It was a refuge of sorts and an affirmation of my existence.

Also, orders from friends to create them pieces proved to be a source of money. This provided further encouragement.

Then I began making rainbow pieces.

What inspired this was a friend. They were having a difficult time, ‘not being able to meet anyone for years,’ as they put it. Semi-jokingly, they said: ‘I have needs that need tending to, you know.’

I felt powerless and didn’t know how to help.

I crafted a simple rainbow hair tikka piece and gave it to them.

My friend wore this piece religiously. A few months afterwards, they ran into someone on the street that was curious about the rainbow. They went on a date and have been dating since.

Rainbow bracelets are among KakyoProject's best-selling products

Rainbow bracelets are among KakyoProject’s best-selling products (Photo: Supplied)

Adding rainbows to accessories and clothing

This experience drove me to crafting more unique handmade pieces for friends.

Whenever someone shared a story of an encounter through these pieces, it re-energized me.

I stuck with queer color details as part of my endeavor to celebrate and affirm diversity. And to fashionably contribute to visibility.

Last year, kakyoproject organically moved to creating more types of apparel. Again, these were drawn from a personal experience.

In early 2018, I was back in Kampala and dealing with a situation: a fallout with some girls I had previously thought were a safe space.

I honestly didn’t think I had the energy to deal with it. One Friday night, after an intense encounter and open meltdown, I hopped on an uber “boda” (motorcycle) home.

Teary eyed in the Kampala traffic, I spotted another fellow on the back of another “boda” wearing a denim jacket reading: ‘Take it easy.’

Those three words calmed me down. I returned home and woke up the next day full of energy.

I decided to create apparel that speaks in the same way: Affirms; informs; and educates. Clothing crafted to be worn more to our spaces of work, restaurants, school and partying.

More than ever, I intentionally chose to use queer color details on the pieces because of my personal experiences.

 ‘Transforming the words used to demean us’

Someone subsequently told me, ‘You don’t have to wear dreads to be a Rasta,’ hinting at my choice to wear rainbow detailed embroidery on my outfits.

I was quite disheartened at first. But shortly after, I read somewhere a quote from Arabelle Sicardi: ‘Queer life has always been transforming the words used to demean us into things that feel celebratory.’

So I now intentionally add these details. In the same way I am constantly told that my existence should not be, or should be toned down, erased … I choose to still exist. And so these details fit where I was told they shouldn’t be.

‘I will choose to dread or not, my head and my business, I am still a Rasta.’

‘Retail therapy’

Kakyoproject more recently began to offer what I call ‘retail therapy.’

I realized my stalls where attracting a lot of people. Some are not always wanting to buy but hangout.

How to satisfy this demographic became my endeavor. So retail therapy is just to hangout. It’s an inclusive space for uplifting, celebrating and affirming the lives of women and queer persons through fashion.

Every stall setup has a retail therapy point. The retail therapy goals are to create a space to inspire, create, love, heal, vent, fun, games, dress-up booths, wigs, photo booth, etc. The aim is to provide a healing space for participants.

This has branched out into social media, visuals and digital art. There are pop-up stalls in Nairobi in Kenya, and Kampala in Uganda, along with other parts of the world.

A model wears KakyoProject rainbow beads leather necklace

A model wears KakyoProject rainbow beads leather necklace (Photo: @kakyoproject on Instagram)

Art as a tool for personal transformation

Kakyoproject strongly believes art can be used as a tool for personal transformation. Fashion, arts and crafts were essential in my own transformation.

Here in Uganda, it may seem unsafe but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We learn how to navigate safely and learn from the challenges. For example, our most recent event was a #fivefilms4freedom screening.

We screened five films in Kampala for a small audience. The films came from The British Council and British Film Institute. I hope they serve as inspiration to those attending to hopefully create films telling our stories, as well.

We also exhibited the artwork of Kenyan photographer, Wawira Njeru. Her work questions notions of gender identity and diversity, female masculinity and the variation of maleness in today’s society. These remain topics taboo in Kenya, Uganda and Africa more widely.

This year if the 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots in New York City. Thinking about my own country, I think our Pride this year will be an intimate celebration of individuals in the community, in their own safe spaces.

For myself, I am keen to hopefully be able to march on the streets alongside our Kenyan neighbours in the near future, depending how the current court case there to decriminalize gay sex proceeds.

Of course, authorities pose a challenge, but I have learned from events such as the Stonewall riots, resilience eventually trumps all authority.

