Last Thursday evening Ruby Tandoh, of GBBO 2014 fame, came out via Twitter, and to be honest, her timing could not have been better. Her revelation prompted a whole load of realisations and feelings within me – mostly positive, but at times, I saw a harsher reality as I had the rainbow-tinted glasses ripped from my eyes.
Because I myself am seeing a girl at the moment. I’m not going to dramatically pause there – it doesn’t seem necessary. I have dated men before, and now I’m dating a girl. I have dated nice people before, and now I’m dating another nice person. Who happens to have a vagina. And that’s what I feel a lot of other people see, rather than the fact that she’s incredible and lovely and I’m happy to have her in my life. We’re even going to Hogwarts (well, Alnwick Castle) together next week, so I guess you could say she’s pretty special. I don’t see why gender should make a difference, because at the end of the day it’s a huge, colourful spectrum and I feel saying “I will only be attracted to this gender” is restrictive; there are so many amazing people out there, and why wouldn’t I want to experience as many as possible? But whatever – in the words of T-Swift, the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
So when I saw Ruby had come out, I was ABSOLUTELY BUZZING. Super awesome lady of similar age and interests (not a euphemism – I do genuinely mean baking) to myself? Check. Coming out around the same time I needed to tell my parents about the special lady in my own life? Check. Presumed straight because overtly “feminine”? Check. Fellow destroyer of patriarchy and its related heterosexism? BIG, GLOSSY CHECK. We even had the following chat and it caused a severe case of the warm fuzzies:
But not everyone was as happy as I was at Ruby’s newfound freedom. Luckily I didn’t stumble across and explicitly homophobic comments, but I was dismayed by the alternative. I saw plenty of news reports with comments such as “I don’t know who this person is, but why does she think we care?” and “Get over yourself – nobody cares whether you like men or women, it should be your private business anyway!”
And in a way, I feel this is almost worse than explicit homophobia, because there’s an underlying sense of unease that’s really difficult to interpret. Do they actual believe it should be private, or is it just thinly veiled code for “EWWW, DON’T MAKE ME THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH WOMEN!”? At least if the homophobia was explicit, we could say “wow, that’s rude and offensive” and challenge it. With these sorts of comments, however, how exactly are we supposed to respond? Is Ruby supposed to feel ashamed and say “I take back my comments, you don’t need to know about my private life”?
Of course she’s not. One of the reasons Ruby’s coming out, along with every other public figure who has revealed themselves to be part of the LGBT+ community, was so important was that it offered comfort and hope. Innumerable people, myself included, felt inspired to come out as well. It’s so so SO important that there are open, positive role models for LGBT+ people, especially those who feel trapped, unhappy and unable to come out. It saves so many lives and offers that old yet still-true message: “it gets better.”
A similar case arose last night when I happened upon the following video, a “bisexual makeup tutorial” and the epitome of sass:
Now, Amy Geliebter lays down some cold, hard facts about biphobia and bi erasure that for me, as a bi/pan person, caused many “ooooh, snap!” moments when watching this video. But of course, there were the inevitable comments of “great, you like men and women, now shut up and stop going on about it!”
One thing I wonder is whether a man would be silenced in the same way (for me, the whole comment reeks of misogyny and yes, it was a man who wrote it), but that’s a rant for another day. The point is that Amy has EVERY RIGHT to discuss her sexual orientation and identity, because it’s such an incredibly important part of life. She did not make this video for the purpose of saying “hey guys! I’m bi!” but rather because biphobia is such a prominent yet often overlooked problem. Bisexuals are often labelled as “confused”, “greedy” or worst of all, to use a word I loathe, “slutty.”
Perhaps the comment was a classic male knee-jerk reaction of “damn you’re hot – shame you’re more likely to be interested in a woman than my sexist ass.”
If we want to tackle homophobia, biphobia and general censorship of the LGBT+ community (which, yes, I would consider myself a part of), then we NEED to speak out. We need to educate, and it takes more than just a teacher to do so. When will people stop ignoring what we have to say, passing it off as oversharing about our personal lives, and become willing pupils of the world?
So here’s to you, Ruby – thank you for being so utterly fearless.