Sexual identity is a complicated thing. Let me just start there.
For instance, a study came out recently that I had trouble wrapping my head around. That’s because it made the claim that a majority of women are either gay or bisexual when it comes to who and what they are attracted to.
The study, done by Doctor Gerulf Rieger of the psychology department at the University of Essex, showed 235 women videos of naked men and women while recording the way their bodies responded to the visuals. Based on the results, 74 percent of the women who said they were straight were very aroused by videos of both men and women. In Rieger’s mind, that meant that for most women, “when it comes to what turns them on, they are either bisexual or gay, but never straight.”
Reiger continued, “This shows us that how women appear in public does not mean that we know anything about their sexual role preferences.”
If you look up sexual identity and read people’s thoughts on it, most tie it to whom you are sexually attracted to. Hence the reason a YouGov study found that 41 percent of young people surveyed in the UK weren’t sure what their sexuality identity really was, saying they fall between homosexual and exclusively heterosexual when it comes to sexual attraction.
So with that being said, what if you fall for someone unexpectedly and they just so happen to be of the same sex? If you never felt attracted to a woman before, nor did you seek to date any other women, can you still be straight? Basically, can you be a straight woman in love with an individual who also happens to be a woman?
That depends on how fluidly you look at sexual identity and orientation.
Glory Johnson says yes. In an interview with Cosmopolitan titled “Glory Johnson Surprised Even Herself When She Fell In Love With a Woman,” the WNBA star said that she had only dated and been in love with men before meeting Brittney Griner. In fact, she had just ended a relationship with a guy she dated in college right before getting to know Griner at a basketball camp in 2013.
After meeting, she said that Griner always found a reason to be around her. And while she didn’t think anything of it initially, things quickly changed. Johnson went to see a Cirque du Soleil show with Griner and friends after going out for drinks. During the show, Griner made a move by putting her arm around Johnson as they sat together during the show, and Johnson said she did nothing about it.
“I wasn’t thinking about her being a female. She was just somebody who was showing me a really, really good time.”
And then things between them got complicated when Griner walked Johnson back to her room–and didn’t leave:
“It was really awkward because what do you do when you’ve never been in this situation with a female before?” Johnson says. Griner, deep-voiced with dreadlocks and size-17 feet to anchor her lofty frame, put Johnson at ease with her swagger. “We finally laid down and were about to go to sleep. Of course, there was a little bit more that happened,” Johnson says. “As I was getting more and more comfortable, more and more was happening.”
The next morning, the women looked at each other and smiled. “It was literally a moment like, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” Johnson says. The two went their separate ways but met up again later after a game in Tulsa. They went home together — then missed a flight with their teams the next morning. Their names were blasted on the airport intercom, and their secret was out. By the summer of 2014, Johnson says, they were a couple.
When they decided to be an open couple, Johnson said she wasn’t down for the hardcore labels and still isn’t, despite the fact that just a year earlier, Griner acknowledged that she was gay. Johnson told Cosmo that she considered herself straight then and still does. I guess that’s because she never looked at Griner as a lesbian, but simply a person she had a deep connection with.
“Not a lot of people understand it. They wanted me to be a lesbian who converted from being straight,” she says. “It just doesn’t work for me like that.” She remains straight, she says. She simply fell for an individual. “I’ve had men that needed to step up more as a man than Brittney,” she says. “I was set.”
I found all of this fascinating. Especially since I know people would lose their minds if a man said something like this.
After reading the Cosmo piece, my first thought was, maybe by not identifying as bisexual or lesbian, that could have been a reason Johnson and Griner’s relationship eventually fell apart. That and the lack of communication, anger issues and slap boxing in the house.
Seriously, though. Griner has been very open and honest about her sexuality and being picked on for it growing up. It’s something she is proud of as an adult. As she told Sports Illustrated, “If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”
So it makes you wonder if being with someone who still considered themselves straight, as though their relationship was something of a one-time only fluke, could have caused tension. And a lot of confusion at that. Because it is interesting to want to marry and have children with a woman while still looking them dead in the face and saying you’re not gay or lesbian when they believe in such labels.
But a part of me doesn’t find Johnson’s declaration that she was and still is straight that absurd to consider or some strong form of denial.It all goes back to how one looks at sexual identity. Maybe she loved Griner for the person she was, how she treated her at one point, and the for the bond they had–but still was sexually attracted and drawn to men. Only she knows.
Still, knowing individuals in the LGBTQ community, I don’t think sexual identity is as simple and polarizing as, it’s either this way or that. One way or the other. Gay or straight. For some of us it is, but for others, not so much. That’s why I started by saying it’s complicated.
So if Johnson still considers herself straight, who am I, or anyone else (as people not in a relationship with her), to say otherwise?