*A version of this article was published on author’s blog. This version was later published on AfterEllen.
As a child, Ruby Rose dreamed that someday she’d see someone like herself on TV. What she could never have imagined, is the unfortunate reality… That someone like her, should she ever achieve that dream, would have an angry mob ready to tear her to shreds and feed her to the wolves.
According to Deadline, just before deleting her account on Twitter, Ruby Rose wrote, “Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be batwoman’ come from—has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change…”
Ruby Rose has such an interesting history, that so many people aren’t aware of.
If they were aware – if they saw how much bullying she had to overcome – maybe they’d reconsider taking her joyful moment, slamming it to the ground, and dragging her through the mud.
Ruby Rose, who came out as a lesbian at age 12, identifies as ‘gender’ fluid. Lesbians have a very long history of giving the big FU to ‘gender’ stereotypes. Generally speaking, lesbians are pretty well known for rejecting compulsory ‘gender’ stereotypes -roles, rules and expectations; boxes which are assigned to people, from the moment they’re born, on the basis of their sex. We say, ‘Nope. No thanks!’ And why wouldn’t we?
The idea that girlhood and womanhood are somehow defined by ‘femininity,’ is extremely sexist… and boring… and lame. Being a lesbian, in and of itself, is a form of ‘non-conformity,’ so we are absolute pioneers when it comes to railing against the ‘norms.’
After seeing a daytime documentary, when she was just 5 years old, Rose started saving money for ‘gender reassignment’ surgery. Baby dykes, who (surprise surprise) don’t always enjoy being crammed into the ruffle-covered pink box, often grow up thinking that we should’ve been boys. After all, boys get to do all the cool stuff, wear the cool clothes. And we’re brainwashed by everything around us to believe in pink and blue boxes. Everything from magazines to billboards, TV, movies, literature. The list goes on and on. Processing all of this as a baby dyke is quite confusing, considering societal expectations and having a sexuality that’s not something often seen or taught as the ‘norm.’
And we’re trying to process it all way before we’ve come even close to reaching full cognitive brain development (which happens in your mid twenties) all while submerged in a world that relentlessly pushes ‘norms’ and heterosexuality.
“Everyone had Barbies; I had ninja turtles and Superman… I was crazy about Archie comics. I played footie [soccer] with the boys,” Rose has said. “All I wanted was a boy’s name growing up — Charlie, Billie, Max, Frankie. You just know my mum wanted a girly girl princess!”
I can definitely relate, especially on the name thing. As a kid, my friends called me Jay. In High School, I was nicknamed Little Joe. Nowadays, I go by Romeo and JD, and Siri calls me ‘Big Daddy.’ Compulsory ‘femininity’ can certainly have that ‘eww’ effect on a girl. And it can follow you into womanhood. A name sort of represents all of that, by no fault of its own. The name becomes merely guilty by association.
Ruby Rose told People magazine, “I had this jar that I would collect dollars- in fact, we were so poor, it would have been cents. So I probably had 19 cents to go towards this surgery that I didn’t really know a lot about. I think I had seen like a daytime documentary, probably something on Oprah and I was like, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ And so I started saving from probably the age of 5.”
In a world that’s completely obsessed with ‘gendering’ clothes, haircuts, colors, toys, games, hobbies, activities, jobs (and on and on), it’s pretty easy for baby dykes, who like the ‘wrong stuff,’ to conclude that they were born in the ‘wrong’ box. Then they grow up and realize the box, “femininity,” has nothing to do with sex. The box is man-made.
And it was made a long long time ago. When we finally realize this, we get mad. Maybe get a tattoo, maybe burn a bra. Because our brains, having reached full cognitive development, finally realize—hellooooo—any toddler or child who wants to rock a mohawk, climb a tree and wear a plaid button-down shirt, is totally swaggerific. And these choices are not indicators of sex or sexuality.
After Ruby Rose came out as a lesbian at age 12, she was bullied by her peers.
As she moved into her teenage years, and broke out of the box, the bullying progressed. “When I got to 15, was when I kind of decided to get more into my body, and I shaved my head, and my mom was just like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on right now, but if you are happy, then do it,’”Rose said. “And I decided to change the way that I dressed and talked and realized that I didn’t want to transition, I just wanted to be more comfortable in my own skin.”
But girls her age found her threatening. Rose said, girls would say things like, “‘First you want our boyfriends, and now you want us’ — that kind of thing. I couldn’t win.”
And Ruby Rose is right. It often feels like you can’t win. Some of us never realize that pink and blue boxes are nothing more than the grand design of the men that built them. Some of us never find our way out of internalized homophobia.
As stand-up Hannah Gadsby recently said—“When you soak a child in shame, they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thoughts of self-worth. Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from the outside in. But when you do that to a child, the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes as natural as gravity.”
