We live in a world that enjoys it’s binaries. Popular culture and the way it’s presented is not exempt to this, particularly when it comes to sexuality.
When people we assumed straight begin to date someone of the same gender, we go from thinking they’re 100% straight to labeling them gay.
Recently, bronze medalist diver Tom Daley took to YouTube to reveal to his fans that he is in a blissfully happy relationship with a man. You can watch the video in question and hear that adorably charming English accent of his below:
Almost immediately he became a breaking news story with media outlets of all kinds reporting that the Olympic favorite is gay.
This, despite the fact that in the very video they were reporting on, he clearly said “Of course I still fancy girls, but, I mean, right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier.”
A similar situation occurred very recently at this week’s Winter Olympic games in Sochi. Ireen Wust, a Dutch speedskater, became the first LGBT Olympian to win gold at this year’s games.
The frustrating thing is that despite being openly bisexual, media outlets reported that this was the first gold medal won by an openly gay Olympian.
Another less-athletic example comes in the recent news that Maria Bello is in a long-term relationship with her best friend, who happens to be a woman. You may know Bello from Grown Ups, (both of them) or the TV show Touch.
I know her as being the badass boss, Lil, in Coyote Ugly, who I desperately wanted to grow up to be.
Bello has been in multiple relationships with men and one relationship with a woman prior to this current one. She decided to share the news of her relationship through a column she wrote, published in the New York Times.
In it she details how the relationship came to be and its current status. Nowhere in this column does she say that she is gay. But I found out about this relationship when I was scrolling through MSN’s entertainment blog, Wonder Wall. This article can be found here and looks a little something like this:
Ignoring the fact that I think there should be a comma so people don’t think “Gay” is her last name, there’s a problem with blatantly labeling a person who it seems does not want to be labeled and whose own prose suggests she is not 100% gay.
Maybe this tendency to hastily apply labels is related to a problem in the way we label non-heterosexual relationships. When there is a couple consisting of people of the same gender they are labeled ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ relationships. Yet we don’t have to clarify anything when speaking about a straight couple. Everyone assumes they’re straight. You don’t have to say that Brad and Angelina are in a “straight relationship,” but you do have to say that Portia and Ellen are in a “lesbian relationship.”
I’m sure this contributes to the problem of bisexuality getting swept under the rug. Society loves everything to be all or nothing, and bisexuality lives in too much of a gray area. However, this tendency to label people in a simple, black and white way is not helpful to our society.
It could even be detrimental; especially since the ‘B’ in LGBT is already severely underrepresented in our media and popular culture as it is.