Julianne Hough Is "Not Straight": When Mixed Orientation Marriage Is Healthy

Even in today's inclusive LGBTQ+ culture, we seldom speak about marriages between people of different orientations.

This week we learned that Julianne Hough is in incredible shape, that despite being married to a man she's "not straight," and that it's not even that odd for some spouses to have different sexual orientations—or did we?

Even in today's inclusive LGBTQ+ culture, we seldom speak about marriages between people of different orientations. In a recent interview for Women's Health magazine, Julianne Hough recounted telling her husband, Brooks Laiche, "'You know I'm not straight, right?' And he was like, 'I'm sorry what?" I was like, 'I'm not. But I choose to be with you.'" Hough continued, "I think there's a safety with my husband now that I'm unpacking all of this, and there's no fear of voicing [a] thing that I've been afraid to admit or that I've had shame or guilt about because of what I've been told or how I was raised." On Friday, her husband took to Instagram to praise his wife for coming out to him, posting, "So proud of my wife @juleshough for the woman she is, and her courage to share her journey of trials and triumphs!"

USA Today

As a society, we're burdened with the memory of peer pressured "beard" marriages between a gay individual and a straight spouse due to their shame, denial, or to hide their sexuality for their own safety. But there exist other instances in which two spouses may share different orientations and still be happily married.

Fluid sexuality doesn't just suggest that people can be attracted to multiple genders. Researchers are finding that sexual orientation itself is a dynamic element of people's personalities. Psychology professor Lisa M. Diamond dedicated 10 years of research to her book Sexual Fluidity, which detailed a significant number of gay-identifying women falling in love with a member of the opposite sex later in life. Diamond writes, "Although most of the women I interviewed felt that their sexual attractions paralleled their emotional attachments, this was not always the case. In fact, women reported that on average, the percentage of physical same-sex attractions they experienced differed from their emotional same-sex attractions by about 15 percentage points in either direction (in other words, some women were more emotionally than physically drawn to women, whereas others were more physically than emotionally drawn)."

One reason for the fluctuation is due to the differences between physical, romantic, and sexual attraction. Although it's common to experience all three at the same time, it's not unusual to experience only lust, love without sexual chemistry, or platonic physical attraction that doesn't include sexual contact. As a result, the ever-exhausting alphabet soup of labels can fatigue us and make us feel confined to boxes. As Diamond writes, "Like women with nonexclusive attractions, women with significant gaps between their emotional and physical feelings often faced challenges in selecting a comfortable identity label. They had to decide whether their sexual identity was better categorized by patterns of 'love' or patterns of 'lust,' and they had to forecast what sort of relationships they might desire in the future. Many of these women found it difficult to make these determinations."

The same dilemma confronts men, too, both gay and straight. As Anna David writes in GQ's inflammatory article titled, "What If You Only Thought You Were Gay": "Although there aren't statistics to show how many men go through a similar sexual shift, anecdotal evidence suggests that some men who consider themselves to be gay experience this kind of change not because of sexual experimentation or peer pressure but because they decide that they want to sleep with women instead of men."

Ultimately, growing evidence (both anecdotal and research-based) only solidifies the notion that orientation is not, in fact, a basis of identity. While it may help foster community, resources, and support, orientation is little more than a behavioral pattern that outlines the many different ways an individual might love another human being. After her 10 years of research, Diamond concludes, "Perhaps instead of arguing that gay/lesbian/bisexual individuals deserve civil rights because they are powerless to change their behavior, we should affirm the fundamental rights of all people to determine their own emotional and sexual lives."


Kodi Lee Is Amazing—The Media's Coverage of Him Is Not

Kodi Lee's appearance on AGT is wonderful, but his talent is not indicative of every autistic person's experience.

Kodi Lee on America's Got Talent

Singer/musician Kodi Lee is America's Got Talent's latest breakout star—and the media's latest subject of terrible autism-related news coverage.

Golden Buzzer: Kodi Lee Wows You With A Historical Music Moment! - America's Got Talent 2019

Make no mistake, Kodi Lee is an incredibly talented musician and performer who deserves every ounce of fame and fortune he'll inevitably receive. He also "happen[s] to be blind and autistic too," as he mentions in his Twitter bio. We've written about Hollywood's autism fetishization trend before, so it's important to emphasize the fact that, overall, it's wonderful Kodi is being featured so prominently this season on AGT––the problem lies entirely with the surrounding press coverage.

America's Got Talent has never been a show that shies away from exploiting people's individual hardships and personal tragedies for ratings, so it's no surprise they would go that route for a talented musician with autism. That being said, aside from the audience's collective "AWWW" at the first mention of Kodi's autism, AGT actually handled the topic pretty well, at least within the framework of their baseline exploitative model. Giving Kodi the Golden Buzzer felt deserved, given his excellent performance, and the hosts seemed to treat him with respect when they congratulated him afterwards.

The same can't be said for Newsweek's coverage of the contestant: "WHO IS KODI LEE? 'AGT' CONTESTANT OVERCOMES ALL ODDS, RECEIVES FIRST GOLDEN BUZZER OF THE SEASON." Kodi Lee is a self-described "musical prodigious savant," one of roughly 25 people in the world with a combination of perfect pitch, audio photographic memory, and a hyper-focused attunement for musical expression. This means that he has a natural inclination towards musical talent that's significantly greater than the average population. Newsweek's booming assessment that Kodi has "overcome all odds" to receive the Golden Buzzer is, quite frankly, inane. As mentioned on his official website, Kodi has been performing music for years. Music is not only his passion but something he is uniquely equipped to excel at. If anything, the odds he'd be great were strongly in his favor.

That's not to say Kodi hasn't overcome struggles related to autism––he surely has. But it's important to separate the inevitable struggles Kodi has faced due to autism from his musical talent. Kodi is a wonderful musician and a musical savant, who also happens to be blind and have autism. Conflating these elements only serves to "other" the majority of people with autism, most of whom are not savants and don't necessarily have the type of incredible talents that Hollywood loves to fetishize. This is the main problem with NBC affiliate News 3 Las Vegas's take: "AGT's singing sensation Kodi Lee inspires families living with autism."

The news segment included an interview with Dr. Erin Honke, a clinical neuropsychologist who works with children on the autism spectrum who said, "There's always hope as far as hidden strengths." This is likely true, but the doctor's point was that people with autism can often excel in certain areas, especially when those areas relate to their specific interests. She goes on to talk about how parents focusing on their child's interests can help with development, which is also true. The host, Renee Santos, takes this to mean something entirely different. "All children on the spectrum have strengths just like Kodi's," she says. No, Renee. No, that is not true. Kodi is a savant. Most children with autism are not savants––less than 10% of children with autism display any signs of savant syndrome at all, and 50% of savants don't even have autism. This is a dangerous myth to propagate because, at best, it misinforms the general population about autism. At worst, it completely erases the vast majority of autistic experiences.

Ultimately, Kodi Lee's appearance on AGT is wonderful. He's a skilled, hardworking musician whose appearance on the show displays how diverse people with autism can be. But it's important for the media and viewers to realize that Kodi isn't indicative of every autistic person's experience. He's simply one voice among many—albeit a very nice one to listen to.