After Boy George’s biphobic twitter comments, Karen Pollock argues that it is time for the LGBTQ+ community to stop defending celebrities based on the role they might have played in their personal coming out story.
Growing up there were a lot of camp men whose performative homosexuality made them national treasures, even before homosexuality was legalised. Kenneth Williams, John Inman, Larry Grayson, all accepted by the mainstream as safe caricatures of a sexuality which was meant to be firmly kept in the closet. Today some celebrities maintain the tradition of being the acceptable homosexual, and none more so than Boy George.
The popularity of Boy George is testament to the fact that privilege means you can get away with almost anything, so long as you play up to being the tame white cis gay men of the majority. In 2009 Boy George received a 15 month prison sentence for the imprisonment and assault of a sex worker. As those who campaign for sex worker rights can testify, they are a group so often targeted by those who wish to abuse others. They are also a group the LGBTQ+ community has liked to pretend does not exist. Boy George portrayed himself as a victim throughout the trial, insinuated the actual victim was HIV positive, and, perhaps worst of all, the gay community saw him as a martyr rather than an abuser.
The hierarchy of who matters, whose assaults are seen as jokes, whose criminal acts are seen as excusable is very much tied into who is deemed acceptable within our society. Although homophobia, particularly violent homophobia towards gay men, is still rampant, Boy George has positioned himself in a heteronormative society as the safe queer; camp, appropriating AAV, and scattering warning signals which ensure fragile masculinity is never challenged. Thus he becomes a national treasure.
Today some celebrities maintain the tradition of being the acceptable homosexual, and none more so than Boy George.
Such a position is never secure, and is often reliant on punching down, or what George describes as “being a bitch”-so we can add misogynistic appropriation to the other identities he adopts in order to remain the tame pet of hetronormativity. Sex workers are perhaps one of the easiest targets in our society, but bi people follow close behind. The tropes of being really gay, indecisive, spreaders of disease and heartbreak are thrown daily at bisexual people. As a group bi people are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, have poorer mental health outcomes (compared to L and G people) and are more likely to live in poverty.
Sadly the Lesbian and Gay component of the rainbow nation have often led the attacks on bisexual folks. Given Boy George’s history, it was sadly unsurprising to see him perpetuating bi phobia and bi erasure (as well as attacking a grieving husband and calling him a liar) Claiming that bisexuals are liars is an easy hit, and the mark of a bully is looking for the easy targets. His original tweet has now been deleted, however this “joke” remains:
I love a bisexual. I ride a bicycle! https://t.co/9qXDSSmYcO
— Boy George (@BoyGeorge) January 2, 2017
It is time that the gay community stopped defending someone with a history of violence against some of the most marginalised in our society. I know how hard it can be to accept someone you admired in the past is actually a harmful person. I was a teenager in the 80s, we did not have many role models, Boy George was a ray of warm sunshine through a grey northern sky, a moment of glitter in the post Thatcherite gloom. While my parents asked “if that was a man or a woman” I was in my room braiding my hair and lip syncing to Karma Chamelon,
That was thirty three years ago.
In 2009 Boy George received a 15 month prison sentence for the imprisonment and assault of a sex worker. As those who campaign for sex worker rights can testify, they are a group so often targeted by those who wish to abuse others.
There is nothing wrong with having heroes, but, our heroes should grow, as we grow. Just because someone helped with your own personal coming out journey does not mean they get a free pass for the rest of their lives, it just means at a moment their journey and yours intersected.
In perpetuating the myth that bisexuals are second class queers, just gay people who have not made up their minds, Boy George has shown he is a bully yet again, and one who is all too willing to hit out at others. Cis het people might be entertained by his outdated act, but it’s time for the queers to start holding our heroes to a higher standard. Some people’s sexualities are fluid, some people realise they are bi, then gay, whilst others move from gay to bi. It’s not about deception, or not being gay enough, its about the fact humans are complex creatures, who often need time and space to discover who their true self is. Boy George seems to want to take over Christopher Biggins role as the favourite straight people’s queer, by following the same route. Maybe this time we can cut out the middle man and consign him to the same dustbin of history.
Follow Karen on Twitter (@CounsellingKaz)