Michelle Visage: just another self-centred straight ally

*Content note: homophobic slurs, discussion of homophobia/biphobia/transphobia and racism*

It’s finally happened! A whole grand total of one person in the Celebrity Big Brother house has at long last asked Michelle Visage on what basis she can repeatedly claim to represent the LGBT community. My only question is why her constant grandstanding about how being a cis straight woman who has gay friends makes her the supreme arbitrator of what makes someone a ‘good gay’ or a ‘bad gay’ took nearly a full month to be called out.

Ugh, we want our t-shirt back

I only tuned in on CBB launch night this year because I heard Visage was going on. I had high hopes for her putting Katie “Professional Bigot” Hopkins in her place – ha! How wrong was I, she’s lodged herself as far up Hopkins’s arse as possible. But as the judge who takes no shite on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I always liked Visage, and not *purely* for not being the other judge, that useless PRICK Santino. And while I’m eternally irritated by cis straight allies of the LGBT community who want to make their allyship their ‘selling point’ in any situation, I at least thought she would make herself useful when a homophobic slur inevitably tumbled out of someone’s mouth as it usually does if you leave a crowd of straight people in a room together long enough.

I don’t really fancy going into as much depth as I could about the homophobia that has occurred in the CBB house this year, all directed at tabloid-ready hate figure Perez Hilton – either you’ve seen it or you don’t watch and probably aren’t interested, and I’ve ranted enough about it while watching that my anger could probably be harvested and power a small island. A quick round up includes: 80s R&B singer Alexander O’Neal repeatedly saying “you know what you’d get in America” (clue: he means a gaybashing), O’Neal actually explicitly calling Perez a “faggot”, professional haircut/Lohan-botherer Calum Best saying much the same as Alexander with “he knows what he’d get outside this house” (clue: it’s another gaybashing), Katie Hopkins telling Perez – a gay single father – that “at least her kids have a mother and father”!!!!!, Hopkins encouraging a campaign of bullying and isolation against him while following him about clapping her hands and screaming “TWAT” like a fucking 5 year old and Hopkins taking great exception to Perez’s statement that he found her repeatedly telling him to “man up” homophobic with “how DAAARE you, I may be many things but I’m not a homophobe!” – a hint if you’re wondering, even if another gay person doesn’t find it homophobic, Hilton is entitled to judge for himself too, LGBT people are not a monolith with one view of right and wrong. I think the worst had to be the entire house rounding on Perez and demanding he “apologise” for “what he did to Alexander”, by which they mean they all think that a grown man can be “goaded” into calling another man a f****t, which incase you didn’t realise it, is not a thing that it’s possible to do – you don’t call someone that unless that’s what you think they are in your heart.

The central reasoning provided by this gang of straight homophobes for why what’s happened is ok, is that Perez is a bit of an arsehole, and he’s done some unacceptable things too so therefore it’s basically fine and normal rules no longer apply. Sitting atop this pile of destruction has, disappointingly, been Michelle Visage, who for a self-appointed “representative of the LGBT community”, is awfully fucking keen to excuse all the overt and subtle homophobia that’s been going on around her. Michelle’s gone one further than just excusing other straight people’s bad behaviour though. She’s actually declared in the diary room “it’s ridiculous that I fight for these things when this person is an embarrassment to an entire community“. Perez has “set the gay community back 50 years” because apparently being a bit of a nobber is inextricably linked to his gayness and if homophobes seriously believe that pathetic, basic shit then it’s somehow Perez’s fault. To Michelle, it’s ridiculous that she fights for “our community” (she’s including herself in ‘our’ by the way. YOU. ARE. STRAIGHT. GO. AWAY.) because oh it’s just so tiresome as a crusading cis straight woman caring so deeply about the rights of all her lovely gay minions when one comes along and RUINS EVERYTHING by being a real person with flaws. Bolt hen, your conditional support isny needed.

Just like I unconditionally support Katie Hopkins’s right not to be followed and licked by Perez Hilton and defend her from misogynistic comments made by Perez or anyone – despite the fact that I think she is a vile and irredeemable person – anything less than an outright statement that it is NEVER acceptable to call someone the f-word (or make homophobic comments about their parenting capacity) from Michelle is the most piss poor straight-allyship you’ve ever seen. If your support of our human rights is conditional, I don’t fucking want it at all. If we have to be your definition or any definition of a good person to have the right not to be called f****ts then what is the point in you supporting us at all? You don’t support us, you just support your friends and people who don’t cross you, is what you’re saying. You support us if we make you look and feel good and don’t give you a showing up to your straight pals. Don’t just support the rights of LGBT people you’d want to hang around with, assholes. Stop fetishising us and what we’re ‘supposed’ to be, how we’re supposed to look and act. We don’t exist to please you. Perez behaving like a prick has absolutely nothing to do with his being gay, and claiming he’s “setting back the gay community” by being a regular complex human who pisses you off and isn’t perennially happy and covered in glitter with his mouth sewn shut IS homophobic. We’re not cut out and keep dolls from a magazine for cis straight women to stick on their walls and dress up, and when you treat us like we don’t have thoughts and feelings and lives and flaws of our own you show that your understanding of our human rights and how far we have to go to gain them is incredibly shallow. It offends me that Michelle Visage wants to simultaneously build her career and wealth off us, appoint herself our spokesperson, and casually dismiss our rights when it’s more convenient not to care. It says a lot that the commitment to promoting and upholding our human rights is shed so casually when the opportunity comes along.

