Mel B Says She Was A Lesbian “For A Few Years,” That’s Not How Any Of This Works

Perhaps you, like me, came of age in the mid-90’s, when The Spice Girls ruled the charts. They were bastions of feminism for very young girls, clomping around in huge platform shoes, posing cheekily for photos all around the world and declaring that the only thing the world truly needed was a healthy dose of girl power. Their message was simple, powerful and effective. The Spice Girls were more than pop stars – they were superheroes, and as far as my 12-year-old brain could tell, they could do no wrong.

Today we are here to discuss Melanie Brown, née Scary Spice, and question whether or not our dear Melanie has forgotten the principles of girl power.

Best music video of all time, and if you do not agree with me you are wrong.

Best music video of all time, and if you do not agree with me you are wrong.

Friday night, the artist formerly known as Scary Spice appeared on Alan Carr’s variety show “Chatty Man,” presumably to discuss her experiences as a judge on pretty much every singing-and/or-dancing-based reality show on this planet. Somehow, the topic of Mel’s well-reported fluid sexuality came up. As we’ve discussed previously, Melanie has had well-documented romances with women, and has also admitted to kissing all the other Spice Girls (be still my heart). In 2007, she was quoted as saying, “People call me lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual, but I know who’s in my bed and that’s it… I have a huge libido and a great sex life.” She’s made a few troubling statements about sexuality over the years, but things really took a turn Friday when Carr mentioned straight women who “become lesbians” for a period of time, presumably for cheap thrills.

“Yeah, I was one of those for a few years,” Brown declared. When asked if she’d consider herself a lesbian, she replied, “I would not call it that. I was just one of those ladies. Now I’m happily married.” Oh, OK.

hasbian

Thank you, Tumblr.

Melanie Brown has been married to film producer Steven Belafonte since 2007 and the two seem very happy together, which is awesome! We’re really happy for you, Mel! However, the implication that Melanie’s attraction to women is something she experimented with for a brief period before putting it on the shelf and forgetting about it entirely is troubling for… basically anyone who falls somewhere in-between on the Kinsey scale. “Now I’m happily married” also posits “happy marriage” and “being a lesbian” as mutually exclusive.

Her dalliances with women (including several legitimate and serious relationships that spanned multiple years) don’t make her “just one of those girls,” and to phrase it that way seems awfully insulting – as though her relationships with women were in some way less important than her relationships with men. There are so many ways she could speak positively about her past relationships and the genders of her former lovers without implying that she had somehow “cured” her sexuality by marrying a man! So many! Please just stop.

ohdear

Of course, Mel B doesn’t owe us anything and is free to define herself as she pleases — she isn’t a lesbian spokesperson, nor is she the dictionary responsible for defining the sexual orientation vocabulary. But as a feminist and an LGBTQ ally, shouldn’t she be staying away from perpetuating damaging stereotypes about sexuality when she speaks about her own? As Riese wrote when Jessie J told the press that her bisexuality was just a “phase” and that she wanted to “stop talking about it completely now and find [herself] a husband,” “It’s not Jessie J’s responsibility to ensure that your friends and family believe that your bisexuality is real… but it is her responsibility, as it is every ally’s responsibility, to not talk about bisexuality like it’s a curse or a disease she can’t wait to be rid of — a nasty thing from the past she loathes to revisit. And although she doesn’t have to lie to the media, it would’ve been awfully kind for her to refrain from referring to it as a “phase,” specifically.”

The UK’s Daily Express has made a very big deal about Melanie asking The Great British Bake Off television presenter and lesbian-of-note Sue Perkins for her phone number after the show, which obviously means that the two are destined to hook up. Because that’s how phone numbers work.

but for real though.

but for real though.

We will continue to throw shade via Peggy Peabody as this story develops.

judge


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Stef Schwartz is the self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at Autostraddle.com. She currently resides in New York City, where she spends her days writing songs nobody will ever hear and her nights telling much more successful musicians what to do. Follow her on twitter and/or instagram.

