Guest Blogger

Lady Gaga Is Not an Ally to Our Community

Filed By Guest Blogger | April 22, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, The Movement
Tags: Amy Andre, bisexual, gay ally, Lady Gaga, LGBT community

Editors' Note: Featured from CNN to PBS to Cosmo for her expertise in bisexual community and LGBT rights, guest blogger Amy Andre is the co-author of Bisexual Health, published by the NGLTF. bswpic.jpgWith a master's degree in sexuality studies, Amy has educated thousands of people at over 100 universities and companies, including Microsoft, Harvard, and Stanford Medical School.

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. Elton John does a lot of activism too, but I have never once seen him described as "an ally to the LGBT community". He's gay, and he gets full credit as a community member.

Membership has its privileges. This "ally" versus "member" way of describing bisexual people is an example of biphobia in our community, and it privileges certain parts of the community, specifically gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians like Elton John get to be called members, but bisexuals are often relegated to ally status.

There's nothing wrong with being an ally. We need our allies, and allies are often, and rightly, treated with respect and admiration. But a bisexual person, whether she's Lady Gaga or just Average Joe Bi, is a member, not an ally. There's a difference, and that needs to be respected, too.

And in fact, sometimes bisexuals are treated worse than allies, or even treated as enemies. For example, after a talk I recently gave at a major corporation on bisexual health, a bi employee in a relationship with a man privately told me that she was mocked and humiliated at an event held by the company's LGBT employee group. A gay co-worker yelled at her for being in a different-sex relationship (P.S., her boyfriend wasn't even at the event with her) and told her she didn't belong there.

Would he have said the same to a straight ally? Maybe. Maybe he's a raging heterophobe who indiscriminately yells at anyone in a different-sex relationship. But maybe not. Maybe, and most likely, this is just another example of discrimination against bi people.

Allies have a place in our fight. But bisexuals have a place in our community. And biphobia does not.


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Yeah, go right on and put this on gays and lesbians. It's all their biphobic mischief. They control the media, after all.

It has nothing to do with the fact that Gaga and the media pretty much downplay the bisexuality into a more "edgy" pansexual image. Or that while a few "I kissed a girl" moments she may have admitted to are completely eclipsed by her product promotion. It's not as if her videos and music are pretty much tailor-made for the avant garde straight female pop star image, and she gets stuck with outsider status due to the fact that the most emphasized and displayed interaction is between her and boys. Boys, Boys, Boys; how many times do you listen to her sing about girls?

Her audience is the typical teenage female and gay teenage male (more son on the feminine gay male fashionista side of the scale). Don't be surprised when her marketing is at the heart of the image she's stuck with. As if a measly 5-6% of the population being LG's (an overestimate, given that B's comprise a larger percentage than both GL) had even the power to control cultural discourse.

Amy specifically said the LGBT media. Mainstream media don't use the word ally, for obvious reasons.

Moreover, you seem to be saying she deserves being nominally evicted from the LGBT community, a sentiment which, if I hear you correctly, is biphobic on the face of it.

I don't "seem" to make such a suggestion. It's merely one of your concoctions to paint someone you disagree with in a manner that will make others more inclined to agree with you.

I simply said that Gaga's lack of inclusion into the "community" is not due to some slim group of the population (LG's) dictating so.

LG's don't have this perverse mystical power to define others. If Gaga is considered straight by most people, it's because straight people have deemed her straight. And non-Queer Theory heads such as high school and college teenagers are far more influenced bv their straight peers on the GagaDaily fora than they are by what some silly, narrowly read LGBT publication would tell them.

Thank you for responding.

First, "seem to" was intended as an assumption of good faith.

Amy discusses a particular framing of bisexual inclusion in the LGBTQ community, a particular wording, and a particular sources that use it that are relatively easily verified.

From my perspective, you're kinda missing the point here. "Other people (e.g., straights) do it too" is true but obvious. I don't see the harm here so much as this being some magical lever that will fix bisexual invisibility in the straight community. Instead, it's that I know, and I've seen, gay and lesbian media and organization's framing of bisexuals as "not included" work against community building, political work, charity work.

