My sister and I have a joke about Katy Perry. Although she achieved widespread renown with her single “I Kissed a Girl”, her first successful hit was “Ur So Gay”[sic](ugh). This is a complex and evocative song, with the chorus “You’re so gay, and you don’t even like boys. No you don’t even like, no you don’t even like, no you don’t even like boys. You’re so gay, and you don’t even like boys. No you don’t even like, no you don’t even like, no you don’t even like boys”. So when “I Kissed a Girl” came out, my sister and I always joked around that it was Katy Perry’s attempt to make it up to the gay community. “Damn, I guess that “Ur so Gay” song might have offended some gay people. Maybe I’ll write a song about how I kissed a girl…that should get me back in with them, right? It’s perfect!”
Funny joke, right?
“I Kissed a Girl” has had a pretty complicated reception in the gay community. A lot of people think it’s good just to get any kind of queer activity normalized and considered mainstream. In fact, Out Magazine chose her as one of their “Out 100” in 2008–a list of a hundred queer people who have made a difference in the past year–and put her on the cover. Recently, On the other hand, there has been a lot of criticism of Perry coming from the queer community, particularly the bisexual community (arguably the most insulted by Perry’s lyrics). At the present moment, bisexuals get disrespect from both sides. They are often not taken seriously by people who use terms like “LUG (lesbian until graduation)”, “fake lesbian” , and who generally cling to monosexuality so as not to “betray” the gay community. Perry’s paean to ostensibly straight girls making out in public and considering it meaningless hasn’t done us any favors. So why is it that why all have the lyrics memorized and cheer whenever it comes on at First Friday dances?
As someone who identifies as bisexual, I can sympathize with Perry. Queer people have been discriminated against for centuries because of who they kiss. Why should we judge Katy Perry just because she feels like kissing another girl, even if it doesn’t mean anything about her sexuality? I try very hard to keep this admirable, open minded attitude of mine in mind whenever the song comes on. Because regardless of whether we can blame Perry for this, girls kissing each other still isn’t taken very seriously, and her song has made it worse. I felt particularly uncomfortable watching her sing her song with Ellen on Ellen’s bathroom concert series:
Anyone else get the feeling Katy was a little embarrassed singing this next to someone who is actually married to a girl?
When it comes down to it, I think it’s important to remember that Katy Perry is just a musician. She never chose to be a gay activist, and if she wants to write a song about whatever she wants, then she should. It’s tempting to judge her, or to demand that she put her money where her mouth is, but that’s a frustrating path to take. I’d like to leave you with a video of two of my favorite openly queer women, Amanda Palmer and Margaret Cho, who used a Katy Perry impersonater at a concert. Because, after all, she certainly can’t take herself seriously, so why should we?
What do you think?