Queen Latifah doesn’t want to be the gay rapper

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A few private pictures of Queen Latifah and her partner have surfaced that indicate what many have suspected for a long time–that the Queen is in a same-sex partnership. Several people have asked that we leave Queen Latifah alone, get out of her bedroom and that her sexuality is none of our business. Jamilah writes at Colorlines,

The news isn’t exactly a bombshell. Latifah’s been the subject of gay rumors for as long as she’s been in the entertainment business. Days before the photos were released online, Gawker had even included her and Jenkins in its list of rumored same-sex couples who should get married in California. For that matter, Latifah’s all but acknowledged her relationship with Jenkins in the course of her coy refusals to discuss it directly.

But whether she chooses to address the photos or not, we shouldn’t be chasing people out of the closet who make it clear that, at least publicly, they want to stay there. Whatever her reasons, the last thing anyone needs is a reluctant heroine.

I can pretty much agree with this sentiment. There are so many personal and professional negotiations to be made when deciding to be public about your personal life, we can’t and shouldn’t demand our celebrities come “out” just because we think it would be good for us.

But this is not just about Queen Latifah’s privacy, this is the conundrum of being a public persona and the benefits, drawbacks and responsibilities of such a position. The choices a celebrity makes has consequences, sometimes more than that of a politician, a law or another type of public person. Celebrities impact the larger culture transcending identity affiliations. It is not fair, but it is not totally unfair either considering how well they are compensated for their position.

I recently mentioned to a group of friends that I have been disappointed in Queen Latifah lately. I was upset that she said we should stop “beating up Chris Brown.” I was not feeling that she decided to be a Cover Girl, I just thought it was really weird. And I never really appreciated that she didn’t officially “come out,” since the one way we can eradicate homophobia in the hip-hop community is to have role models that are well respected to help us push the boundaries of how we understand sexuality.

But I realize it is not totally fair for me to have these expectations. Celebrities are, after all, human and they make mistakes, they have shortcomings and I was falling into the all too common trap of asking more of our celebrities than they are capable of. It is clear from many of her media moves, Queen doesn’t want to be the “gay rapper,” or the gay black female celebrity, she wants to appeal to a broader audience and not be defined by her sexuality. The truth is that our culture is so obsessed with “outing” celebrities we have a hard time accepting the complexity of who people are and reduce them to one part of their identity. I could see why the Queen wanted to avoid this reductionism. She wanted her personal life to be personal and her public life to be public.

On the other hand, as someone who shares my politics and identity with the hope that other women will be comfortable in doing so, I do believe that public personas have a responsibility to the public to think through their actions and the impacts they have on the world. Being a celebrity is a lot of power and the choices you make with it will determine your legacy. I respect Queen Latifah’s desire to be private (and now, not so private), but news like this wouldn’t be so sensationalistic if there were more out black lesbians. She wouldn’t feel the burden of being the only one, if there was support for more folks to come out, or it wasn’t such a Big Deal, when someone does. Queen Latifah is in the unfortunate predicament of being someone we need her to be, even though she doesn’t want to be.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I know how she feels and I know how others feel, too.

    That we would lift celebrities up as role models regardless of whether they’d like it or not is a major issue. They are often the least able to emotionally and psychologically handle it. Actors and actresses, musicians, and other talented people place themselves in the public eye often to get the attention they didn’t have growing up. But this also means that the decisions they make in seeking such things makes them often ill-suited. Combine this with cults of personality that spring up, and you’ve made an already

  2. Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Queen Latifah has been “out” as far as I know since at least “Set if Off” when the lesbian character she played onscreen prompted questions about her IRL sexuality.

    I think the idea is that she’s not closeted, but she really doesn’t want her sexual orientation to be a front-and-center thing, so she doesn’t talk about it a lot and doesn’t want interviewers bringing it up. Which is totally understandable.

    • Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      Well, let’s not assume that playing a gay character means an actor or actress is gay. It would be cool if we could get more straight A and B list actors/actresses to portray gay characters.
      So, we have another Jodie Foster situation?

      Note: I’m adjusting to the new format. I accidentally hit “report comment” before I managed to click “reply”. Ooops.

      • Posted August 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        I’m not assuming anything. She answered the question then and doesn’t really care to keep re-answering it. Yes. The character she played prompted a reporter to ask her about her own sexual orientation, and she replied by mentioning that she was attracted to women.

  3. Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Being gay is extremely hard and being an out gay celebrity is even harder. Yep, once you come out to someone you are pretty much defined by your sexuality. I know because I am bisexual used to be a lesbian.

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