In short, it's insulting to wipe away, intentionally, that bisexuals are harmed by many of the same parts of our society that hit gays and lesbians. And that's what you are (or seemed to be, again, assuming good faith) defending here, since that is really what Amy appeared to me to be criticizing.

Have a great weekend!


I do wish she'd sing about girls every now and then too, but the Elton John spent a good part of his career singing about women and Melissa Etheridge's hits, at least the ones I know, have been gender-neutral. I don't think that's a bi-specific issue. (She did say that Poker Face was about a woman, although you wouldn't know from the lyrics.)

But I'm sure there are plenty of straight people who don't know about her bisexuality or don't see her as bi even though she's said she is. She won't talk about her experiences with women but makes out with her boyfriend in front of cameras, so some people might be uninformed on that question.

Justan Peterson | April 23, 2011 11:09 PM

She has a new song on her upcoming album called "Americano", where she sings about gay rights and immigrant rights, by telling a story from the perspective of a woman in love with a woman.

Thanks for proving the point of this article! Gotta love hypocritial bigots. if someone said something like that about a gay or lesbian celebrity there would be calls for their blood. but bisexual? sure, go ahead and be bigots!

Thanks Amy, for putting the bi in bilerico. :)

Yawn. Splitting hairs in the interest of furthering your agenda. There are better things to read - here and elsewhere.

Pretty much any time someone tries to write off an LGBT person speaking up in support of their community by accusing them of having an "agenda," my response is to assume that the person must be on to something.

Also? I think it's kind of sad to hear members of our community taking language from anti-LGBT hate groups to justify biphobia.

Splitting hairs?? What hairs were split? Funny that the agenda I've been most aware of is one that places primacy on cis G/L lives and issues and dismisses, downplays, or acts in opposition to Bi- and Trans- lives and issues, unless there can be a clear connection between the two. This while expecting an unswerving unquestioning support from both bi and trans folks.

Seriously, not seeing split hairs, just an easy to read assessment of a perspective from within the community. A community that includes Bisexual people.

What gay men and lesbians are you referring to here? The leaders of lgbt activists groups? I'm a gay man and I've never felt that trans or bi folks should have an "an unswerving unquestioning support" for me or other gay men or lesbians.

I fully expect that trans and bi people will have different & at times competing agendas to those of gay men and lesbians. Hell, I expect the same from the lesbian community.

I no longer feel it useful to write of a "lgbt community". I think it's more accurate and also more affirming to speak of lgbt communities.

How is seeking equal rights "competing agendas?" Do you really think bisexuals and trans people are out to strip same-sex marriage rights from those who've won them? Or want to reverse employment discrimination law?

In actuality, GL leaders have demonstrated time and again that they don't want bisexuals (or asexuals for that matter) to be recognized. They want to kill us off with apathy and deliberate ignorance. That is why Gaga is called an ally and the Arizona character on Grey's Anatomy is called a lesbian. Also why Glee gets GLAAD awards despite blatant biphobic and transmisogynistic storylines.

Furthermore, those same GL leaders have actively worked to block rights for our transgender sisters and brothers. Worse, they target trans women specifically, using language dripping with hatred. Barney Frank foments potty panic when arguing against ensuring trans people are protected under ENDA. When Salomon was in charge of the HRC, he said gender identity protections would be in ENDA "over his dead body."

So maybe we are in competition after all. Bisexuals are fighting for recognition and against death by apathy. Trans women are fighting for recognition and against death by assault. GL community leaders prefer to integrate with the hatred that the straight community finds more comfortable than true acceptance and use that apathy and assault to do so. So when Gaga (who has her own issues with trans women, sad to say) gets called an ally instead of a member, it's the tip of the iceberg. Hatred like yours, Joe G., is why that iceberg exists.

Well, at least Joe G. is honest about it. I feel that the vast majority of gays and lesbians who reflexively use the term 'GLBT', and really at most mean 'GL', and sometimes (as in Joe's case), just 'G' or 'L'.

At least cisgendered bi ppl don't have their gender questioned, though. The only way trans ppl seem to be included in G or L is for drag-queeny trans women in the gay community, and trans men in the lesbian community. Actually, for tran bi folks, I guess at least you are bi no matter what gender ppl assign to you.

