Jameela Jamil responded to online backlash by coming out as queer, and her fear of doing so is heartbreaking
Jameela Jamil has never exactly hidden her sexuality, per se. She’s had a rainbow emoji after her name on her social media profiles for years, and when asked by fans directly, she’s never denied that she’s not straight. But now, after facing backlash for her involvement in a new HBO Max series about voguing, she’s come out officially and publicly.
In a note posted to Twitter, Jamil made the announcement, and also explained why she’s taken her time getting to this point.
“I kept it low because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon jumping, over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear, and turmoil when I was a kid,” Jamil wrote. “I didn’t come from a family with *anyone* openly out. It’s also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties.”
Jamil’s statement came after she was criticized for her role as a judge (and possibly the MC) in the new HBO series Legendary, which is a ballroom competition reality show. Ballroom is a part of LGBT subculture, and was predominantly a scene populated by black and Latinx members of the community. When Jamil was announced as part of the show, people pretty swiftly questioned whether she was qualified to take part, as she was not openly LGBT, she’s of south Asian descent, and, most importantly, she has no ties whatsoever to the ballroom community.
“I know that my being queer doesn’t qualify me as ballroom,” Jamil continued in her statement, adding that she was chosen in large part because of her fame and privilege. “Sometimes it takes those with more power to help a show get off the ground so we can elevate the marginalized stars that deserve the limelight and give them a chance.”
Alongside her statement, Jamil announced that she would be stepping back from Twitter as a platform, because its “brutal” nature is part of why she hasn’t come out before this. We hope she’s at least checking in to see the outpouring of support from her fans and parts of the LGBTQ+ community.
.@jameelajamil, you are not alone. For many Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, coming out is a lifelong process. Welcome to the family!
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 5, 2020
As an ICON who started in BALLROOM who has made a career that has flourished based on BALLROOM. The scene has tried to tear me down for simply being GREAT!@jameelajamil THANK YOU FOR STANDING WITH US! Can’t wait to make to make the world gag!
— Leiomy Maldonado (@leiomy) February 5, 2020
Being South Asian + LGBTQ+ is isolating as fuck. You risk everything you’ve ever known; you risk forfeiting your community, culture and family. So I don’t want to hear the think pieces of White gays on the legitimacy of Jameela Jamil’s coming out.
— kaomi (@kaomi_k) February 6, 2020
D’you think perhaps the gay community could stop giving queer people of colour a hard time? @jameelajamil is amazing and who she’s married to does not define her – to deny she can be queer because she has a husband is erasing bisexuality; she’s told you she’s queer, that’s that. https://t.co/WsHQ0gkYZs
— Tom Dolphin (@thomasdolphin) February 6, 2020
Unfortunately, there are also plenty of tweets questioning the validity of Jamil’s queerness because she’s dating a man. It’s always valid to question whether people of privilege belong in roles that represent a subculture that isn’t their own. But the biphobia we’re seeing play out in response to this is heartbreaking, and something no one should have to go through.