The Outrage Surrounding Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’ Shows the Gay Community Doesn’t Want to Listen to Bi Voices

Gay people don’t get to define the experiences of bi people.

Apparently, bi people aren’t allowed to talk (or sing) about their own experiences otherwise it’s offensive to the wider queer community. This is the newest biphobic bullshit which is being dragged around.

Rita Ora’s new song Girls has garnered huge controversy for a tune which is so bland, but this is because of the queer community (most specifically, the gay community) rushing to silence bi voices. Within the song, Ora describes hooking up with girls after some wine. Faintly innocuous, right? Given that our entire media is saturated with scenes of people needing a bit of Dutch courage before trying to connect with someone cute. Apparently though if you’re bi, this is a crime against the entire queer community.

The song was widely denounced, except by bi people who were rather more ambivalent. Lesbian singer Hayley Kiyoko led the charge against the song. Her response was:

“A song like this just fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women. I know this wasn’t the intention of the artists on the song, but it’s the lack of consideration behind these lyrics that really get me. I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life….This type of messaging is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community…”

This would be a powerful message if it actually considered the bi community at all. Bi culture is often appropriated and silenced. In fact, bi people are rarely allowed to ever address their own experiences without someone else jumping upon it. It goes further than Rita Ora who was forced to come out about her own experiences (which nobody should ever have to do), whereas Harry Styles hints at being bi and he’s claimed as a lesbian icon and treated as a god.

There are several things wrong with Kiyoko’s statement. For one thing, she does not get to be the moral arbitrator of a community who she herself has marginalised. Her songs, particularly Curious, weirdly and possessively fixate on an ex-girlfriend who has since entered into a relationship with a man. This frames a competition for bi women between men and women, hardly the great queer representation we need. It’s no surprise really when talking about the purity of her feelings comes very close to the biphobic ‘gold-star lebsian’ trope. For the record, bi and pan people are never less pure no matter who they are attracted to or how they explore their identities. Not everyone knows who they are the first time they meet in the outside world and that’s okay – and makes people just as queer as the next queer person.

Additionally, Kiyoko is completely ignoring the realities of bi women. Bi women are far more likely than gay people to experience anxiety, depression, issues of addiction, substance abuse and are far less likely to come out. Congratulations really if you’ve never needed a drink to be able to chat to a woman or kiss one. How absolutely fucking wonderful for you – but that isn’t the norm by any means. Bi people are precisely more likely to drink because of the biphobia from gay and straight people which in turn causes anxiety, which then makes it incredibly difficult to explore their relationships. It is absolutely not okay for people to ignore the reality of biphobia and then brandish someone a bad bisexual. There is no such thing as a bad bisexual or a bad biromantic.

If a bi girl wants to hook up with a guy and a girl go for it. If she wants a threesome, an orgy, the sexual attention of men, a bottle of vodka or to do a line of coke then none of these acts make her a bad bisexual. Bisexual people should be free to live their lives and tell their own stories. Nobody else gets to say what’s right or wrong.

There is a huge amount of pressure for bi people to act perfect. We’ve been shamed as sluts, perverts, sex addicts and everything else under the sun. The response to that should not be knee-jerk respectability politics where we silence other bi people who want to talk about their own complicated experiences. That just shows the endgame isn’t to support bi people, but to silence them. No matter how ‘good’ a bi person acts, they’re still worthy of respect. A bi person should never have to meet random standards of perfection to win scraps of support from other queer people. If we only want to hear from bi people who may as well have jumped out of a Disney story then we’re failing the entire community. Pretend to be a character from Little Women if you will, but the result of that is silencing the bi people who often need to be heard the most, because their stories are often of confusion and struggle because of biphobia.

The only thing Girls has helped revealed once more is that bi people still don’t get to tell their own narratives. Gay people decide what’s appropriate for this community, and it’s that attitude right there why so many bi stories contain so much confusion and anxiety.

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