Cate Blanchett Is Not Bisexual, Wonders Why It Matters Either Way

Photo: David Fisher/REX Shutterstock.
Last week, Cate Blanchett appeared to reveal a new side of her sexuality in an interview with Variety about her new film, Carol. In the movie, Blanchett plays a 1950s woman who strikes up a sexual and romantic relationship with another woman. The Variety interview states that when Blanchett was "pressed for details about whether she’s had past relationships with women, she responds: 'Yes. Many times,' but doesn’t elaborate. Like Carol, who never 'comes out' as a lesbian, Blanchett doesn’t necessarily rely on labels for sexual orientation." At a press conference at Cannes Film Festival over the weekend, however, Blanchett clarified that her quotes had been presented out of context: "From memory, the conversation ran: 'Have you had relationships with women?' And I said: 'Yes, many times. Do you mean have I had sexual relationships with women? Then the answer is no.' But, that obviously didn’t make it [into print]." Blanchett continued: "But, in 2015, the point should be: Who cares?"

In 2015, it seems many people care about the sex lives of others — and we're hasty to use what we know about those people to assign them labels they haven't publicly chosen. Labels are soothing. They direct our expectations; they organize our experiences of the world. They're also often wrong. Even if Blanchett had specified in her interview that she had had sexual relationships with women, we couldn't conclude that she's bisexual. Action doesn't lead in a straight line to identity; similar actions take on different significance for different people. Blanchett could identify as straight, lesbian, queer, questioning, or none of the above — but we'd have to wait for her to tell us to know.

As important as refraining from labeling others is respecting the labels people do choose for themselves. We find that particularly hard to do for bisexual individuals. As the New York Times pointed out in a story on Olympic diver Tom Daley (who did in fact come out as gay after coming out as bi), "The stereotypes abound: Bisexuals are promiscuous, lying, or in denial. They are gay men who can’t yet admit that they are gay, or 'lesbians until graduation,' sowing wild oats before they find husbands."

"Bisexuality" is attached to a suitcase of stereotypes (which sadly encourages some who identify as bisexual to avoid doing so in public), but LGB campaigning organization Stonewall describes it simply as "a changeable sexual and emotional attraction to people, where gender may not be a defining factor." As The Bisexual Index puts it, "Bisexuality isn't more complicated than that: 'attraction to more than one gender.' It's not incompatible with identifying as gay, either. Bisexuality is proof that sexuality isn't either/or; it's and."

Some people would call a woman who is attracted to men 99 times out of 100 — a woman who finds herself turned on by the 100th women — "bisexual." Others would argue that she would need to be closer to the middle of the Kinsey Scale (how much closer, who knows?) for this term to fit. When it comes to labels, then, the best approach is to respect those that people do — or don't — choose for themselves. In the words of First Lady of New York Chirlane McCray, "I am more than just a label. Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins." The label warning sticker: Apply only as directed.
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