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47 Comments

  1. 0

    Popstars and other female celebrities who talk like this annoy the shit out of me. Always with the “I used to be a Lesbian/Bisexual but Iz Married Now Tee Hee!” declarations. This is why I’m not so quick to exalt every female celebrity to Ally status or Queer Role Model/Idol just because they claim to have a past of kissing or sexing women in the press(*cough* Afterellen*cough*). More often then not they turn around and say things like this later. I don’t even have to go through a list. There have been many.

    • 0

      It’s not just celebrities though, I have friends and team mates that say stuff like this. It’s part of why I believe many lesbians have an aversion to women who are also attracted to men.

  2. 0

    I don’t think we should be too critical of how others choose describe their own sexuality. Sexuality is a very personal thing, and it can be fluid. If Mel B identifies as a straight woman who used to have relationships with women, then I think we should respect that.

    • 0

      Direct quote from this article: “Of course, Mel B doesn’t owe us anything and is free to define herself as she pleases — she isn’t a lesbian spokesperson, nor is she the dictionary responsible for defining the sexual orientation vocabulary. But as a feminist and an LGBTQ ally, shouldn’t she be staying away from perpetuating damaging stereotypes about sexuality when she speaks about her own?”

      • 0

        Nice save Dina.

        Than of course the two questions become: a) does she what to be seen as a feminist or an LGBTQ alley and b) does the way she distances herself from prior same-sex experiences perpetuate damaging stereotypes? I don’t know enough about Mel B to say anything for sure about the former, but as to the later; well contrasting having been one of “those ladies” with now being “happily married” does suggest the what you use to be is lost, confused, or even unhappy with yourself.

        There have been some women in music and film who admitted they were once involved with women, haven mostly been seen in relationships with man, and described there prior experience as something real and meaningful. I’m not going to name names here though, because I fear someone would pull out another quote from that person that might seem contradictory. The bottom lines is there’s a difference between saying, “I’ve had good relationships with women that just didn’t last” and saying “Oh that was just some THING that I let HAPPEN and it means nothing NOW.”

  3. 0

    Noooo Mel B!

    Now I hope my mother doesn’t tune into that chat show so it doesn’t add anymore fuel to the “one day you’ll want to settle down with a nice man” fire!

    I can just imagine it now: “Sporty spice also went through a phase, Kat!”

  4. 0

    …? I don’t think it’s right to judge how Mel B identifies and expresses her own sexuality.
    Just because you may recognize her as a ‘bisexual’ doesn’t mean that is true for her or that you should be judging her statements about her sexuality.
    Sexuality is personal, unique, and can be very fluid. If Mel B believes and claims to be a straight woman who has had sexual/romantic relationships with women in the past, then that’s what she is, and it’s not okay for you to dictate someone’s sexuality based on their past experiences.

    • 0

      No where in this article is the author trying to dictate Mel’s sexuality.

      I’ll re-quote what Dina already quoted earlier, “Of course, Mel B doesn’t owe us anything and is free to define herself as she pleases — she isn’t a lesbian spokesperson, nor is she the dictionary responsible for defining the sexual orientation vocabulary. But as a feminist and an LGBTQ ally, shouldn’t she be staying away from perpetuating damaging stereotypes about sexuality when she speaks about her own?”

      The “perpetuating damaging stereotypes” is the focus. That is, this isn’t a criticism of her sexuality; this is a criticism the her rhetorical approach, the way she chose to talk about it. And the approach she chose perpetuates damaging stereotypes.

  5. 0

    My problem with stuff like this is how damaging it is for people from homophobic families, churches, and communities. All the bigots have to do is look at the many statements like this and go “See? You weren’t born to be that way. You can change and be happy if you want to.”

    Well, guess what? Some of us tried and tried to change for one reason or another and it only brought psychological pain and damage, and it took a lot to finally be okay with ourselves, only to have these shining examples out there in the limelight for our bigoted families and other associated to point to and find another reason to call us sinners and failures.

    I don’t presume to define or disrespect other people’s journeys, identities, or experiences, but celebrities are role models and examples to the rest of the world by default, in some way, whether they like it or not. They have to realize just what it means for those of us struggling through homophobia when they make statements like this. In short, I find such statements to be very irresponsible.

