Who can resist a good portmanteau these days? Certainly not the good people at the New York Post, who last week reported on the apparent trend of “celesbians”—celebrity lesbians—who are apparently coming out in droves now that lesbianism is hip.
The article, the full title of which was “Hot celesbians are everywhere you look,” details the new and exotic trend of lesbians—specifically lesbians who are attractive and famous—dating one another. Among the hot-and-famous exemplars of this hot hot trend are Samira Wiley and Orange Is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli, the “rumored item” of Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent, Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. It’s difficult to tell what the focus of the trendpiece is, in this case: is it that famous lesbian couples exist, or that famous lesbian couples are “hot”? Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz did not make the list, notably, which I can only assume means they’re being saved for a “Hot celesbians in history” feature.
“Hot celesbians are everywhere you look” is a gossip twofer: relationship chatter with a bit of “they’re just like us!” tailspin. The author concludes that celesbians are just a part of the celebrity landscape now, and people care about their love lives as much as they care about straight people’s, which means #equality. It does, that is, except when the story is about how normal it is now that “hot” famous women are into other “hot” famous women and people care—especially men, and especially when two women are kissing.
To the author’s credit, the quotes on public lesbianism come from women at publications like Curve magazine and AfterEllen.com, which temper the tabloid gaze. Even so, I can’t remember ever reading (or electing not to read) a trendpiece about how straight men are everywhere, kissing women on their Instagrams and “stepping out” together to places like “events” and venues like “public.” Nor, come to think of it, can I remember any such “hot” trendpiece on celebrity gay men (portmanteau me, Post!) existing in public en masse, excepting the perennial gushpiece about how cute Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are. (They really are, though.)
Visibility is a virtue, and it’s fantastic to see couples of all gender combinations in the flashbulbs of the paparazzi, or in the softer focus of glossy magazines. Visibility normalizes; “trends” sensationalize. It’s one thing to applaud the visibility of celebrity gay couples—their openness, their willingness to be seen and speak out for the cause of gay rights—but it is quite another to declare anyone’s sexuality a “trend.” Straight girls kissing to Katy Perry may have been a trend; lesbianism is a whole life, celebrity or no.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.