Rebel Wilson dating a woman shouldn’t be divisive news. It should be a time of celebration of love in all its forms. Instead, it’s become a troubling tale of malicious jokes, biphobia, and “outing” – a bleak reality given we’re a week into Pride month.
Since the Australian actor and comedian revealed she is dating a woman via an Instagram post on Thursday, there’s been little time to enjoy what should have been a tender, candid moment. Despite an outpouring of love from the LGBT+ community and its allies, the joy has been matched by hatred and attempted humiliation.
In a shocking move that, as journalist Megha Mohan puts it, feels reminiscent of the “gutter press” days in the Nineties, The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that it gave Wilson two days to respond to a story that it planned to run about her relationship prior to her own announcement, effectively threatening to out the actor via its article.
Even more absurdly, the publication also wrote that Wilson chose to “gazump” its story by coming out on her own terms on social media.
Given only two days to come out, it appears that Wilson was forced into a corner. Her right to choose whether she felt ready was taken away from her. She could sink or swim – there were no moves left to make.
Regardless of whether you like her or not, Wilson’s sexuality shouldn’t be weaponised, nor should it be the butt of a joke. Yet, within hours of the story breaking, the heteronormative mobs gathered their pitchforks.
Their cries, screamed into a hateful void, talked of two very specific things: her authenticity, and her looks. Wilson was either coming out to further her career, or she came out because she was too ugly to date cis men. Why is it still such a persistent belief that women need a reason, other than their queerness, to date other women? Why can’t we just be LGBT+ on our own terms?
The way in which people dissect queer romance reveals an all too familiar, deep rooted ideology that coming out is for attention seeking purposes. Even when we do it to take control of a chaotic situation, we’re criticised. Wilson chose to come out herself, attempting to take back some of her agency from the press. They wanted her “out”, but now that she is, they’re throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get to break the news first.
We truly can’t win. If we come out when we’re teenagers, we’re too young to know what we want – we’re trying to be cool. Yet, if we come out later in life, we’re seen as disingenuous – we can’t really be LGBT+, otherwise we’d have done it sooner. And if we don’t feel able to come out at all, the decision is made for us – be out and proud or not at all.
It’s baffling that our sexualities can be portrayed as so linear, when in reality they’re anything but. Just like life in general. How often do we joke and share memes about life merely being a machine of chaos, picking us up, churning us over, then spitting us back out; it’s the meme. We know our experiences are different, and we know that life follows few rules save for birth and death. In between those two absolutes, there’s an endless array of possibilities, of which sexuality and its exploration is a single, but complex, thread.
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Throughout our lives, we’re shaped by both internal and external factors, and during this continuous moulding we grow as people. We’re forever progressing as we discover new things. Put simply, we’re not who we were a year ago. In all honesty, we’re not who we were last week – that’s how quickly moments impact us.
In knowing this, you’d think we’d accept that we can learn about new facets of our sexualities as we age; it’s hardly a bold leap of faith. But for some reason, the idea that growth includes sexual identity is still too shocking for some to grasp. As is the reality that dating women isn’t the easier option.
The misconception that we come out to be cool is indirectly connected to the myth that we choose queerness because heterosexuality won’t have us. When I came out in university, cis men kept saying “you’re pretty enough to get a man, you just haven’t found the right one yet”. By being with a woman, they’d decided that I thought myself too ugly to get a man. The idiocy of it still makes me laugh to this day.
But within that laughter is the sorrow of knowing that our sexualities and looks are deemed as interlinked: if we’re hot, we’ll be heterosexual because we can get the guy, but if we’re not conventionally attractive, well, we’ll have to be queer because men won’t have us. I must have missed the memo that says queer women only date the rejected, while cis men seek out perfection. It’s utter rubbish.
Few LGBT+ women think being queer is easy. The amount of abuse we get without our appearance being dragged into the mix is staggering enough. Our rights are scrutinised, taken away from us, and treated as an afterthought, as we constantly fight for what little rights we do have. As much as I celebrate my queerness, I have to fight to prevent people from trying to take it away from me every single day.
Does that sound like the easier option? No. Nor does it become any easier if we’re not good-looking – whatever that ideal is meant to be. The media’s handling of Wilson’s announcement further proves that coming out as queer is hardly an easy option. Far from it, in fact.
Rebel Wilson isn’t with a woman to stay relevant, and she isn’t with one because every cis man on the planet turned their nose up at her (she’s dated plenty of men, by the way). She’s queer. It’s about time we started accepting that queerness isn’t just something to do, it’s who we are, no matter when and if we make it known to others. Give us the right to be ourselves, on our terms.