Please see what I wrote to Lysana's response to my comment.

Also, if women had waited for gay men to respond ethically then the lesbian move would not be as far ahead as they have come.

Certainly there is more cooperation between gay men and lesbians, but that doesn't mean that there is always perfect agreement and don't have different and even competing agendas as times.

My comment wasn't intended to exclude the "b" or "t" from the "lgbt" community, but to acknowledge the need for those same communities to "leave behind", if you will, the "g" and even "l" as needed.

My point was that bi and trans people should not wait for gay men or lesbians, who are perceived as dragging their feet and even causing the deaths of bi and trans people, to change or respond ethically. Hence, the apparent competing agendas across groups.

At times the specific interests of various groups and communities will inadvertently compete and contradict each other. It makes complete sense for the different communities in the "lgbt" to understand this, especially those who have historically been ignored or stymied by the g (i.e. the l, b, and t), and move forward with their agendas as needed.

Thanks Joe. You make good sense. Recent events in Maryland have proven that it just doesn't work to have the G/L push the trans agenda any more than it would work vice versa. The relationship of steadily diminishing returns between the T and G/L emphasizes how much more descriptive the plural "communities" is

jill.gaulding | April 22, 2011 11:35 AM

"Yawn"? Are you trying to say ”don’t you have more important issues to think about”? That sounds a wee bit defensive to me. Just what is it about Amy's agenda that bothers you? Since (as an out bisexual myself) I think I share that agenda, I'd be curious to know.

Sorry, I am more than happy to welcome our bi community celebs (Anna Paquin! Pete Wentz! Angelina Jolie! and *sigh, Lindsay Lohan, just to name a few :D), but with Lady Gaga, I am more than suspicious of her motives.

She saw a market and she exploited it for her success. How does her own song go? "Fame! Doin' it for the fame! 'Cause we wanna live the life of the rich and famous! Fame! Doin' it for the fame! 'Cause we got a taste for champagne and endless fortune."

Actually Lucrece, I went to a Lady Gaga show 3 days ago. I was amazed by the diversity of the crowd. Aside from lots and lots of plain ol' queers, I saw several straight couples in their 50's and 60's, dykes and fags, (presumably straight) macho muscle military dudes, drag queens, BDSM/fetish folk...I didn't see many teenagers at all. I did see her facilitate a $20,000 donation to a local LGBT homeless youth shelter. I think Amy is correct in pointing out the difference between "ally" and "member." I'm not sure an ally would engage in the level of LGBT activism that Lady Gaga does. It's not all for marketing -- she clearly has an interest in, and commitment to, LGBT rights. Anyway, do we know who she's spending her time with offstage? She may be a lot less straight than people give her credit for.

Not even a month dead in the ground and already it seems we've already forgotten about Liz Taylor and everything she did for our community as a straight ally. Or did the egg pod, underwear, hoof heels, and facial prosthetics distract you?

I'm not entirely sure if your comment is sarcastic as I don't think anyone has forgotten what Liz Taylor did for gays and her campaign against AIDS, but this article isn't about her nor does it try to say Lady Gaga is the biggest LGBT ally ever in the history of LGBT rights.

Thank you for writing this. Right after I came out to my family, I went to a LGBT support group meeting and instead of getting the support I hoped to receive I instead got met with rude and derisive comments about how I am not really bi. I honestly felt more betrayed by those strangers than I did when my cousin threatened my life for "being a faggot." I went there for support and ended up leaving in tears.

Obsfab,

That sort of thing shouldn't happen. Ugh.

One of my favourite bloggers is bi: Greta Christina.

TRiG.

Good one AMY! Just what was needed to stir up a discussion. I am tweeting it to The Monsters so we'll see what we get!

PS. I dunno all you folks who want 'everyone' included. Did you see that the University of the South Pacific now has an official LGBI group! That is for Intersex... their term. Also many, and I am one who do use LGBTQA (now I have to add the I somewhere) for
LGBTQueer and Allies!.. Where should we put the I, it is another vowel!

