U.N.I.T.Y. - Who You Callin' a Lesbo?

By Beverly Hames

Whether or not Queen Latifah is a lesbian has never been a burning question on my mind. I've always operated under the assumption that she is, but that she chooses to remain private for her own personal reasons. The hip-hop community she is rooted in isn't exactly known for being gay-friendly. Beyond that she made the cross-over to mainstream rom-com stardom. Hell she even shills for Walmart. She's come a long way since "Ladies First" and it's not exactly an awesome way either. She still has some artistic credibility thanks to talent but she's a sanitized version of her spitfire feminist youth. I mean my mom listens to Queen Latifah’s CD of easy-listening covers of jazz standards while cruising around San Jose in her SUV. Basically she's about as edgy as Ellen DeGeneres...oh, wait.

When the news broke that she came out this week I wasn't surprised, but I was confused. Although we'd all like her to pull a Rosie O'Donnell and admit what many of us view as the obvious, she hasn't. However, she has done something very interesting, she agreed to headline the Long Beach Pride Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival event this month. The statement released is coy, it mentions her worldwide pride debut and what she means to the community but nowhere in it does it specify whether she considers herself a part of the community or just a supporter. Now activists have called the reports that she has come out as irresponsible and technically they are. Yes, plenty of heterosexual artists have headlined pride festivals, but as far as I know JLo's sexuality was never the subject of speculation, same goes for candy-coated titty monster Katy Perry.

Assuming that she is gay, doesn't it seem weird that she would headline a pride festival while in the closet? Then again does remaining private about your personal life and never once pretending you're straight even count as being in the closet? Think about it, when has Queen Latifah ever said she likes to have sex with men? She's been irritable and defensive when questioned about her sexuality and she plays straight in awful rom-coms with Common (who is also about as edgy as Ellen DeGeneres at this point) but that's acting and there's nothing technically dishonest about that. Plus it's not like she hasn't "played gay" too, she won a few awards for Set It Off back in '96 and caught a lot of shit from the hip-hop community for it as well. Regardless, she’s anything but “out and proud.” This makes me think of a time, long ago and far away, called the 90s when Ellen DeGeneres played straight on her sitcom Ellen. When she (and her character on the show) came out  it was like the biggest deal ever in TV, bigger than the lesbian kiss on Roseanne. There was also a time when Rosie O'Donnell played straight, gushing about how in love she was with Tom Cruise on her talk show. Man, if I wanted people to think I was into dudes I'd try to pick someone more convincing than a deranged Scientology elf, but that's just me.

While things have changed a bit since the late 90s, celebrities coming out publicly is still viewed by many as an integral part of the struggle for equal rights. Plus it's a major payday for the marketers of stardom: there's the all-important People magazine cover, the carefully worded publicist's statement, the big-time build-up. That shit is big business and you’ve gotta throw a little respect to someone who at least hasn’t played that game. Personally I'd be stoked if she uses the festival as a low-key, DUH moment and invites her girlfriend (which according to every gossip blog in the universe she has, and a new one at that.) Maybe she will, maybe she won't, but thus far she’s still never confirmed what everyone is pretty sure they already know.

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