We Need To Talk About Kelly Rowland's "Past Gay Experiences" Comment

Photo: Shareif Ziyadat/Getty.
Kelly Rowland definitely ruffled some feathers today with comments she made about what kinds of questions are appropriate to ask partners about their sexual experiences. Rowland was interviewed by the New York Post to promote her new Lifetime movie, Love By the 10th Date. In the film, Rowland plays a reporter at a digital magazine who has chosen celibacy as the route to find her true love.

Naturally, the conversation turned to relationships, and Rowland had some interesting things to say about bisexual partners. She said that some women don’t know “the real truth about their partner’s sexuality until they go through their man’s phones.” Actually, she thinks this is true for both men and women. I wasn’t sure exactly where she was headed, because I don’t go through my lovers’ phones and don’t think they should be going through mine, either, because…privacy. But Rowland made her point very clear, and it was a strange one. “I can’t tell someone how to feel about dating someone who is bisexual or had a past gay experience, but it’s proper to ask in today’s times.”

As a bisexual woman, I’m not outraged about Rowland’s comment. I’m more so annoyed. I don’t think that she was being maliciously homophobic. I think she was actually trying to acknowledge that more people are finding their sexuality outside of the rigid parameters of “straight” and "gay," though she did so in an uninformed and rather insensitive way. I could be wrong. But her comment was super heteronormative, which is problematic nonetheless.
Bringing up "gay experiences," as if they’re on par with a history of cheating or massive debt, is vilifying to bisexual people. It reinforces the idea that we have something to hide and are trying to deceive our partners. This is a myth we constantly have to refute in our personal and political lives. Even so-called LBGT supporters often think it’s okay to demand that bisexual people “pick a side.” This stigma around not being exclusively attracted to one gender or the other is what leads people to compartmentalize their sexual practices and histories. Furthermore, we are constantly being asked to somehow "prove" our love, as if it rests on shifty ground because of our bisexuality.

Knowing a little bit about your partner’s sexual history, like when they were last screened for STDs or their safe-sex practices, is important. But one's judgement of that sexual history is not and should not be dictated by the gender of anyone’s former partners. Bisexual people are not a risk or a liability, nor should we be treated as enigmas by the straight world.

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