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)
30 thoughts on “We need Boy George like a fish needs a bicycle”
Your article is poor and inappropriate and unhelpful, particularly for someone claiming to be offering counselling. Boy George remains an inspiration to the LGBT community to this day and not just to LGBT people, he is also an inspiration to mature gay men, to recovering drug abusers, people battling self confidence, people battling weight, to human beings in general who constantly want to better themselves. He gives hope and reaffirms that people can change and that there is more than one thing that makes a person.
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He may inspire you, I might wonder why you found someone with convictions for assault, who mocks bi people and a grieving partner inspiring. However you cannot claim he inspires all lgbt people, since as a queer person I find nothing inspiring nor do the many others sharing this article.
As a therapist I work with the victims of abuse daily, my heart will always be with them, the truly inspirational who survive and thrive after being abused
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your lack of open mindedness certainly doesn’t inspire me.
Hi, I’m the person George responded to with the bicycle joke (quoted above). I’m queer, I’m fat, I have massive self-confidence issues – and whether or not I ever considered him a role model for any of those things, he’s lost that respect now.
Less than twelve hours before he made his now-deleted tweet, he was talking about how learning to hold his tongue was his “greatest learning curve of 2016.” Clearly, he’s still got a way to go.
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Currently, he appears to be a inspiration to biphobes.
Boy George…..just a bitter old queen, probably tried to bed a bi guy and was told to get lost….hence the bitchy stupid comments.
I,ve been out with a married bi guy, and his wife knew he was seeing me now and then. I was under no illusion he,d leave his wife. We we all mature enough to understand the needs of each other.
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I am so confused. You spend a lot of words accusing Boy George of contributing to bi-phobia and bi-erasure, but you don’t give any examples of that. You say he attacked a grieving husband, but offer no evidence to back that up. Is all of this inference based off the bicycle joke? If so, that’s quite a leap.
I take it you didnt read the linked to piece which screencapped his tweets then?
Well said, Karen. I found this via facebook. Thank you for standing up for bi people. I am tired of the discriminatory attitudes of the het and queer communities, sometimes my own friends say the things you have mentioned. We’re kidding ourselves or we are in denial. It makes no sense because to be openly bi is to acknowledge that you are same sex attracted too, so what are we denying?
George was also a childhood hero of mine because of the way he challenged gender norms and it was very helpful for me at the time (although to be fair many many pop stars were doing the same in the 80s), I recently saw him in concert again and I was not disappointed. But these comments of his are opportunistic and hurtful, such a cheap shot to get a few laughs.
Sorry for existing, George! Twat.
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It is hard when people we looked up to as kids turn out to personally be less than we hoped, something there about learning that all idols have feet of clay perhaps?
“Today some celebrities maintain the tradition of being the acceptable homosexual, and none more so than Boy George.”
wow, way to go in alienating and offending a huge number of homosexual men with such a blase homophobic description. plus it just goes to show how little you know about the man you attempt to pillory here – he was never ‘acceptable’, his out-and-out queerness at a time when being gay was frowned upon in the press and by society as a whole, was never ‘acceptable’ to the straight establishment. Get your facts right, you anti-homosexual hypocrite.
I think I will listen to the gay curators of the Queerness, rather than your decision gay men need you standing up to them
Bi now, gay later. Leave Boy George alone, he’s said something the vast majority of gays and lesbians think, but have no guts to say it openly – for now.
If the majority of gays and lesbians have prejudice towards bisexual people, then we will shout even louder to end that prejudice
Like gays and lesbians have nothing else to worry about than a bunch of people who either end up gay/lesbian or straight, anyway
Just because you’ve never heard it said before doesn’t mean it hasn’t been said at all. I’ve been out as bi for close to thirty years, and the amount of disdain and outright hatred I’ve gotten from lesbians and gay men has been upsetting.
I never said I never heard it before. I said the vast majority of us don’t say it openly. Behind closed doors, I heard it countless times. Honestly, you get no sympathy from me and many, many of us.
Why do you hate us bi people so much?! You know what it’s like to feel marginalized by your sexuality… so why do it too another sexuality?! Why can’t people like you understand that we are just like you except we are hated from both sides!!! Why can’t you people just accept we are real we exist!?
Hate is a huge word. I simply ignore you as potential partners, because I don’t believe you can equally fall in love with one sex or the other. And yes, I make fun of you when you talk about how “discriminated against” you are, because you have no freaking clue what real discrimination is.
Infected, your comments show a lack of knowledge and understanding on the same level that some are accusing the author of. I am a therapist and Bisexual. I have been out for 23 year. My sexuality is not based on my partner. I am still attracted to a range of genders. I am in a monogamous relationship and that doesn’t change my attraction to multiple people. Hell, my partner understand this about my sexuality, why can’t you get it? Research shows you are wrong, that sexuality does not change, so if someone is really bisexual they will still be attracted to other genders, no matter what the gender of their current partner is. Oh wait, are you a part of the group that thinks just because someone is bisexual they just want to screw anything that moves. Well that is stereotypical. Why is it so hard for, as you put it, for the Gay and lesbian community to realise that just because I am with a cisgendered woman, transgenders woman, cisgenders male or transgenders male doesn’t mean i have stopped finding the others attractive: It just means i have chosen to commit to one person for the rest of my life. Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you are not attracted to others you see of the same gender your attraction is based on. It does not mean i stop being attacked to other genders. Please, oh please, stop letting you prejudice rule you. You act as it if it is mental disorder of decision not just a person’s sexuality. Well homosexuality is no longer a part of the DSM, why would you carry this prejudice on for bisexuals? Hell, part of the issues bisexualis have and why there mental health rates are higher is because of people like you. We’re supposed to be a part of the same community, treating bisexual like bastard children because you hold on to your prejudices like christians that say homosexuality is a sin while they were tatoos, is why bisexuals feel marginalized and like they have no community.
