With New York City’s annual Gay Pride Parade and the one-year anniversary of the repeal of DOMA going down last week, it’s already shaping up to be a pretty gay ol’ summer for many members of America’s LGBT community — and I mean that in a good way, obviously.
Now I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer (who am I kidding), but a pair of interviews published last Friday (June 30) caught my eye precisely because they complicate this clear-cut portrait of queer acceptance. Twenty-two-year-old Detroit-born rapper and singer Angel Haze and 21-year old British supermodel Cara Delevingne, speaking to The Independent and The Telegraph, respectively, opened up about their sexuality, their sexual identities, and navigating both in the public eye.
The responses that Haze and Delevingne give might not be press release-ready for GLAAD or the HRC (no Ellen Degeneres “Yep, I’m Gay” 1997 Time cover answers here), but it’s important to hear them out and keep an open mind. Just because these two celebrities are famous and attractive, they’re still a couple of young women boldly being themselves under intense scrutiny. That choice alone deserves so much respect.
Besides, they’re not the only young people tackling such issues head-on, and to dismiss them would mean dismissing countless others by proxy.
In talking about her relationship with Ireland Baldwin, Haze, who apparently “slayedddddd” Glastonbury on Saturday, noted the media’s tendency to label her and her girlfriend as “best friends.” After positing that the de-sexualizing of her relationship probably has something to do with the fact that both she and Alec Baldwin’s daughter are women, the “Battle Cry” rapper reportedly concluded that: “An interracial gay couple, I mean that’s just weird for America right now.”
Even if the quotes printed by the outlet don’t fully represent Angel’s views, they still make a fair point. If America truly were ready for an interracial gay couple, then the media would probably know how to cover them like the super-cute, super-awesome celebrity couple that they are, instead of alternating between lesbian erasure and overly clinical obsession. In other words, we’d see a whole lot more of BuzzFeed’s “Ireland Baldwin And Angel Haze Are On Another Level,” and a whole lot less of The New York Post’s “Alec Baldwin Must Be Shocked By Daughter Ireland’s Same-Sex Pal.”
Coverage of Haze and Baldwin’s relationship stands in stark contrast to some advice Sam Smith shared with Fresh 102.7 last week:
“Just be yourself, and don’t make [your sexuality] an issue,” the “Stay With Me” singer said on the subject of coming out of the closet, an experience he was forced to navigate all over again himself in a very public way this past spring. “If others around you are making it an issue, I understand. Fight for your rights. But let’s make it a normality.”
I wish that the coming out process were as simple as just being yourself, but the media’s treatment of Haze and Baldwin’s relationship kind of throws a wrench into that optimistic view.
Comparatively, Cara Delevingne is less forthcoming in her interview with The Telegraph. Unless we’re talking about her bunny, Cecil, whose presence the model-turned actress announces by screaming “Peeing! Peeing!” at the top of the interview. (FYI, we’re not talking about her bunny, Cecil.)
As the conversation veers away from her style and social media presence and towards her sexuality — she was photographed kissing “Fast And The Furious” actress Michelle Rodriguez courtside at a Knicks game back in January, among other places — Delevingne paused to gather her thoughts before answering: “I think people shouldn’t be scared of that. I’m young, I’m having fun, I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not.”
While Cara never clarifies or DTR (Defines The Relationship), her coded answer doesn’t strike me as an evasion. (Hello, coded communication is only, like, fundamental to queer culture. See the hanky code, Boston marriages, LITERALLY MOST OF THE OTHER THINGS.) It sounds like Delevingne views her sexuality as something she doesn’t really feel all that compelled to define — but she sure as hell knows when she’s being pressured to deny it or put a label on it.
While Haze and Delevingne can only speak directly to their individual experiences, their words no doubt speak volumes to the experiences of many other young women (and men, and old women and men, and medium-aged women and men) whose sexual identifies won’t always fit neatly into every acronym — all of whom deserve to have as much pride this summer as their lesbian, bisexual, gay, and straight peers.