jessie j comes out as straight! or, bisexuality as ‘just a phase’
Singer Jessica Ellen Cornish, better known by her stage name as Jessie J says she is no longer bisexual and instead is exclusively interested in men. Speaking to The Mirror‘s 3am earlier in the week, Jessie J says: ‘I feel that if I continue my career not speaking on it, I almost feel more of a liar than if I didn’t. I just want to be honest, and it’s really not a big deal. Who cares?’ Well I can answer that: quite a few of your young LGBTQ fans. It can’t be denied that many are outraged about it; some accusing her of ‘faking’ her bisexuality for media attention to get her career off the ground.
Jessie J has stated that whilst she feels her bisexuality was a phase she’s ‘not saying bisexuality is a phase for everybody’, but it is still an issue for her to claim her own sexuality as a decision she made and has since matured past. Most of the media attention surrounding this have grabbed hold of ‘just a phase’ and are throwing it around indiscriminately, which is problematic in a society where the idea that bisexual behaviour, particularly in young women, is done ‘for attention,’ reaffirming in the minds of young bisexuals that they will eventually “’make up their minds’ and ‘grow out of it’.
In 2011, the singer told Glamour magazine ‘I’ve never used it as a gimmick. I’ve always said I’ve dated guys and I’ve dated girls… If I’m in love, I’m in love. I’m not going to hide it.’ But now, in 2014, she declares it a phase she has moved past and jokes that she is now fully committed to husband hunting. In one tweet (since deleted) she says ‘I see my fans becoming who they are and it’s amazing! Whatever sexuality they chose, or have chosen, love is love’. This is highly problematic as LGBTQ activists have worked hard to try and overturn the myth that one’s sexuality is a choice.
Bisexuals in the media are typically presented as confused and indecisive. Bisexual women are overwhelmingly supposed to be ‘actually’ straight; attention seekers in denial of their heterosexuality. It’s a common stereotype that bisexuals are more likely to cheat, because they feel like they’re ‘missing out’ when they settle down with one gender. In many cases bisexual is synonymous with easy and available.
The term ‘coming out as straight’ is one that I personally despise and is riddled with issues. According to the GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) 90 per cent of LGBTQ people report hearing homophobic slurs on a daily basis. 25 per cent of LGBTIQ students have been physically assaulted by a peer and 34 per cent have been physically assaulted by a parent due to their sexuality. LGBTIQ individuals account for 30 per cent of suicides every year. An estimated 25-40 per cent of youths made homeless are LGBTIQ (likely a higher percentage).
These are sobering statistics. Coming out as an LGBTIQ individual can be dangerous, even life-threatening. So the attempts of Straight Pride activists (yes, that is a thing) to co-opt this with their coming out as straight stories is utterly ridiculous and an example of straight privilege at its finest. The amount of comments across social media outlets of people saying how ‘refreshing’ it is for a celebrity being brave and ‘coming out as straight for once’ is frankly nauseating. People crowing that this is ‘yet another example of sexuality being a choice’ need to stop.
Look, I don’t believe that Jessie J deserves an inbox full of spiteful, hateful messages. Sexuality is a fluid thing and if she feels she is only attracted to men then that is her prerogative. I’m not here to point my finger at her and accuse her of lying or of drumming up media attention. I don’t know how she feels, and it’s not my place (or anyone else’s for that matter) to tell someone how she should identify. My real issue is with the way she has framed her bisexuality as an immature phase and that ‘coming out as straight’ is being equated with growing up.
Jessie J herself is not responsible for bisexual erasure, but she is responsible like any good ally is to not speak about bisexuality and queerness like it’s a curse that hurts her chances for getting a husband. Being bisexual and wanting a husband someday are not mutually exclusive things after all. I understand her desire for the media to let it go, but there are unfortunate connotations in her eagerness to put this all behind her and move on.
For better or worse our pop stars and celebrities are role models. As any savvy Millennial can tell you, once it’s on the internet, it’s never going away. Outing herself as bisexual in 2011, when it was perhaps more accurate to say she was curious or questioning is definitely fuelling a lot of the backlash. Equating her own bisexuality as an immature phase and sexuality as a choice is a rather egregious slip up for anyone who professes herself a staunch ally of the LGBTIQ community; simply saying her sexuality has changed would have been far better.