Justin Bieber and Linda Perry.
To most, the connection between the zeitgeist pop heartthrob and the former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman now über-songwriter — Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” Pink’s “Get The Party Started” and Stefani’s “What are you Waiting For?” — would seem faint, if not non-existent.
But in a recent Huffington Post Live talk, the ever-creative Perry somehow found one.
As well as sharing her thoughts on Beyonce — “I like her but I’m a little tired of her brand,” Madonna “I just know in my heart there’s something I can pull out that she hasn’t done yet,” Courtney Love “a beautiful mess” and Rihanna “she’s awesome” — when asked, Perry unleashed a rash of offensive opinions on what her host called “the Bieber phenomenon.”
Despite the fact the Canadian teen has been in an on-off and now back on again relationship with Selena Gomez for over two years, Perry — recently engaged to The Talk co-host and actress Sara Gilbert — apparently thinks he should also declare his pink credentials.
“Well, honestly, I think it would be the best prank ever if he just finally came out and said ‘I’m really a lesbian,’ and he’s a girl,” said the 48-year-old.
Perry continued: “Can you imagine how amazing that would be if Justin Bieber really was a girl?”
“I would like to start that rumor, can I?” she quipped, then throwing sensibility to the wind, added:
“He kinda looks like a girl. He looks like a little dyke, he does. He looks like a little baby dyke and I keep looking at him going, is this guy pranking us?”
While Perry’s comments were offered as a joke, they were still pretty backward given her position in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.
Perry’s long-standing relationship with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian center is an active one. On May 18, she is headlining a music event which will be live streamed from the center with other artists such as Natasha Bedingfield, singer and songwriter Sia and comedienne Kathy Griffin in a benefit for services to help LGBT girls and women.
In light of the LGBT movement’s core belief that everyone has an inherent right to express their true sexuality without external labels being foisted on them, it was demonstrably crass of Perry to publicly call Bieber’s sexuality and gender into question.
Not least, because she now joins the ranks of those who find pleasure in doing the same — but more importantly — because it doesn’t reflect the reality that males and females across the sexual spectrum come in all shapes and sizes.
To many, not just his young fans, Bieber’s now taut and heavily tattooed body is clearly masculine. From others — who presumably think anything less than The Rock is a poor example of manhood — accusations of femininity abound.
It’s an over-used missile often hurled at young men — and conversely, young women ‘accused’ of masculinity — who don’t fit the majority’s fixed ideas of what they should look like.
On October 20, 2012, Matrix, Cloud Atlas director Lana Wachowski, formerly known as Larry, gave (what was for her) a difficult but important speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala dinner in San Francisco.
Two passages from it seem especially applicable now.
Wachowski spoke of an isolating, alienated childhood because her “gender was less typical than others” in a “society that refuses to acknowledge the spectrum of gender in the exact same blind way they have refused to see a spectrum of race or sexuality.”
Later, she went on to describe a sophomore year in high school where he (as she was then) was afraid to develop facial hair and “in the absence of words to defend myself, without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head — that I was a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be lovable.”
Although Wachowski was talking about her journey from presenting socially as a male only to embracing her true identity as a transgender person, underlying her entire speech the theme of accepting others as we find them powered through loud and clear.
The irony that Bieber’s appearance and sexuality was held up for trite, public deconstruction by an out and proud lesbian with a potent voice in more than ways than one, is more than disappointing.
It added unnecessary and unwelcome fuel to an already insult-laden national conversation about the singer’s physicality and sexuality that likely puts more pressure on a 19-year-old who isn’t exactly lacking in that area.
The hacking of E! Online’s Twitter account and posting of messages stating the singer had come out as “a gay,” a topical case in point.
Looking beyond Bieber, Perry’s wider message to millions of young girls, boys, women and men who don’t conform to how others think they should look, is that in 2013 ignorant gender-guessing stereotypes are still acceptable.
Her final words on the teen: “Success is awesome… it’s just what they do with it becomes the true test. Giving them success and watching what they do with it,” never seemed more self-parodying.