Friday, June 10, 2016

My Weekend Crush

Whitney Houston was an absolute favorite of mine growing up. I can’t tell you how many times I danced alone to her songs in my bedroom, stereo turned up and the windows pushed open. Her voice, that supreme instrument, was always a marvel. But what I really liked, especially back in my preteeny bopper days, were her poppy songs. They were, after all, the best to dance to. In particular, I loved “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” It was such a simple, declarative statement. Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody, too, Whitney. Baring that, I’ll dance to you.

News (and perhaps I should put that word in quotes) emerged this week that Whitney’s ex-husband Bobby Brown has confirmed her long-rumored bisexuality. Apparently he writes about it, and her equally long-rumored relationship with her best friend and assistant Robyn Crawford, in his upcoming memoir. Sadly, with her passing four years ago, Whitney will never be able to confirm or deny this herself. Over the course of her life she often scoffed, sometimes angrily so, at those very same rumors.

But back then, when Whitney became Whitney, it was a very different time in America. There was no out and dancing Ellen. No lesbian cheerleaders singing about their love on primetime TV. No president issuing gay pride month proclamations. No Supreme Court validating that love really is love.

Our society’s sometimes painfully slow progression on accepting LGBT people has had both highly political and deeply personal impacts. Yes, for too many decades – in fact centuries – LGBT people have been denied their basic human rights as citizens. And yes, for too many decades – in fact centuries – LGBT people have had to hide who they are from even some of the people they love most in order to survive. This is the truth about our queer pasts and for still too many, our queer presents.

If indeed Whitney was a bisexual woman, the sad fact is she was not truly allowed to be herself to the public. To be forced to stay in the closet, for whatever reason, is to never reveal the full breadth of one’s humanness. We are all of us extraordinary, ordinary, fascinating, boring, dynamic, plain weirdos. While our sexuality does not define us, it is an indelible part of us. And, for too many, it is a part that forever remains hidden from view.

This is not to scold Whitney for her choices. Everyone should come out how and when they want, if they want. But it is to lament a society that forces those choices on us. Yes, it’s getting better. Yes we still have a ways to go.

Which brings me back to Whitney and those bedroom dance sessions. I had no inkling back then, jamming alone in my knee socks, that Whitney might be a gay lady. I didn’t even know I was a gay anything. But something about “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and the open, celebratory way she sang it spoke to me. It’s also one of her rare songs that – aside from a couple quick mentions of wanting a “man” and one use of a male pronoun – is largely, delightfully gender free. I want to dance with somebody. Anybody. Just as long as that somebody loves me. Don’t we all, Whitney. Don’t we all. Happy weekend, all.


Carmen SanDiego said...

I love that song, it's so happy and great to dance around to. Good taste, little DS
but yes, internalized homophobia. Ugh, we all have it. Sometimes it's a little bit, sometimes more of it. It's a struggle

Anonymous said...

Her voice is a once in a generation. I too danced around my room as a girl. Her songs have a very special place in my story. Having heard those rumors and felt they were pretty credible over the years, I always felt such sorrow for her. Perhaps the struggle to live a life that was not only not her own but also not a true reflection of who she was contributed to the drug abuse and eventual death. Sad to think she resorted such destructive behavior to hide pain.