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I never talked about attraction, I talked about falling in love. Can you equally fall in love with both sexes (yes, two sexes and two genders, no matter what queerios say)? I bet you’ll say yes, and you can bet no gay/lesbian/straight will really believe you. The confused ones or the ones who like to keep an open mind will say they believe you, but it’s all BS. Stats are on our side – so-called bisexuals mostly get into a straight relationship, the rest finally comes out as gay/lesbian. There is no prejudice, it’s simply stats/facts.
There is no LGBT community, there are only Land G getting discriminated against and harassed (losing jobs, being physically and/or sexually assaulted because of who they are, etc.) by straight bastards or repressed homosexuals who buy into/ can’t break free from a religious, repressive, patriarchal society. The B and the T are appendages who are just capitalizing on our hard work and suffering – and now more people who have nothing to do with us, like asexuals, are joining the fray. That’s all. I’m seeing that finally more of the L and the G are fighting back and I’m hoping and trying my best to push for a clean separation of L and G from all letters.
There is no way a lesbian can discriminate against you by not sleeping with you – she can do whatever the hell she wants with her own sexuality and she has every rights to pick her own partners. Life as a lesbian is already tough enough without having to waste our precious time with women who think we should give a damn about.
By the way, aren’t you the ones who constantly say that most, if not all, humans are inherently bisexuals? I’m more than certain that you can find plenty of “open-minded” bisexuals like yourself. How come you don’t build your own community and you don’t get into relationships with each other – leaving us the fuck alone?
You know what this sort of reminds me of?
When people say that popular astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an atheist.
He isn’t; he doesn’t like that word and he doesn’t want it applied to him. The only “ist” he is, is a scientist (his words). He has stated that so far, he’s seen no evidence for the existence of any god but he’s willing to examine whatever evidence anyone should present to him. He keeps an open mind on all fronts.
However, many atheists who enjoy his podcasts and articles, etc, have this desperate NEED to claim him as one of their own. I suppose they believe having a “celebrity” like him say “I’m an atheist” validates their atheism.
But why do they need this? Why can’t they self-validate? Dr Tyson is no more and no less important than any other human being out here. The fact that he’s a media darling adds nothing to what the Unitarian Universalists call his “inherent worth and dignity” as a human being.
Perhaps bi people need to learn to self-validate and – if I may be so blunt – give no f*cks about whether this or that celebrity is or is not bisexual, approves of bisexuality, etc etc.
Why do people put themselves through this? Why do we need this kind of external validation?
I think it is less about external validation as not wanting to be on the recieving end of abuse. Ask the bi people who are spat at, or called “breeders” on pride marches if they should just give no fucks about abuse?
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Oh Karen….I AM one of those bi people whose very identity is blown off by other lgtq people. Makes me want to remove the b from lgbtq completely and tell them to go fuck themselves if they hate us so much. We’ll have our own damn movement and make it work without “them.”
oh and I forgot to add that I was mostly referring to the way people tend to elevate celebrities and emulate them and think that they’re something special. They’re just people, like any of us are.
Sorry if I forgot to mention that; I’m running exceptionally short on sleep today and my brain is totally not firing on all cylinders.
This article saddens me on so many levels. First, it proves the hatred most feel toward gay men. Gay men have, and continue to be, one of the most hated groups despite any gains made politically. This article was dripping with heterosexism and the notion of the lack of need for gay men – especially those that don’t bow down to the patriarchy’s notion of manhood.
Second, the article is abusive. Boy George’s actions notwithstanding (and I do not have details of his assault charge, etc.), he still does not deserve the ageism expressed in this article, which is an obvious “hit piece.” As a licensed psychologist and licensed counselor, I have spent my life dealing with abuse victims, as well as those who have become adults dealing with prior abuse. I’ve seen many things in my years, but nothing surprises me as much as the depth of denial some will have when they are abusive.
Biphobia is wrong, transphobia is wrong, misogyny is wrong, racism is wrong, xenophobia is wrong –but let’s not forget that homophobia is wrong. And abuse is wrong whether it is an action or in written form. An article addressing Boy George’s comments could have been written with a focus on his words, not with a focus on belittling him because of his age and sexual orientation.
Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.
– Gautam Buddha
I know this is an old article, but..please. Do you REALLY expect celebrities to be perfect little PC angels incapable of any wrongdoing?
And until you make a New Wave hit as catchy as Miss Me Blind & Unfortunate Thing, don’t tell me we don’t need Boy George 😉