Nicki Minaj Isn’t Bisexual

In a Rolling Stone interview rapper Nicki Minaj says she’s not bisexual, despite her own words to the contrary:

Early in her career Minaj claimed to be bisexual, but now says she just did that to get attention. “I think girls are sexy,” she says. “But I’m not going to lie and say that I date girls.”

At Advocate.com, the headline “Nicki Minaj Admits She Lied About Being Bisexual” was followed by this subhead: “Does Nicki Minaj set back bisexual visibility with her revelations?”

I find the subhead question interesting not only from an advocacy perspective, but also from a fair and accurate coverage perspective. Will this revelation make it more difficult to accurately tell the stories of bisexuals?

Her revelation also begs these questions: How much and how deep should reporters follow up? Is it now open season for reporters to prove or disprove her assertion that she is not bisexual?

“Ally” Versus “Member”

Amy Andre, co-author of Bisexual Health published by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has written an interesting post at The Bilerico Project as a guest blogger.

Lady Gaga Is Not an Ally to Our Community” is the title of her post. I was expecting an argument against the LGBT advocacy of the pop star, but instead found a bisexual bone to pick.

Here’s an excerpt:

Lady Gaga is not an ally to the LGBT community. She is an out bisexual, and therefore is a member of the community. And yet, time and time again, I see her described in the (LGBT) press as an “ally” or “friend” whenever she does her activist thing … This “ally” versus “member” way of describing bisexual people is an example of biphobia in our community …

The parentheses around “LGBT” in the excerpt are hers, not mine. Is the LGBT media guilty of describing bisexuals as allies more so than the mainstream media? I don’t know, but it does strike me as a legitimate complaint regardless.

There’s no arguing that bisexuals are part of the LGBT acronym, but it is arguable just how much the LG embraces the B (let alone the T). If there were more bisexuals (and transgenders) in the LGBT media, would such faux pas be less common?

Ted Haggard, Bisexual?

There are few questions in the LGBT community as controversial as “who is a bisexual.” Gays and lesbians are often as suspicious of bisexuality as heterosexuals and bisexuals insist it is more common than people assume, but maybe not as common as some people would suggest.

Which leads us, oddly, to Ted Haggard who has come out as a bisexual . . . sort of.  In an interview with Kevin Roose for Gentleman’s Quarterly, Haggard says that he would be bisexual if he was 21, but then suggests that he continues to suppress his sexual attraction to men.

For the first time since we’ve met, Ted isn’t looking directly at me. “Here’s where I really am on this issue,” he half whispers. “I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.” After a weekend of Ted trying to convince me of his unambiguous devotion to his wife and kids, I’m at first too surprised to say anything.

“So why not now?” I ask finally.

“Because, Kevin, I’m 54, with children, with a belief system, and I can have enforced boundaries in my life. Just like you’re a heterosexual but you don’t have sex with every woman that you’re attracted to, so I can be who I am and exclusively have sex with my wife and be perfectly satisfied.”

“But what does it have to do with being 54?”

“Life!” he says. “We live an ordinary life.”

It’s the most intimate exchange we’ve had, and the confession strikes me first as sad, then as nakedly honest, the kind of thing I kept wishing he would say to Oprah or Larry King or any of the other people who have demanded explanations of his muddled sexuality. In a way, hearing Ted talk about his self-imposed boundaries makes it easier to understand how he can seem so fulfilled with his new, cleaned-up life. These days what Ted craves is not total sexual satisfaction but exactly the things he used to have—a church, a loving wife, camping trips with his boys—and getting those things back will require amputating part of who he is and what he might, at some point, have wanted.

Haggard acknowledges that he masturbated to gay and straight porn, but remains ambiguous about his alleged sexual relationship with a male prostitute. So is he bisexual? Well, that’s the million dollar question. It’s hard to know what to believe about Haggard. Is he like a man on the DL who describes himself as bisexual as a cover or lack of self-awareness? What is his definition of a bisexual?

As the Haggard story continues to be discussed, journalists should consider taking a look at the BWA media guide put out by the Bi Writers Association.  It has a good discussion of what bisexuality is and some interesting case studies (Larry Craig and Tila Tequila) on how the media deals with the issue of sexual identity.

In the end, Haggard is an enigma and something of a chameleon.  I’m not sure whether I would describe him as bisexual or gay or straight if I was forced to pin it down in an article.   What we know is what he says: he has sexual attractions to men and women, has sought sexual gratification from both gay and straight porn, and that he is suppressing certain urges because he loves his wife and wants a certain life.  Does that make him bisexual?

NLGJA Stylebook: “Bisexual”

NLGJA’s Stylebook Supplement on LGBT Terminology is intended to complement the prose stylebooks of individual publications, as well as the Associated Press stylebook, the leading stylebook in U.S. newsrooms.

It reflects the association’s mission of inclusive coverage of LGBT people and includes entries on words and phrases that have become common. The Stylebook Supplement was translated into Spanish in 2005.

Periodically, we’ll be spotlighting some of the major entries.

Here’s our “bisexual” entry:

bisexual: As a noun, an individual attracted to both sexes. As an adjective, of or relating to sexual and affectional attraction to both sexes. Does not presume nonmonogamy.

We look forward to your comments!

Explaining the LGBT to the WSJ: Part II

Since it seems rude to accuse others of being pedantic while being pedantic myself, I will just acknowledge that the good people at the Wall Street Journal have a (pedantic) point about what a “bisexual couple” would look like–both in person and in a sentence. We could parse the phrases in the White House statement until the WSJ editorial page supports single-payer health care and I’m not sure we’d be anywhere closer to an agreement on whether the phrasing worked so it’s probably time for a truce.

To their final question, they’ve opened up another whole can of worms that probably can’t be pleasantly resolved in a blog exchange:

Here’s something else that puzzles us. Triplett’s organization is called the NLGJA. Notice anything missing? Are we given to understand that BJs and TJs are second-class LGBTJs?

Names, like acronyms, are sometimes imperfect. Why is it called the Wall Street Journal when it doesn’t just cover Wall Street, but also covers K Street, Fifth Avenue, and Silicon Valley? The answer, of course, is that the name is just a name and doesn’t necessarily have a larger meaning. The NLGBTJA would be a more inclusive name–and maybe it should be changed–but quite a mouthful to say and put on a letterhead.

The organization began as NLGJA when it was founded by Leroy Aarons in 1990, with the goal of not being “politically correct,” but encouraging “fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.” If you want to find out more, you can attend our annual convention in Montreal from Sept. 10-13 and become a member.