We Need To Talk About Kelly

4/24/2017

Recently, Kelly Osborne said that she is “open to loving anybody”: wonderful, no? This alone would have been great, but if only she had stopped there. Instead, after saying this, she went on to make a series of implicitly homophobic, biphobic and transphobic remarks. I say “implicit” because she didn’t actually explicitly attack gay/lesbian, bi+ or trans people, but her comments were based on such prejudices.

First of all, I’m someone who loves labels because the bi label helped me realise who I am. So, I don’t really understand the “no labels” (but bi-acting, otherwise considered bi, people). Of course, it’s up to each person to identify how they wish. But one never comes across a straight person or gay man/lesbian woman saying they “don’t do labels”. The only sexuality that makes people want to use “no labels” seems to be bisexuality. If other sexuality identities used “no labels”, for example gay/lesbian, straight or asexual people, then fine. But the only sexuality people are afraid to name is “bisexual,” it seems.

In my opinion, saying you are against labels is simultaneously conforming to biphobia (that we’re all necessarily greedy, untrustworthy, promiscuous, sex-obsessed and more likely to cheat on our partners) and adding to bi erasure. Instead, we should be fighting those incorrect assumptions. That’s why I much prefer it when famous people outright declare themselves as bi rather than say they don’t believe in labels. I often wonder whether the “no labels” people apply the same rule to other parts of their personality that are not about sexuality. For example, if someone asks their ethnicity or nationality, are they still “no labels”? What about their age, height or weight? Or is bisexuality the only thing they would rather not name? I agree 100% with fellow Bisexual.org writer Zachary Zane about how labels actually help us  and we need the “bi” label more than ever. Personally,  before I was fourteen, I had never heard of the word “bisexual,” and I never knew whether I was straight or lesbian because I seemed to be neither and both. If my younger self had heard of the word sooner, it would have helped me so much. I would have known that I’m not alone and that there is a name for how I feel. I wouldn’t have suffered so much with my mental health.

But, of course, I’m in no position to judge the “no labels” people, and everyone has the right to define themselves in whatever terms they want. If only Kelly Osborne had said that she is “open to loving anybody,” and left it at that, it would have been fantastic. However, bizarrely, she went on to make a series of offensive comments about girls “pretending to be gay”.

Before I dissect what she said and why it’s so problematic and inherently homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic, let us remind ourselves of what Kelly said in 2011: after finding out that her then-fiancé, male model Luke Worrall, had had an affair with a transgender female model, Elle Schneider. Kelly made a series of transphobic and transmisogynist comments, using the offensive words “tranny” and “chick with a d**k”, and misgendering Elle Schneider as “he/she”, saying that she has been humiliated by her fiancé cheating on her with a trans woman. Though she later apologised, it’s still very disappointing that she made those harmful comments in the first place, and has left a bad taste in our mouths ever since.

Photo by Eva Rinaldi

Now, back to her recent coming out rant: after saying that she is open to loving anybody, she said that she would “never say never” and has “never been in a relationship with a woman”, but knows it is a possibility (which is 100% fine of course: bisexuality is about feelings, not experience. Contrary to popular biphobic belief, you don’t need to have been with people of more than one gender to be bi: nobody doubts that a straight virgin is really straight, and a gay virgin is really gay). So far, so good. However, her following words truly shocked me.

“I also don’t like it when people claim to be gay and then not. There’s this whole generation of young Hollywood girls who can’t find love where they think it’s supposed to be, and then they come out being gay and two weeks later they have a boyfriend. It drives me nuts!

I’m like, I know you. I’ve known you pretty much since before you used to s**t outside of a diaper. You are not gay! But I think outing somebody in that way is just as bad as outing somebody who has not come out of the closet. It’s one of those things I have to keep to myself… and it drives me fucking crazy!

I think it takes all the proactive work the LGBT community has done and sets them back ‘Oh, so now you’re gay?’ Then two weeks later: ‘Oh no, that was just a phase.’ You don’t get to do that.

I’ve marched till my feet bled for the right of equal love in the gay community, and you’re just gonna step in because it looks cool for you and now tell everybody that you’re a lesbian when you’ve never even seen another puss that’s not yours so you can get attention?”

Her comments are harmful and perpetuating the same homophobia, biphobia and transphobia she has supposedly marched against until her “feet bled”.

First, it’s really not okay to tell someone what their sexuality or gender is. The only person who can define your sexuality and gender, is you. Telling someone they’re “not really gay” is deeply homophobic. Telling someone how to identify or not identify is not okay. If someone says they are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, asexual, non-binary or genderqueer, or anything else, you have to respect that. Not tell them that they’re doing it for the attention (another biphobic slur), or arrogantly assume that you know them better than they know themselves.

Second, it’s completely fine for people to change how they identify over time. Nobody is born knowing who they are. It’s 100% okay to change your label as you get to know yourself better, as you grow into who you really are. We need to support gay people who used to think they were bi, and we need to support bi people who used to think they were gay. Their label (or lack of label) is their own business, not anybody else’s.

Third, she’s equating sexuality with experience, which is highly problematic. Though she herself said she has never been with a woman (which is completely okay; sexuality is about feelings, not a list of people whom you’ve slept with), she is saying that a girl who “has never even seen another puss that’s not [her own]” can’t possibly be lesbian. This is problematic for two reasons: basing sexuality, especially LGBTQIA+ sexualities on genitalia and sex rather than romance, or a mix of romantic and sexual feelings, is to sexualise LGBTQIA+ people in a way that cisgender heterosexual people are not sexualised. Heterosexual relationships can just be about hearts and flowers rather than imagining constant sex. Our queer sexualities are also not just about sex, as I argued previously. We are not necessarily any more or less sexual than cisgender heterosexual people just because of our being non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender. I knew I was bi before I even thought about sex, because our feelings are just as valid when they are romantic as when they are sexual. If we are “sex addicts,” then so are straight cisgender  people. Last but certainly not least, Kelly’s statement is equating “puss” with women, thus excluding a whole group of women: many trans women, and erroneously including many trans men and non-binary people who have a “puss” and are certainly not women.

I wish Kelly Osborne had said that she is open to loving anybody, and left it at that.

 

Kimia Etemadi
A British-Iranian Jewish woman living in Manchester, England, Kimia is a language enthusiast who can get around in 11 languages. A cancer survivor, OCD and anxiety sufferer, crazy cat lady, and vegetarian, Kimia has recently finished her second Master's degree.