She Kissed a Girl, But Is She Bi?
Katy Perry has done more than just kiss girls. While accepting her award at the Human Rights Campaign gala, Katy Perry made an declaration about her sexuality. The pop singer told the audience that when she was younger she “prayed the gay away” due to tensions of her sexuality and her religious upbringing.
“Truth be told: A) I did more than [Kiss a girl],” Perry said in her speech. “B) How was I going to reconcile that with the gospel singing girl raised in youth groups that was pro-conversion camps? What I did know is that I was curious, and even then, I knew that sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress.”
Katy’s revelation has many folks puzzled, myself included. Did she mean she was confused about her sexuality but later found out she was straight? Or did she mean she lands on the Bi+ spectrum? Then why would she call herself an “ally” in the same speech?
There are complexities to deciphering what Katy, or any other celebrity, actually means when they give sound bites about their sexuality. Just ask Kristen Stewart whose Saturday Night Live “I’m so gay!” announcement was met with praise from lesbian and gay community but when she later said she’s bi and not confused — not so much. Still, the statements made from celebrities with these platforms have impact on our community.
It’s important to create space for straight people to explore their sexuality. I don’t believe every person who engages in same-sex experiences automatically falls into the Bi+ spectrum. For some, that exploration confirms to them their heterosexuality. For others it exposes the fluidity of their sexuality and, unfortunately too often, pushes them into the closet.
It’s common for bi celebs to publicly claim the “ally” label to publicly avoid biphobia or due to their own internalized biphobia. This is fueled by gays and lesbians who see bisexual people in different sex/gender relationships as allies and not actually queer. Internalizing this message is easy. Indeed many bi people reflect this by attempting to own their “passing” privilege. But passing is only re-closeting and as we know the closet kills.
Katy is far from the only celeb to reference past sexual experiences with the same-sex and still claim heterosexuality. Tom Hardy admitted to experimenting with the same-sex only to sort of take it back and become defensive when asked about it. Hardy is currently married to a woman and believes his sexuality is not important to discuss.
But as I said in The Advocate in 2015, asking Hardy a question on his sexuality — as opposed to his sex life — should not be offensive. When someone’s sexuality lands on the bi spectrum, almost all individuals fear saying too much. Or they reconcile their past by claiming allyship today.
What I hope that Perry, Hardy, and any other celeb in the public eye recognizes is the potential they have to make a positive impact to bi youth. Either by owning their history and identities or expanding on their heterosexuality so to not leave confusion.
So is Katy Perry bi or an ally? Is Tom Hardy? Only they can say for sure. And they might not feel comfortable speaking their truth — whatever it may be — just yet. By destigmatizing bisexuality and sexual exploration we can create an environment in which shame won’t be a factor. And as we destigmatize bisexuality, more celebs who are actually bi celebs will stop dismissing the questions about their sexualities, abandon their faux ally labels, and come out as bi. Bi youth who are watching deserve that.