As a transsexual woman who happens to be heterosexual I've been fighting to be only seen as an allie. Who says even the gayest of the gay tows the line with everything put out with the community or evens wants to seen as a member of it? Think Little Britain "The Only Gay in The Village." For the LGBT community to really be a community it has to allow exclusion by choice and inclusion by choice no strings attached. The power grab of forced inclusion has to end as does as you said the forced exclusion. Become a community of choice and who knows maybe oneday I'll want to be a member instead of just an Allie.

You forgot the part of Amy Andre's bio about running the SF Pride organization into the ground and being forced to resign.

Ms. Andre has about as much right to represent the LGBT community as Lady Gaga does. no more, no less.

Om Kalthoum | April 22, 2011 9:28 PM

Who's Lady Gaga?

snerk. om kalthoum. fabulous.

but yeah, even if lady gaga has her problematic aspects, she definitely deserves the right to claim bisexual as an identity and to have her bisexuality recognized as legitimate by the QUILTBAG community and mainstream media alike.

To be fair, not everyone is actually aware that Lady Gaga is bisexual. The odd brand of bisexual semi-acceptance in the media allows women to act sexual with other women as a ploy to gain male attention without repercussions, and none of Gaga's blatantly homosexually-themed songs have gained major airplay, so it's understandable that many people are still under the impression that Gaga is straight. She's technically openly bisexual, but it's certainly not common knowledge. To me, I feel that "ally" is a better term to define her, since she seems to lean very, very far towards the side of heterosexuality. I'd give her bi-curious at most.

This is essentially the same argument as "transgendered". Instead of nitpicking over semantics, can we please just focus on the big picture here?

THIS is exactly what Amy was talking about. You nor anyone else gets to decide what label ''better suits'' Gaga. She is BISEXUAL! She said so. SHE knows that label ''better suits'' her, thank you very much.

It makes me sad to see the LG portion of our community exclude bisexuals (and transgendered people, but I'm speaking specifically about bisexuals here because that's my experience). You know, bisexuals face a lot of the same issues as lesbians and gay men: getting kicked out by their parents when they come out, high rates of depression and suicide, inability to marry the person they love, employment discrimination, erasure and denial of our identities (even from other LG people!) etc. But we also face some issues that are unique to us, like being caught without a community because we get hostility from straight people and LG people and the stereotype that we're all fickle whores (not that there's anything wrong with casual sex or polyamory, but there are monogamous bi people too!). Even the extra "privilege" we have cuts both ways. If we're in a mixed-sex couple people assume we're straight, which allows us to blend in but also feels alienating because it's based on erasure. The straight world may appear to "accept" us more, but only because they fetishize and objectify us, resulting in straight guys demanding threesomes and straight girls seeing us as an avenue for experimentation.

I just don't get why some lesbians and gay men don't want us in their community...why is it so hard to admit what we have in common? Is fluidity of sexuality really so threatening? I guess maybe the complexity of figuring out how to relate to people who experience homophobia, heterosexual-passing privilege (which some gay and lesbian people experience too! and we don't typically think of the closet as healthy for them so why is it ok that bi people get stuck there?), and biphobia simultaneously. I'll check my hetero-passing privilege if y'all check your monosexual privilege, and then maybe we can all get along...

I ended up writing an entire blog essay in response to what I have seen here in the comments and out in the general public.

It is way too long to post a comment here. Still, I feel strongly about the subject. The article itself is perfectly valid and makes a strong point that shouldn't be ignored.

thunderinthedark | April 23, 2011 12:22 PM

this is silly. i think the point here is that bi folks often get shoved to the side and labeled something other than queer by people. people, not groups. people who are lesbian, gay, straight, rich, tall, thin, whatever. the point is that bi people often get pushed aside because people don't know how to respond to their presence and way of being, and so they often are put into the category of whatever an onlooker is most comfortable with... which is often 'straight'. and if an our bi person is in a hetrosexual, especially if it's monogomous, relationship, they're still considered straight by society at large, but also often by their closest friends since they are afterall, in a 'straight' relationship.

First off, I think everyone needs to give each other a break here. I want to share a story:

I found it ironic that I was having a conversation with a woman about that I was the only openly LGBTQ person at an event although there was a bisexual woman there that I knew of.