    • 0

      I completely agree. I know some believe we shouldn’t judge the actions of people like Mel B(idc that she identifies as straight its her wording that I find problematic but whatever) but then we would have to ignore that what celebrities or anybody who is in the public eye says have influence over what the general public thinks. We would have to ignore that media representation has any sort of effect on how LGBT people are viewed. We would have to pretend that the #1 stereotype about female homosexuality is not that it is a phase that can easily be overcome when you “meet the right man” and that those relationships are not considered inferior to ones with opposite sex by default. We would have to pretend that those stereotypes come out of thin air and aren’t perpetuated in the media and that we shouldn’t comment on it when we see it happening. We would have to pretend that celebs like Mel B or Jessie J or whoever coming out as “straight” and talking about their past relationships with women while using words like “phases” and “former lesbian” supposedly have no impact on what the public thinks about female homosexuality as a whole at all.

      In a perfect world, no it shouldn’t matter what Mel B has to say about how she “used to be a lesbian but is happily married now” and no we shouldn’t judge. I normally wouldn’t if we were not talking about some regular person off the street and not a former Popstar with a public platform to discuss such things for publicity. But we don’t live in a perfect world and words do matter. The way celebrities discuss female sexuality does have an impact on us whether we or they like it or not because their words reach a larger audience. We still don’t live in a world where everyone knows a gay person or understands that not all of us are the same. Claiming that what public figures have to say about things like that have no influence on the general public is like claiming that celebrities that come out either in support of us or as being apart of our community also has no impact on how we are perceived. It’s just patently untrue. For example, my grandmother would probably still hate gay people if it weren’t for people that she loves like Ellen and Anderson Cooper coming out or Obama supporting non-discrimination as the LBGT community. So don’t tell me that public figures actions and words don’t have consequences because I’m not buying it.

  6. 0

    Some of her comments (e.g. the one implying gay relationships are less than straight ones) are absolutely okay to criticize, but, as said above, we can’t police how the way she describes herself or her sexuality.

    • 0

      I’m pretty sure the entire article is criticizing her problematic phrasing. There’s not an inkling of policing her identity beyond the fact that she delegitimized the entire concepts of bisexuality, sexual fluidity and lesbianism in order to state her own identity.

  7. 0

    you guys, of course it’s OKAY for mel b to say whatever she wants. she’s not reading this article, and stef is not the police or a dictator, none of us have the power to police or dictate anything mel b or any celebrity does or says. this is a queer website where we write stories about things that happen and how we feel about them, and most of the arguments being raised here were addressed in the post, particularly in the paragraph dina specifically quotes upthread.

    bottom line: positing “happily married” and “being a lesbian” as mutually exclusive states of being is a really homophobic and anti-woman thing for an lgbtq ally to say! and turkish really eloquently addresses this above.

    kids are still being kicked out of their homes for being gay and refusing to believe that their identity is just a “phase,” children and adults are still sent to therapy to be “cured’ of their homosexuality, corrective rape still happens. gay people are still marrying straight people in hopes that “happily married” will render their sexual orientation a phase — and these marriages aren’t good for anybody involved.

    i feel like maybe a lot of commenters here are speaking from a more personal place that has nothing to do with Mel B — you want to be sure that there’s room for you in the queer community regardless of where your path towards self-discovery ends up. that’s fine, and don’t worry — there is! stef of all people is on board with you there. I understand the urge to want to place a protective shield around anything a person says when self-defining their orientation because it’s scary, when confronting our own identities, to imagine that speaking from our hearts could ever be heard as anything besides “you doing you.” but i urge you to separate those fears/anxieties from this very specific news story and to really look pointedly at the words she chose. she degrades/dismisses some historically oppressed sexual orientations in order to define as the societally preferred sexual orientation, and that’s not cool. you can identify as one thing without having to put another thing down.

    the right of all LGBTQ people to define how they please is not on the line here. nothing is on the line, actually. besides maybe my sanity

  8. 0

    I just don’t agree on the reading of the quote from this interview. Besides the obvious “Can we please stop treating sexuality like it is a set of laws and realize it’s culturally codified, personal, and fluid?” But also, I see where Stef is coming from, but all I get from this quote is “I used to be a girl who experimented a lot, had a lot of sex with different people. Now I’m monogamous. Happily so. Fact.” Not like, “no I’m not a lesbian I’m /happily/ married neener neener.”

