Rants at Fictional Characters: Jameson Henthrop and the Bullying Flash Mob in Empire

Empire Jamal Jameson Lucious

Occasionally I rant in my head at fictional characters, as a sort of stand-in for rants against real people who’ve done similar real-world bullshit — in part because I get to be more of an unforgiving hardass to fictional characters than I am to real people. I’ve decided to start blogging them. Content note: biphobia. Also spoilers for Empire, Season 2, Episodes 10-12.

Dear Jameson, and the bullying flash mob that came after Jamal:

What the fuck do you think the B in LGBT means?

I will tell you what the B in LGBT means. It means “bisexual.” And I am so goddamn sick of LGBT leaders and activists who use the phrase LGBT — but then treat people as like traitors or fence-sitters if they even occasionally have sex or relationships with people of a different gender.

There’s a reason we started using the term LGBT. It’s because our movement was focusing almost exclusively on gay men (gay white men at that, but that’s a different rant), and was ignoring and even dissing lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people. We started using the term LGBT as a signal of inclusion — and as a reminder to be inclusive. I am so goddamn sick of leaders and activists who think they can shit on bisexuals and trans people, as long as they use the term LGBT. I am so goddamn sick of leaders and activists who use the phrase LGBT, when what they really mean is G, or maybe LG on a good day. I am so goddamn sick of queers who forget what the term LGBT even means,

Yes, I know — Jamal isn’t bisexual. He says he isn’t, and he gets to self-identify. And if I had his sexual history, with two opposite-sex sexual experiences in my entire life, I probably wouldn’t identify as bisexual, either. That’s not the point.

The point is that when LGBT people give each other shit for having opposite-sex sex lives or relationships, it sends a clear message to bisexuals, pansexuals, fluidly sexual, or anyone who identifies as queer or LGBT but sometimes has sex or relationships with people of a different gender. That message is: Not you. This isn’t about you. You don’t get to be part of this. It doesn’t matter to us how much work you’ve done for our community and our movement: if you don’t live up to our standards of purity, we’re going to treat you as second-class at best and an outsider at worst.

And it sends a message to everyone in the LGBT communities: We think your sexuality is our goddamn business. We’re going to police it. You do not get to self-identify. We’re going to decide if you’re queer enough to be one of us.

Yes, yes, Jameson apologized. But it was apology for the wrong thing. He apologized for letting himself be manipulated by Lucious. He didn’t apologize for being a shitty ally to bisexuals; for perpetuating the idea that having a partner of a different sex makes you a bad queer; for shaming bisexuals and pansexuals and anyone who isn’t a gold star lesbian or gay man; for pressuring anyone who isn’t an absolute Kinsey 6 to stay in the closet about it — or for acting as if Jamal’s sex life was any of his goddamn business.

Jameson, if you’re going to use the word LGBT, act like it fucking well means something. If you’re going to be an asshole about bisexuals and trans people, quit using the term. Just say “gay,” so we can all know what a biphobic jerk you are.

Fuck you.

(Note: This is not a rant at the writers of Empire, since I think this rant is actually a lot of what they were getting at in this story arc.)

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Rants at Fictional Characters: Jameson Henthrop and the Bullying Flash Mob in Empire
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