It’s why people, like Ellen, stay in the closet for so long. Hollywood likes to give the illusion of open-mindedness, but the bottom line is that there’s still only ever been ONE butch lesbian actress cast in a main role (not to be confused with a lead role) on a mainstream TV show.
They have a major hand in perpetuating the butch cliché, the punchline. And the fact that in 2018 there’s still only ever been one butch lesbian actress to gain access (still as the punchline), says a whole lot. There have been no petitions started on our behalf… So I’ll keep repeating this fact until something gets done.
People like Ruby Rose often feel, justifiably, like they “can’t win” well past the age of 15. Rose got a major role, at 32, and people still didn’t let her feel that win. In an industry that’s created an environment where thriving as a lesbian is pretty dependent on preserving the illusion of sexual flexibility, people still came down on Ruby Rose for not being “lesbian enough” (among other things).
With rare exceptions (such as non-acting roles like Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow), when a lesbian ‘comes out’ in the industry, the opportunities become scarce. And in 2018, mainstream media will gladly cast anyone in a main role, with dignity and style, whether L, G, B, or T, but only if they’re willing to play by the rules of ‘gender.’
Ruby Rose is not a butch lesbian actress, but in 2018, even a mildly androgynous (sometimes) actress is a leap. Something to celebrate in terms of respectful ‘visibility’ for the most invisible.
So why were people so cruel when Ruby Rose was cast as The CW’s Batwoman?
I have a few guesses.
First, while it’s super-duper not on-trend to bash an actor who falls under the rainbow, it’s open season, as usual, when it comes to bashing a lesbian.
Second, of course, she’s a woman.
And women get judged way more harshly than men. Just look at how Scarlett Johansson was bullied out of playing the role of Dante Gill, a character based on a real-life, self-described lesbian, whose own obituary described her as an “unabashed lesbian.” Anything having to do with lesbians, especially butch lesbians, stirs up massive amounts of controversy.
Third, the internet is a raging cesspool that amplifies an angry virtual mob.
As for people complaining that she’s not lesbian enough, she came out as a lesbian when she was 12. So, I’m pretty sure she got her toaster oven and certification in the mail, but I still need to verify the deets.
As to the backlash surrounding her portraying a Jewish character, when she isn’t actually Jewish: I understand the sensitivity around religion. I’m part Jewish (on a Jewish technicality, I’m all Jewish) and I’m Arab-American, raised as an occasional church-goer. So I’ve had a front-row seat to sensitivity where religion is concerned. That said, there’s a line between acting a role and being the role. A gay man can play straight, an American can put on a British accent. It is, after all, called acting for a reason.
Then there are people complaining she’s not a good actress. Maybe they should wait and see what she does with the role before insisting she won’t do well.
Maybe if they understood her life better, they’d be cheering her on instead of tearing her down.
The role of a Superhero is the precisely the type of role that can be nailed with several different styles of acting—from kitschy and theatrical, to seductive and mysterious.
Just last week, Ruby Rose was so over-the-moon that she wrote on Instagram—“The Bat is out of the bag and I am beyond thrilled and honored… I’m also an emotional wreck.. because this is a childhood dream. This is something I would have died to have seen on TV…”
It would’ve made all the difference for me too. As a child, it’s beyond confusing to only see yourself portrayed as a punchline, if portrayed at all.
Rose went on to say that she “never felt represented on tv and felt alone and different.” Preach. And in those words, she was so hopeful, so proud.
This week, in heavy contrast, in addition to being bullied off of Twitter, Rose turned off her Instagram comments.
But right before she did, she wrote, “When women and when minorities join forces we are unstoppable… when we tear each other down it’s much more hurtful than from any group. But hey/ love a challenge I just wish women and the LGBT community supported each other more, My wish was we were all a little kinder and more supportive of each other…”
Rose ended that statement on a positive note: “Sending everyone my love and gratitude, it’s been a rollercoaster of a year, this month especially.”
Even though she was bullied off of twitter and had to turn off her Instagram comments, she tried to find a little humor. Before she went on lock-down, she wrote,“I am looking forward to getting more than 4 hours of sleep and to break from Twitter to focus all my energy on my next 2 projects. If you need me, I’ll be on my Bat Phone.”
But to the dismay of women all over the world, she forgot to include the number (wink).
جوليا ديانا —JD Robertson, is an award-winning author, and a contributor for Huffington Post and AfterEllen—A first generation Arab-American, who grew up between worlds, and currently resides somewhere in the middle with a bird’s eye view. You can find her at www.juliadianarobertson.com
My wife and me… lesbian-ing all day, every day. ©PSPhotography