Kakyo Trinah was born and raised in Uganda. She lives in Kampala and occasionally Nairobi. She is the founder of the Kakyo Project. Follow Kakyo Project on Instagram and Facebook

A KakyoProject necklace

A KakyoProject necklace (Photo: @kakyoproject on Instagram)

See also

After gay sex ruling, India takes center stage in new Rainbow Riots project

The US church helping LGBTI people claim asylum

‘Kill the Gays’ Uganda MP receives award at Britain’s Parliament

Author: Kakyo Trinah

The post Meet with the woman using art and fashion to change LGBTI lives in Uganda appeared first on Gay Star News.

Clubbing in London can be incredibly isolating when you’re not a man

Charlie at a drag convention

The phrase ‘Let’s go to [insert name of a gay sex club]’ might signal the start of a good night out for some.

For me though, it’s quite the opposite.

There’s nothing more gutting than when I’m having a good night in a bar with a group of friends but then said group decide that next they’re going to head to a gay sex club.

I’m neither man, or completely masculine meaning that there are multiple venues in London where I’ll simply never be welcome.

Subsequently, my only option is to hang my head and retire to an early night.

When this happens, it goes something like this.

We’ll be in a bar in Soho. Everyone’s having a great time. The alcohol is flowing. The room is filled with laughter. Everyone’s face has a grin on it. It’s a good night.

Then a couple of the guys in the group will huddle and I catch wind that they’ve agreed on something.

Then, one person will approach me and explain that they’re heading to a gay sex club. ‘I tried to convince them otherwise but it’s just not worked, I’m sorry,’ a friend will explain.

I also try my hand at reminding that people if we go to one of the many places available that isn’t a gay sex club, we can still have a good time and I can join them!

Nothing works.

So then a couple of minutes later, everyone will start moving outside of the bar. Everyone apologizes for the fact that I can’t join them. I say ‘it’s okay’ through gritted teeth. They head in one direction, and I walk to the tube station to get a train home.

I can’t help but wonder though…

If you were really that sorry, why would you still go?

Charlie holding a rose at Ballie Ballerson

Charlie at Ballie Ballerson | Photo: Darren Mew

Queer venues in London

It’s hard to say really whether there’s been any progress in terms of diversity in LGBTI nightlife.

The number of venues that are safe spaces for those who aren’t LGBT men have experienced a noticeable drop.

Beloved queer venue HER upstairs closed abruptly in August 2018. This loss broke the hearts of many across the LGBTI London scene.

Ku Bar near Leicester square is a popular venue who host a weekly night for queer women – Ruby Tuesday’s. This is quite popular but, it’s just a weekly night.

Its sister Ku Bar, off Old Compton Street, runs SHE Soho in its basement. This venue is, as far as I’m aware, the only bar in London that is tailored and targeted at queer women.

They also have strict door policy that men aren’t allowed in unless they’re with a woman. DJ Tina Ledger once recalled seeing ‘a guy lurking around for hours offering women fifty quid to go in with him.’

Like Ruby Tuesdays, there are other examples of weekly events. Wotever World are a collective who regularly take over a variety of gay bars with their nights aimed at queer women, femme people and non-binary people.

There are other similar examples of this. Wotever World are a collective who regularly take over a variety of gay bars with their nights aimed at queer women, femme people and non-binary people.

The Friendly Society, Queen Adelaide of Cambridge Heath and CIRCA Club are venues for the community as a whole.

Bearing all that in mind, I’d say it’s pretty understandable that queer women and non-binary people would feel isolated in terms of LGBTI nightlife.

Sadie Masie and FIST

The biggest and most popular LGBTI venues in London are still predominantly gay venues – Some of which have no issue with discriminating against those who don’t fit the bill of an ideal customer.

This hasn’t always been the way however.

There was a fetish club in the early 1990s at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre called Sadie Maisie. The club welcomed people of all genders.

When Fetish Queen Suzie Krueger first opened her club FIST in the mid-90’s, I’m told this night was also for everyone. However, that event was later replaced by Hard On – a more hard-dance, sex night aimed much more at the boys.

I can’t help but feel like we’ve moved a bit backwards in this sense. Once upon a time, both my friends and I would have been welcomed into sex clubs together! Not anymore however.

All I want is to be able to join my friends on a night out, regardless of where they end up.

Author: Charlie Mathers

The post Clubbing in London can be incredibly isolating when you’re not a man appeared first on Gay Star News.