First of all before we jump into the main post, I want to say that I firmly believe in self-labelling (if you want to use labels), and I believe that sexuality is a spectrum and can on many (if not all) people be very much fluid. I also absolutely 100% encourage exploring your sexuality – so long as, of course, you’re not in danger of leading anyone on or ending up with anyone’s feelings getting hurt! (Basically, if you’re curious, make it clear you’re curious, not certain and just be open about that – there’s nothing shameful about not being sure of your orientation yet.)
Also, I am well aware that Ruby Rose identifies as gender fluid (and will mention it later on), however she has reportedly stated she prefers female pronouns so I will be using she/her for this post. Do remember many genderfluid people have other pronouns, though!
Okay so, after that little disclaimer, let’s get to it: many people, if you’ve recently been on social media whatsoever, will have heard the name Ruby Rose whirling about. Ruby Rose is an Australian actress, model, DJ and, among other crazy talented things, an activist for LGBT+ rights and exploration of gender and sexuality. I highly encourage you to go and watch her video ‘Break Free’ in which she explores gender binaries, gender fluidity and also just demonstrates an incredible piece of filmmaking. Ruby also portrayed the newly-introduced character, Stella Carlin, in the latest season of Netflix’s original series, Orange is the New Black, which, again if you haven’t heard of, go browse the internet for a bit. Also watch it, it’s not exactly a documentary on prison life, but it does a damn good job at writing women, plus there’s lots of lesbian drama and everyone loves that, right?
Since Ruby’s debut on everyone’s screens, there’s been a lot – and I mean a lot – of talk about her. Specifically people swooning over her (that wink though ohmygod) – and particularly heterosexual women. Now, Ruby’s been on the queer girl radar for years, which is why so many of us were crazy excited when it was announced she’d be in this new season, but it appears many women have only just discovered the wild world of her charisma, acting skills and damn gorgeous accent (
and face). These people have been kinda freaking out, and posting a lot about being ‘gay for Ruby Rose’ or ‘turning lesbian for Ruby Rose’ and I just want to talk about that for a bit.
I’ve read a few articles, and lots of social media posts, saying this is awful. Saying that straight girls aren’t ‘turning gay’, they shouldn’t say they are, that it’s irritating when they say how attractive Ruby is etc. etc. And I want to say that that is unfair. This is a complex issue, and there isn’t one right way to act or not. To be honest, a lot of people (on both sides of the discussion) are overreacting.
If you are a straight woman – if you are 100% sure you are straight, and aren’t curious enough to question your sexuality, then please do not say you are ‘turning gay’ or ‘feel like a lesbian’ or any other related thing, whether it be about Ruby Rose or another person who isn’t male that you find attractive. Statements like this, when they aren’t meant in a serious way, can be offensive to some people, because you get to say that, and you get to laugh about it and enjoy finding this person attractive, but if an LGBT+ person does it, they will often get abuse for it, or be chastised and bullied. We live in a heteronormative society, and every day people are killed for being attracted to someone of the same gender, and in using this kind of phrasing you’re inadvertently flaunting your privilege, and almost trivialising other people’s lack of privilege and rights.
In addition, Ruby Rose is genderfluid. She has specifically stated this, and to many non-binary people, saying you’re ‘going gay’ for someone who is genderfluid is actually disregarding the fact they are non-binary, as gay specifically means attracted to the same gender. This seems to be less of an issue for people at the moment, but it is still worth considering – even just change the phrasing to ‘I’m attracted to Ruby Rose’ rather than ‘I’m gay for Ruby Rose’. Also, fyi, we should all stop saying that ‘I’d turn gay/straight’ for someone and start saying ‘I’d turn bisexual/pansexual/flexisexual’ because y’know. That kinda makes more sense?
Despite that being said, the main issue is not the jokes of ‘I’m gay for ___’, it is the other statements I mentioned, about ‘turning’ gay. I firmly believe that people can turn gay and sexualities can change, whether that be suddenly for one specific person, or slowly over many years. People can and do turn gay. But not in the way this statement makes it sound. This statement supports the belief that sexuality is a choice, and something you can decide to slip in and out of. So again, if you are a heterosexual woman who is secure in that sexuality with not an inkling of wanting to be in a relationship (whether than be sexual or romantic) with a woman, then please please please do not just fling around the statement that you’re ‘turning gay’. You’re not. You may do one day, but right now you do not genuinely think or even consider than you might be. There are some people who are turning gay, or discovering they’ve always been gay, or think they may be – there are some people whose sexuality may genuinely have been ‘awakened’ (is there a better term for that?) by Ruby Rose. And that is truly fantastic, and that should be celebrated and they should be welcomed into the LGBT+ community the same as anyone else. But if you are not one of those people, and you simply think Ruby is hot, then say that. Don’t repeatedly say you’re turning for her or you’ve been turned by her – say you think she’s hot, say you wish you looked like her, say she’s beautiful, say you think she’s attractive. You can be attracted to a fellow woman without being gay. You can also be sexually attracted to them but not want to be in a relationship with them (that’s called homosexual-heteroromantic) or you can be romantically attracted to them but not want to have sex with them (that’s called homoromantic-heterosexual) or you can be neither, or both, or a wider combination with attraction to more genders. Just, read my blog post here if you’re genuinely confused about this whole attraction/labels thing. But don’t trivialise or brush off something that for many people is a big deal and genuinely happens. ‘Kay?
Straight girls often refer to female friends as ‘girlfriends’ or say they’re ‘loved up’ or ‘have a girl crush’. These things can also be kinda problematic. Not only do they really confuse the queer girl population – because when someone says they’ve got a girlfriend we don’t assume they’re joking or straight – but they also play into the general dismissal of our identities and relationships. If you’re a gay woman, and you have a girlfriend, you will forever have to explain to people that she isn’t just a friend or your sister or your cousin, and even then if you say she’s your girlfriend, they just continue to think she’s your friend. It really invalidates the relationship that you already have to fight to have.
Girlfriend has long been used as a term of endearment for female friends, and that’s fine, but now it can also mean someone in a girl/girl, non-platonic relationship, and the fact that this platonic use of the word crops up everywhere makes it a lot harder to explain that actually you’re gay and this is your partner (because no one wants to throw around the term ‘life partner’ – ew). I know that this is changing the meaning of a word, and you can argue that ‘it’s always meant a female friend’ so why should it change – and sure, it has, but it would honestly be so helpful if we accept the new meaning and start trying to help that become clearer. Also, why hasn’t this happened with ‘boyfriend’, like, that’s never been a platonic male friendship thing? Why?
Finally, I want to say to the people who’ve been annoyed by this Ruby Rose situation, that you need to calm down. Yeah, when straight girls say they’re ‘turning lesbian’ or ‘are totally gay for so-and-so’ it’s kind of irritating and it’s kind of hard to even explain why it’s even irritating, but I get that it can be. So if someone has said something one time, then let it go. If they keep repeatedly saying it, maybe try and explain that you find it offensive and help them understand why it could be a problematic thing to continue saying. But also remember that people may genuinely be coming out, or may genuinely be questioning their sexuality, and that is a great thing. Like seriously, how great is it that one person can be making loads of women realise their attraction is fluid or goes beyond heterosexual? Anyway, enough about my adoration of Ruby Rose. Though I must mention, she’s DJ-ing this year at the Pride I always attend, and I am so excited.