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So last week the internet broke when Olly Murs announced the unthinkable: that he was ‘20% gay’. This came as a surprise to absolutely no one, but I’m keen to see his working.
It wasn’t that he claimed to be LGBT (sort of) that caught people off-guard, but rather his insistence that he could reduce that queer part of him to so specific a measurement.
Are we seeing the rise of the part-time poof? Will Heaven be full of half-time homos at the weekend? And are we about to see the emergence of that shy and wary seasonal creature zoologists call the Lenten lesbian?
The world didn’t go quite as mad when controversial Bruno star Sacha Baron Cohen earlier claimed to be 23% gay, but he possibly set the current trend for calculating your sexuality to a percentage like a rather obnoxious Facebook quiz. Maybe he wants to retroactively prove his fitness to play Freddie Mercury in the biopic he’s no longer a part of.
An estimate of obsequiousness
What the claims by both Murs and Baron Cohen reveal, though, is another equation entirely:
20% gay = 100% bisexual + 100% cynical
Although many people see these admissions as something to get excited about – as if both Murs and Baron Cohen are huge gains for the LGBT community – I’m at a loss. What does it even mean to say you’re 20-23% gay?
Is this a measure of how LGBT-friendly these celebrities are? Or is it an estimate of their obsequiousness? It’s not a new thing for the rich and powerful to court the Pink Pound.
The pie chart of desire
I’m not entirely sure how you can define sexuality as a percentage. I don’t have a pie chart of desire or a point graph of affection. Maths doesn’t really come into it, unless you happen to fall for a statistician.
News just in: I’m 25% Kittitian, 25% Irish, 50% English, and 100% queer!* Please give me all your money now, yeah?
It’s called bisexuality
You can, of course, be less than 100% gay and more than 0% straight too – it’s called bisexuality! Did the Oxford English Dictionary drop everything between ‘bisect’ and ‘bishop’ in its latest edition? Enquiring minds want to know.
Murs and Cohen seem to say you can choose how gay you are but, at the same time, deny that bisexuality is a thing. You’re either one thing or another – and we can just ignore anyone who doesn’t fit such easy categories.
Sexuality is a spectrum
I wonder if their calculations assess public attitudes towards them – do they measure approval ratings from Ipsos MORI? Is there a checklist, where you mark off things like ‘wearing pink’ and ‘sucking dick’ to get your score?
It’s not shocking to say that sexuality is a spectrum. I’ve met many people who identify as either gay or straight, but who have experienced desire that would otherwise make them bisexual. I’m not going to force anyone to choose an identity that they don’t want. But you can identify as bisexual – it’s an option; it’s not a dirty word.
Join us, or fuck off
Ironically, Murs and Baron Cohen don’t seem to be rejecting labels at all, but rather wearing them like badges to up their queer credentials. ‘Hey gays, vote for me! I’m one of you (when it suits me)!’
They’re canvassing and they want YOU!
For those of us who are gay, lesbian or bisexual all the time – not just 20% of the time – it’s an insult to include yourself only when it suits you. Join us, frankly, or fuck off!
Malaprop or revelation?
When Mayor of London candidate Zac Goldsmith recently described himself as the ‘pansexual candidate’, he made a major goof. He wanted to position himself as an everyman for both genders and all sexualities, but unintentionally came out as ‘pansexual’. In this case, it was more of a malapropism than a genuine revelation.
I’m all for breaking down labels and building our own – for taking control of the words that define us – but badges are for birthday parties and business conventions. You don’t get a medal for saying you’re one of us.
*I made these figures up.