Mama Ru

I really hope that RuPaul and/or some of the queens from Drag Race take Visage aside for a few words about appropriation and being a responsible ally, and maybe some will, but to be honest I won’t hold out hope. It’s no one in the LGBT community’s job to hold her to account, but I hope that some people who care about her care enough to tell her oh hunty no. I love RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul himself to my core, but as a show it doesn’t always have the best record on dealing with differences within the LGBT community, there have been issues in the past with it’s tolerance of racist stereotypes, cultural appropriation and the use of transphobic slurs, which has been criticised by trans queens who’ve appeared on the show. Drag Race tends to present the community through the lens of cis gay men, who make up the majority in the drag community. And therein lies the rub with how cis straight ally Michelle’s views will be privileged even within the LGBT community itself, really…

There is a big problem with the power and influence that cis gay men, drag or no drag, hold within the LGBT community which sees women, non binary, bi/pan and trans people pushed to the margins and desperate for representation. Speaking as a queer woman, I know that we make up a significant proportion of the viewership of Drag Race, but often we do so with the knowledge that while we are expected to (and are glad to!) celebrate the success and the fabulous on display from gay men, we are simultaneously expected just to suck it up and deal with our lack of representation amongst our own community and – most ridiculously – we’re supposed to pretend like we don’t know that we’re completely fabulous too?! We’re meant to just sort of put up with the derision often directed at us by LGBT men. In a twisted mirroring of lad culture where straight women are only allowed to pal about with straight men if they aim to be ‘one of the lads’ and put up with a stream of misogynist drivel without ever complaining, there is a tendency by groups of gay men to tokenise lesbian women (because let’s be honest, it usually is *just* lesbian women) and allow them to be around only if they’re willing to laugh at/play up to a certain stereotypical representation of themselves and their sex lives, Superdry jackets and all. Because for a community forced to the margins of society, there is often still an inexplicable desire to view life in black and white. Bisexuality? Lol, doesn’t exist! Get back to gelling your hair bulldyke.

Hail Carmen

It’s just sort of sick to me how (a certain ~super popular~ presentation of) the LGBT community fawns over the brilliance and fabulousness of straight women – which of course I’m not denying, all women are fantastic – from Beyonce to Lady Gaga to Katy Perry to Michelle Visage, while the women existing within the LGBT community itself are often at best the butt of a joke and at worst entirely absent from the conversation. Occasionally I guess you do see some trans women held up as queens in this way – but it’s usually straight trans women, and only if they fit a certain image – and don’t dare transgress and point out transphobia in the community or you’ll be shunned like Carmen Carrera. But when’s the last time there was a non-straight woman amongst the guest judges on Drag Race, on stage at your local drag night, or being celebrated as the queen of all music or film? I’m sick of it not even being contemplated that I could be fabulous and hot as fuck because trust me bitch I am. Not that I should have to be to be taken seriously, represented, included and valued in my own communities. BUT. I. AM. So stop ignoring it, stop dismissing us as uninteresting fringe weirdos and start coming to us for our opinions on what’s going on in our communities because unlike some rando straight lassie, we actually live this shit every day. As infuriating as it is to go to Polo and be dismissed as just a hag because I don’t look like Millie Tant, it’s far more infuriating that when people do realise I actually am part of the LGBT community my opinion becomes suddenly boring, annoying, weirdo queer woman shit because I’ve got more going on than just regurgitating the patronising ‘isn’t this amazing and exotic’ shite you’re gonny get if you ask a straight ally. When LGBT women can’t even get representation within the community, why are we putting up with cis straight people like Michelle Visage declaring themselves the oracle of all that is holy and queer?

So there you have it. Straight allies, I will not kiss your feet for treating me like a human being, or for representing my right to be treated as a human being to those who would deny it. You are not to be rewarded for basic decency. And when your support of our right to live freely and safely is given on the condition that we fit your definition of someone good enough to deserve rights, I see right through you. You do not become special and fabulous by standing close to an LGBT person and shouting ‘look at me’. Going to Pride does not make you part of the LGBT community. You cannot redefine your privilege by proximity, you can only work respectfully towards a better world. We are not your accessories, and we are not your ticket to a platform where you centre yourselves within our painful and wonderful stories. Accept this. And learn when to sit the fuck down.

