On May 1st of this year, Doja Cat released her remixed version of “Say So” ft. Nicki Minaj (which you can listen to here if you haven’t heard it yet.) The remix itself was disappointing to me: I like a remix more when the artist uses an existing piece of their work as grounds for additional experimentation, not for slapping on another artists lyrics before your own unchanged ones. But, that’s okay. Maybe the release was just meant to extend the feel good vibes of flirting with your beau in 1972. Not every remix has to change the game.
What I do think is worth talking about with this song, however, is Nicki’s lyric “use to be bi, now I’m just hetero.” And where to start? I could keep this blog post short(er) by pointing out the obvious: that it seems to be less about Nicki sharing a realization about her sexuality, and more of a reflection of biphoic attitudes that assumes bisexual people are flippant about their sexuality, and can turn heterosexual any time they want. Then the argument ends here and this is where I would link you to people who have spent more time outlining and documenting why this is emblematic of a culture that prizes heterosexuality as the “norm” as a result of such implications.
But we should talk.
Yes, I do see the problem with this lyric. She could have done better about conveying her sentiments about her sexuality, assuming that she was concerned about correctly conveying her realization about her preferences in the first place. Considering the lyric sounds more like a flex to fit her flow and match the beat, I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t have worded it better. Regardless, the lyrics are what they are, and instead of pointing the finger at Nicki for her lack of care in composing her lines, I want to use this as an opportunity to talk more about what it’s like to be unsure of your sexual orientation.
My sexual orientation has done a few laps around the block growing up. My first real experience with another person came when I was around 12 – 13, and it was because I was playing “Truth or Dare” with one of my schoolmates (let’s call her ‘Lizzie.’) Our game escalated from probing questions, to kissing, and then to tasting each other. I remember getting up in between dares and pacing around in her bathroom, my hands shaking with adrenaline. Because I had never done anything like it with another person before, Lizzie was, in a way, a gateway for me to peer on the other side and understand the spectrum that exists with sexuality. Of course, we were still two unsupervised teenagers who lacked any real guidance on how to understand what we’d just done, our night of risque’ fun turned into a half-hearted “I don’t wanna do that again with you” conversation the morning after. What’d been done died when the sun rose.
It felt incompatible to continue doing something so raw and pleasurable with somebody that I wasn’t sure I’d even date, considering 13-year-old me shunned the concept of romantic relationships. My fears around intimacy were born from a fear of being vulnerable, and even without a full working knowledge of how romance and sexuality works, I had at least known that what I’d done was just that.
So it goes. I have so many more stories about the confusing merry-go-round ride I was on when trying to figure out what I identified as growing up. There was a point where I mistook asexual for “I don’t want to date,” and so I said that. Then I was in high school and I decided I am theoretically open to all connections, so I must have been pansexual. Then I got to college and realized “you know what, I do have preferences” and so it narrowed down to being bisexual, which is where I hypothetically stand now...except the difference between 21-year-old me and present me is that my preferences kept narrowing down the way a river fine tunes layers of rock into a canyon. Now present me is now left to beg the question: am I just heterosexual?
Wait! Before you say it: yes, I know. Bisexuality is a broad spectrum that captures a broad range of sexual attraction of two or more genders. I’ve done enough talking to other queer friends and Googling to understand that even if my attraction to men is 99%, and my attraction to women is 1%, I can still be bisexual. I don’t say this to cast doubt on those who do identify as such and share similar sentiments because you have the right to do identify the way you do.
What I’m trying to say is that I personally feel like I’m “in-between” an in-between when I have preferences that are stacked so heavily in one direction. Sure, it would be easier to keep it at “I’m bisexual,” except it feels weird to say that when my preference towards women is almost non-existent. Then I get a pang of interest now and again when I see a woman like Rico Nasty exist, and then think my capacity to be interest in women is still there, just quiet. Being me, though, I like to complicate it more — I might have the occasional passing desire for Rico Nasty to spit in my mouth, but that’s not the type of fantasy I end up having when I masturbate. All of my sexual fantasies find their way back to men.
I am also attracted to opposition; while I know masculine-presenting women exist, it is not just an opposite in presentation that I want, but an opposite identity. Gender is a spectrum — I see myself (a femme cis woman) being pretty off on one part of that spectrum, and men who exude their masculinity in confidence on another end of the spectrum. Of course, men come in so many varieties that, for me, they don’t have to be masculine in the traditional sense of being ripped and having a muscle car, just that the energy they give off be diametrically against my own.
“Biromantic heterosexual” is a term I’ve gravitated around because it feels more accurate. That occasional pang I get when I see a girl reminds me that it’s still in there and I wasn’t “wrong,” but I also know that pang ends with “I’d like to take her on a date.” But my problem with that is I hate how many qualifiers I have to put on what sounds like a simple label of “bisexual” since I am not bisexual in the “purest” sense of the word. It also feels weird to claim when I haven’t dated or flirted with a girl since my undergrad years; saying “I’m a biromantic heterosexual” feels like I’m saying “I love to roller blade!” but haven’t been in skates since I was a kid, so do I really tho…? Or do I just hold onto the possibility that I DO still love to roller blade but haven’t taken the initiative to try again and find out?
Well, other terms like “bicurious” or “heteroflexible” exist. But the problem with “bicurious” is that it denotes mere curiosity and a desire to experiment, something I have done years ago and have enough knowledge about to understand NOW that I’m not (currently) attracted to women or other femmes on a sexual level. And the problem with “heteroflexible” — although easier to say while still capturing the idea I want to go for — is that it’s been sullied by the Straights™ who end up sounding like Nicki Minaj by implying “I can change my sexual identity when it’s convenient, why can’t you?”
“Mostly straight” feels like an easier, less clunky version of “biromantic heterosexual” though I feel like that’s also loaded with shades of biphobia at the implication that feeds into this shitty narrative about bisexual people being “confused.” But I believe that if there are others like me who almost exclusively goes for men, then there are people who almost exclusively go for women, possibly asking themselves if they’re “mostly a lesbian” or “mostly queer.” What would be more helpful, I think, is allowing space in the queer community to talk about this, instead of trying to sit here and prove that we’re not “confused” to the nay-sayers because, well…some of us ARE still confused.
For now, I think “unsure” is the simplest way to convey my point. No, I don’t exactly know how I identify sexually at the moment. That’s okay — I don’t have to. Sexuality is complex and not everybody pops out of the womb knowing who they fuck they’re attracted to.
And that’s what I’d like to believe Nicki’s lyric can open a conversation to. Critiques against it are valid, but then you think about the fact that Nicki Minaj is a human being who has desires and interests who is saying this, and you have to wonder — who else is out there saying similar things, not certain about being bisexual when they lean so heavily one way, but are too afraid to say it? I can only wonder.
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