During Whitney Houston’s lifetime, rumours of her homosexuality surfaced sporadically. Since her death, many are questioning why it really matters whether she was gay or straight. Peter Tatchell explains why.
I met Whitney and her female partner at the Reach Out And Touch HIV vigil in London in 1991. Whitney spoke movingly in support of people with HIV at a time when many other stars kept their distance. Her support was much valued. She advocated the welfare and human rights of people with HIV. It was a commendable stand.I previously declined to name Whitney’s female partner. But most of the media have since named her as Robyn Crawford. When I met them, it was obvious they were madly in love. Their intimacy and affection was so sweet and romantic. They held hands in the back of the car, like teenage sweethearts. Clearly more than just friends, they were a gorgeous couple and so happy together. To see their love was infectious and uplifting.
Whitney was happiest and at the peak of her career when she was with Robyn. Sadly, she suffered family and church pressure to end her greatest love of all. She was fearful of the effects that lesbian rumours might have on her family, reputation and career. Eventually she succumbed. The result? A surprise marriage to Bobby Brown.
The marriage was a disaster. Bad boy Bobby was never her true soulmate. Giving up Robyn – they’d been inseparable for years – must have been emotionally traumatic. Whitney’s life started going downhill soon afterwards. Previously wholesome and clean living, she went on drink and drug binges – evidence of a troubled personal life and much unhappiness. It seems likely that the split with Robyn contributed to her substance abuse and decline. There is a known correlation between denial of one’s sexuality and a propensity to self-destructive behaviour. Homophobia undoubtedly added to the pressures on Whitney and hastened her demise.
It’s important to tell the truth. I didn’t like the way most of media ignored her love for Robyn. That’s why I spoke out; to honour the biggest love of Whitney’s life.
I did not out her as lesbian or bisexual. She semi-outed herself by dedicating her albums to Robyn. Years ago, she was outed by Bobby’s sister, Tina, and by her former bodyguard, Kevin Ammons.
Bobby Brown hinted in his autobiography that she married him to dispel lesbian rumours. “I believe her agenda was to clean up her image … the media was accusing her of having a bisexual relationship with her assistant, Robin [sic] Crawford … that didn’t go too well with her image. In Whitney’s situation, the only solution was to get married … [to] kill all speculation.”
Soon after her very sad death, I was quoted as saying that Whitney was happiest when she loved a woman. Some fans accused me of “insulting” and “smearing” her. But there is nothing shameful about a woman loving a woman. It’s not dirty or sordid and shouldn’t be kept hidden. Telling the truth does not besmirch Whitney’s memory. It honours the most important relationship she ever had. What’s wrong is ignoring or denying the one love that made her truly happy. Homophobia contributed to Whitney’s fall.
I want to see a more tolerant society where people don’t feel the need to marry to deflect rumours of homosexuality, and where they are not driven to self-destruction because of their inability to accept and express their love for a person of the same-sex. Achieving this goal would be a fitting tribute to Whitney Houston.
To find out more about the Peter Tatchell Foundation and support its work visit petertatchellfoundation.org.