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Further Reading:

Ruth Davidson, homophobia and hating all Conservatives equally

The Daily Grind: Homophobia from Top to Bottom

When can we start promoting homosexuality in schools?

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Follow us on Twitter @unsavourycabal

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22 responses to “Michelle Visage: just another self-centred straight ally

  1. Are you seriously getting on Michelle while defending Perez, who has maliciously outed people against their will for website hits, and used homophobic slurs against will.i.am? Okay then.

    • “Someone has done bad things in the past therefore there’s no reason for a self proclaimed ally to defend them against blatant homophobia” – uh huh

  2. Calum clearly meant that if Perez, or any person, had been conducting themself the way Perez had been that they would likely be dealt to. Fair enough. You can’t act the way he has and expect people to just take it.

    • Let’s not debase ourselves and pretend we don’t know what a threatened gaybashing looks like. The threats of violence came after Perez making kissy faces/talking about cocks etc, let’s not play stupid.

  3. Thank you!!! I tweeted something similar to Visage, her double standards enrage me! If she stands for a principle it can not be conditional, she’s a fair weather friend at best.

  4. Congratulations for writing what I was thinking throughout this show:
    Vocal support to LGBT is all well and good but in EVERY instance of predjudice in the Big Brother house Michelle Visage was nowhere to be seen – actions speak louder than words.
    She was happy to condemn Perez in an argument but would never dare contradict her best buddy the right wing Katie Hopkins.
    Why? Could it be because Visage thought it was the best way to be assured of not being nominated / evicted?
    Was she there to represent a community or was the desire to win and be liked a stronger motive?

    One last point – to me a crucial element of supporting LGBT is to not tolerate bullying and ostracising others generally. This is something LGBT know all about, Michelle showed a lot of class in that regard.
    Did I say showed a lot of class? I meant to say was happy to join in with ostracising others for not conforming…

  5. Perez has been getting a lot of abuse on Twitter for not being a ‘good’ representative of the LGBTQ community . His response? Retweeting the link to this article ! Look after yourself Perez. x

  6. I watched in disbelief as Michelle Visage over and over again not only failed to step in and stop the bullying of Perez and Alicia but actively engaged in it herself. Nadia and Pricey were the only two brave enough to stand up to the bullies and they weren’t claiming to represent anyone. Shame Michelle failed miserably at her mission But more crucially shame on you Michelle Visage for failing to be a decent human being.

  7. it’s very important to remember this is a reality show which is edited. michelle’s “absence” screams of comments she made being edited out for the broadcast.

    • This screams of making excuses. Michelle challenging her new best pal Hopkins in any serious way would have made great tv and would have been shown – clearly any challenge she made to her was tokenistic if it even happened

  8. I believe the “strong” thing to do in the house was to behave like Nadia did – to stand by the courage of her convictions.
    Nadia supports a left of centre political tradition that by default (should) includes supporting LGBT and maried that with a person principle of kindness.
    Thank god for people like Nadia – she refused to conform to what the majority demands, even though she knew it jeaporised her existence in the house. These people are the real friends of LGBT and of any potentially oppressed group.

    By the end it was Visage I was most disappointed with – being strong is not to attach yourself to the strongest in the group, or to not have the courage to raise your voice to support your principals. Airing the odd disagreement in private with Hopkins was a joke, just as it was to remain silent or to join in with all the nasty bitching / criticising of people behind their backs.

    Anbody remember the way she repeated Katie Hopkins’ line “you are not my father to be disappointed in me”. That is her again following the lead of the strongest in the group, repeating what she believed was an effective defence – rather than having an original thought of her own.

    Despite all this I think she is a nice person. Its just that she has an overwhelming desire to be liked / accepted by the majority – meaning she is at heart, a bit of a coward.

    However, I never want to see her on any TV screen again and I hope Perez and others draw attention to her double standards.

  9. A very interesting article Tarzon girl , I watched big brother and had never heard of Michelle before. She was Hopkins best mate in the show for weeks and now pretends to be shocked by Hopkins words . British people can spot a fake a mile away and Michelle was a big fraud , pretending to love all gay people , yet she ostracized Parez and had no time for Kav,

  10. Fantastic summary of the thing that has bothered me most of all this whole series. Hopkins is repugnant, but her behaviour was to be expected. Michelle hurt far more, because she refused to see the double standards in her own behaviour, and was ignorant of her position within the community. I’m a fiercely proud cis-ally, and this really bummed me out.

  11. I love this article
    I didn’t know who Michelle was and was absolutely disguised by her comments and other housemates directed at Perez
    She’s an absolute disgrace
    I started to watch drag race with my daughter and thought she was ignorant and uneducated with her comments to contestants and told my daughter how as an advocate for the community was an sham
    Then I saw what she did to Adore delano
    She’s a ignorant person
    Thanks for the article I have always thought what a disgrace she was on BB

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