Part of the irony was that this woman, who was openly bisexual immediately assumed I wasn't categorizing the woman at the event as LGBTQ because she was bisexual. In fact I was qualifying "open", not LGBTQ.

The other part of the irony was that the assumption from this woman, who is in an opposite sex relationship, was that I, who was in a male-male same sex relationship, was not bisexual. I happen to have been in long-term monogamous relationships with men; so the assumption is that I'm "strictly gay".

The sad thing is that these labels make us defined by who we are in a relationship with, or who we are having sex with—for myself, I'm sexually attracted to some men and some women. I suppose that makes me bi.

I'm in a relationship with a gay man, and I'm not going out looking to date young women, so I don't need the label. I find it easier to call myself queer, which permits to be me rather than who someone expects me to be. It makes it easier to accept others for who they are.

As far as Lady Gaga goes? I think she's done a lot of hard work for LGBTQ rights. Having seen her video "Born This Way" however, I find that I'm not represented in her idealized world...but it's got nothing to do with my sexual identity, but my 40+ age.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!!!

When I read this headline, I was ready to roll my eyes at yet another 'I hate famous people, even the compassionate ones' post here, which are too numerous to count. I'm not a celebrity hound myself, but I love anyone who stands up for the queer community, even if they're imperfect. We eat our own so much, and sadly a lot of that eating of our own happens right here at Bilerico. Of course, I welcome all dialog, though sadly I also find these folks aren't that interested in dialog either.

I open your post to instead find a totally kindred spirit. Thank you for calling attention to bi-invisibility. I don't discuss being bi on Bilerico as much now as I used to, because I would get dismissed for it. Worse, at other blogs, I'd be attacked because I've come out as bi in a few posts and comments--just like that woman at the office LGBT party that you mentioned. Its barely ever a major post topic for me, but it definitely hurts to be attacked by my fellow LGBTQ people who I see as brothers and sisters, but often don't see me as such.

IT HAS DEFINITELY BOTHERED ME THAT TIME AND AGAIN GAGA HAS COME OUT AS BI AND IT SEEMS TO BE GLOSSED OVER, EVEN THE LGBTQ MEDIA!

There is room for all in our queer community--lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and straight. I believe in self-identifying. I know straight people who identify as queer, and not only accept that but welcome and celebrate that. We should honor Gaga's decision to identify as bisexual as well. It takes courage to come out as bisexual--few people who ARE bi DO come out as bi, because they don't have to, and its so difficult.

Bisexual visibility is definitely only in its infancy in our community, and I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to explain what makes me bi, and qualify my identity. Thank you for standing up and saying this, and being so awesome!!!

Connnor Thompson | April 24, 2011 12:05 PM

My name is Connor Mykel Thompson. I am the opposite of a biphobe. I have dated both bisexual men and homosexual men. There is no shame in the fact that I have been dumped by men for women. Bisexuals are equals to me and face the same struggles that gay men face and so much more.

We often forget about the struggles of others because we think we have it bad. We think that because we're gay and we can't have marriage, or adopt children in certain parts of the country that we have it so bad. Well, bisexuals, should they end up in a same-sex partnership, face those same problems and also have to face the "you're just confused" label and the "it's not the same for you" label.

Straight people and gay people discriminate against bisexuals and it is both irreprehensible and embarrassing on both sides. Us as a community pretending that bisexuality isn't a legitimate sexual orientation is just as horrible as the religious community not accepting our lifestyle as healthy and normal.

PS: I'm 18 years old and the day I act more ethically and intelligently than a man twice my age is the day I call myself Queen of the Jungle People.

@Lucrece: Oh yeah, I forgot we bisexual people have to prove our sexual orientation to everyone, cause OUR word about OUR desires and OUR feelings isn't enough to validate OUR identity. Gaga can sing about whatever she damn pleases. She doesn't have any obligation to talk about being with women, or to put a ''bisexual'' stamp in anything she does. She said she's bi: that's enough for any people posessing a modicum of respect to recognize as a bi woman.

PS: So, when the LGbt media calls Gaga an ally, it's not their fault because they were mislead by the mainstream media? Pfff!