I most recently noticed the impact that the openness of artists like Nicki Minaj to sexual ambiguity is having when I returned to my neighborhood in the Bronx after a two year stint living in Costa Rica. In that brief period away I realized much had changed: men in the hood were wearing tight jeans, 80s style had come back in full effect, and there was a growing visibility of what I dubbed “neo-soul Black hipsters.” I also noticed an abundance of pretty teenage girls on the 4, 6, and D trains to the Bronx with their equally handsome boyfriends who on second glance, and sometimes fourth and fifth, I realized were actually two beautiful girls unabashedly holding hands, in the midst of quiet embraces, or giving voyeuristic displays passionate kissing.
A friend recently asked me: “Remember back in the day when there were no gay youth?” And I had to agree that I shared that memory. Of course it wasn’t that there were no gay youth, rather it was that they weren’t as visible, especially in our predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods. It was clear to me that a shift had occurred while I was away. Gay openness was becoming not only a thing of adult men and women in the West Village but also of urban Black and Latina youth in inner-city New York.
All in the same moment of my return, Nicki Minaj hit the scene hard. It may seem a little late to bring up Nicki Minaj and sexuality; however, I am not concerned with questions of Minaj’s own sexuality rather the way in which she reflects the openness towards diverse sexual orientations, ambiguity, gender play, and androgyny that I see around me, and growing, on inner New York City streets.
Aside from her professional character, I am also impressed with the treatment of Kalinda as a personal and sexual character. Kalinda’s sex life is exhibited as much as the other characters and, while the manner of it tip-toes around exoticism at times, it is impressive considering the frequent shaming of brown women’s sexuality on TV. The show speaks to me by creating a South Asian character in the media that does not feel the responsibility to prove her sexuality and womanhood to people. While Kalinda confidently told one interested woman that she “follows through” when she flirts, she pulled away from another as soon as she found out she is married.
I’m still struggling with this unnecessary need to validate my sexuality, since queer desis’ existence has so often been denied and mistreated. Healthy and realistic media representation, like in The Good Wife, can certainly help queer women like me. I now have a character on TV who is reminding me, each episode, to just be. These types of reminders help us come into our smoother, more natural identities. They also remind others that there is more than just tragic queer desis living double lives, and triumphant queer desis marching in Mumbai Pride.