    This whole conversation makes me so uncomfortable. I mean, sure she could have worded it differently, but at the end of the day those couple little sentences are so trivial. Also, reading text and hearing a spoken conversation, especially in different English dialect than you’re familiar with, can lead to easy and unnecessary misinterpretations.

    I’m all for lambasting offensive celebrities, but this just seems like a reach.

    • 0

      I’d agree with you except that the question she responded to was specifically “Are you a lesbian?” not “Are you non-monogamous?” so the “I’m happily married” part actually was presented in contrast to the idea of being lez, not the idea of being experimental/promiscuous/whatever.

      • 0

        It was on a British TV show. To allay your fears of miss quotes it’s available to view on YouTube I think. There was a link to it from the independent website.

  9. 0

    Just, ugh.

    This reminds me a little of people who say “my cousin was depressed for a couple weeks and then she decided to just change her mind and be happy!” or “oh, I was anorexic for a month and then I just started eating, silly me!” Note that I am NOT saying that being gay is any sort of mental illness. What I’m saying is that none of these things are just phases that your brain can “just snap out of” at will. And both are often stigmatized. And as someone who has experienced various forms of mental illness and homophobia in my life, this view completely pisses me off.

    My brain is my brain with all its quirks. Some parts of it can change easily, some can change with years of effort, and some will never change.

  10. 0

    I like to maintain the vaguest possible approach to my own identification and will defend anybody’s right to identify as they wish until I’m blue in the face. But yeah, let’s not conflate the right to self-identify with the urge to disparage other ways of identifying. Like, it’s fine if you want to identify as Swiss instead of European, but don’t follow that up by explaining that it’s because you’d hate to be put in the same category as those lazy Spaniards, or whatever.

  11. 0

    I watched the interview, they were talking about people who come out later in life and the presenter was like “and those women who suddenly become lesbians” and she said “I was one of those” and the rest of it was joking and laughing around. Of course the wording is wrong, but this show is not politically correct in the slightest and none of what they talked was in any way serious. I mean, minutes earlier she asked him if he (who is openly gay) had ever gone to second base with a girl. So I get what’s wrong but I can’t be mad because I wasn’t expecting anything worthwhile to come out of Alan Carr’s Chatty Man show.

  12. 0

    No bible quotage from the lip synching washed up pop star? Uhh…. Too bad!

    Looks like Mel b is gunning for a collaboration with nicki minaj and a slot in the vma’s next year. It worked for Jessie j after all.
    Apparently, Shitting on your lesbian and bisexual phase is a 2014 trend. I can’t wait for 2015. Who will be next.

    (sorry for the insults. i think my period is coming and eddie murphy’s baby momma kinda deserves it)

  13. 0

    While I agree that one has a right to identify as they wish, others have a right to side-eye and call them out on it when they regard their fluidity as some shameful phase in life that suddenly ended when they found Jeebus or “The Right Man ™”.

    Not only you’re giving right wingers and evangelicals fodder to show that “Dem homerseshuls can change if they praaaaaaaaaayed hurrrd enough!!” (which as Shannon1981 mentioned, is incredibly damaging to those of us who tried and *can’t*), but it makes you sound like a general category jerk. -_-

  14. 0

    I think the beauty of emerging LGBTQ rights is that anyone can define their sexuality any way that they see fit. So I don’t think she should be scrutinized for that. BUT I think her flippancy towards her same sex relationships adds to the stereotype of it being just a phase or likening it to “those experimental college years.” Which, for those who are on another point within the spectrum, cheapens the validity of those relationships. I’d say half of my friends had the oh it’s just a phase reaction when I told them, so I think comments that dismiss it as a phase do the rest of us a disservice. Especially when same sex relationships are already scrutinized and oftentimes viewed as inferior.

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