Cate Blanchett, Carol, and Why It Matters

In case you missed it, earlier this week, while promoting a movie, Carol, in which she plays a bisexual woman, Cate Blanchett made reference to previous relationships with other women. Cate Blanchett, who is married to a man, and has been for quite some time, said she has had intimate relationships with women ‘many times’. She stopped short of calling herself bisexual, and that’s ok. Sexuality is fluid and personal and if she doesn’t identify as bisexual far be it from us to force the label upon her.

But, as it was sure to do, this revelation led to quiet the media frenzy, and this is where the problems began.

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1.) “Cate Blanchett’s Lesbian Past” – now, when a woman has had relationships with women and men, the assumption would be that she is attracted to both women and men, and therefore, if she must be labeled, would be be described as bisexual. Yet despite the growing acceptance of the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’, people still seem bizarrely reluctant to talk about, or even acknowledge the existence of, bisexuality.

2.) “Why do we have to label everything they’re just relationships labels are evil” – I choose to believe this comes from a good place, from a desire to see people as people regardless of their gender, colour, creed or sexuality. Yes, labels can be harmful when given unwillingly or taken and used against you. But the fact is, labels can be important. When you’re struggling to figure out what you’re feeling, trying to understand yourself, worrying that maybe you’re Wrong, having a name to put to it is important. Labels you choose for yourself can be incredibly liberating. Knowing this applies to you, knowing there is a word for it, that other people identify the same, that it’s normal – there can be no underestimating the important of that.

Now, Cate Blanchett may not identify as bisexual. But I do. And to see bisexuality thrust so roughly into the public eye, only to be shot down – that hurts. From the usual bile and ignorance to the outright refusal to consider bisexuality as a possibility.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable with who I am. I spent years wishing I could be one thing or the other, not somewhere in between. I didn’t know any bisexual people. There were no bisexual celebrities, no characters in movies or books, no one for me to look to and think “they’re like me and they’re all right. I’ll be all right too”.

To have a someone like Cate Blanchett – ridiculously talented, incredibly successful, happily married – to look up to would have meant the world.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about bisexuality. That bisexuals are insaitably promiscuous, can’t make up their minds. That they’re home wreckers out to steal husbands, incapable of monogamy. That they’re gay, but just don’t want to admit it, or straight and just want to be different. That it simply doesn’t exist. I’ve heard this from the media, from strangers, from people I’m close to. There are people hearing this now, in the wake of Blanchett’s interview, and pushing down parts of themselves they feel they should not or cannot accept.

At the end of the day, Cate Blanchett’s sexuality is not our business nor our concern. What she does or does not identify as is irrelevant to our lives. But the reaction to it is telling of a deeper misunderstanding, a deeper prejudice, a discomfort with difference from the perceived norm.

I am many things. I choose many labels for myself and I am still learning to be comfortable with them all. Many LGTBQIA individuals are facing the same struggles. Cate Blanchett herself cannot hint at bisexuality without facing a barrage of speculation, mocking and outright denial.

There’s a deeper issue here than Cate Blanchett’s relationship history. That’s the real story.

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