2017 is a year of open, but not new, revelations about Whitney Houston. Five years ago, on Feb. 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in the bathtub of her Beverly Hilton Hotel room on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Allegations at the time surfaced that pop superstar Whitney Houston was murdered. These allegations flew counter to the Coroner’s Office report that there was no sign of foul play or trauma.
The official cause of death, months later, according to the toxicology results revealed the Newark, NJ born superstar had drowned in California due to drug intoxication.
While a murder investigation was ramped up in 2012 to ascertain who killed Houston, so, too, should’ve been a probe querying what killed her. While family, friends, and fans blame Whitney’s colossal downfall on drugs, and Boston’s bad boy Bobby Brown, both functioned to mask her sexuality.
Now, five years since her death, curiosity about the legendary superstar Whitney Houston’s sexuality has resurfaced again with the recent Sunday New York Times article “Whitney Houston’s Secret,” Bobby Brown’s second memoir “Every Little Step,” and the much talked about documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
“I don’t think she was gay, I think she was bisexual,” stylist Ellin Lavar says in the documentary.
In his memoir, Brown writes that Houston’s lesbianism was “an open secret.” They couldn’t let Whitney live the life she wanted to live; they insisted that she be perfect, that she be someone she wasn’t,” Mr. Brown writes. “That’s why they wanted Robyn out.”
Also, drugs and Boston’s bad boy Bobby Brown helped Houston develop an approving black identity. What is now an adoring and all-embracing black fan base of Houston was not always the case. In 1989, Houston was booed at the Soul Train Awards for supposedly “not being black enough.” It was at that same show that she met Bobby Brown.
“I have a theory about Whitney Houston,” said singer-actress Della Reese, a longtime Houston family friend. “I’ve been called ‘Uncle Tom,’ and I know how that feels. I think Whitney was so hurt by being called a ‘sellout’ and ‘acting white’ — and crap like that — she wanted to change her image. What better way to do that than to marry a bad boy? And the drug abuse makes her a flawed person fighting to overcome her demons. Makes her relatable.”
Long before Houston’s former chauffeur, Al Bowman, told the tabloid television news show Entertainment Tonight he witnessed Whitney and Bobby high on crack cocaine and in a threesome with an A-list soul singer in the back of his limo, rumors that Houston was a lesbian had been circulating for more than 30 years. Houston’s personal assistant, as well as best friend Robyn Crawford, was rumored to have been Houston’s lesbian lover. For a while, the two women lived together.
“I met her when she was 16. It was at a summer job. …She had peachy colored skin and she didn’t look like anyone I’d ever met in East Orange, New Jersey,” Crawford in reminiscing about Houston told reporter Tom Junod in the February 2012 online issue of Esquire Magazine. “And we went around the world. I was her assistant and then her executive assistant, and then her creative director. …I have never spoken about her until now. She was a loyal friend, and she knew I was never going to be disloyal to her. Now, I can’t believe that I’m never going to hug her or hear her laughter again.”
Houston exhibiting gender non-conforming behavior was no secret to those closest to her. The Daily Mail reported that Houston’s sister-in-law, Tina Brown, and her ex-bodyguard, Kevin Ammons, both believed Houston might have been a lesbian because she “had wild sex sessions with women while out of her mind on crack cocaine.” But, it was her ex-spouse, Brown, who over time came to believe Whitney married him with an ulterior motive.
“I believe her agenda was to clean up her image, while mine was to be loved and have children. The media was accusing her of having a bisexual relationship with her assistant, Robin [sic] Crawford. Since she was the American Sweetheart and all, that didn’t go too well with her image. …In Whitney’s situation, the only solution was to get married and have kids. That would kill all speculation, whether it was true or not,” Brown penned in his 2007 tell-all book Bobby Brown: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But…
The freest that Houston may have been expressing her sexuality without being drugged out of her mind, might have been in 1999 at the 13th Annual New York City Lesbian and Gay Pride Dance. Houston that year flew in for a special surprise guest appearance where she performed her then two most recent hits, “It’s Not right, But It’s Okay,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Houston’s mother, Cissy, a devout Christian, never accepted her daughter’s homoerotic feelings for Robyn Crawford. In her 2103 memoir Remembering Whitney Cissy wrote unabashedly of her disdain for Crawford. Oprah that same year in an interview with Cissy asked: “Would it have bothered you if your daughter was gay?”
“Absolutely,” Cissy snapped back.
“You wouldn’t have condoned it?” continued an incredulous Oprah. “Not at all,” said Cissy.
The homophobic constraints of career and family expectations no doubt contribute to the stressors in Whitney’s “down low” life, but so, too, the church, even at her “home-going,” (funeral) service.
With homophobes as family friends like Pastor Donnie McClurkin, the poster boy for African American “ex-gay” ministries, and gospel singers Angie and Debbie Winans, who released a single in 1998 titled “Not Natural,” in which they self-righteously denounced LGBT people, to name a few, singing Whitney farewell only a “down low” existence was possible for her.
“I really feel that if Robyn was accepted into Whitney’s life, Whitney would still be alive today,” Brown told Us Weekly magazine.
I, do, too!
We may never know all the demons that took this international renown pop star diva down a torturous and troubling road of self-destruction, but one demon not mentioned is homophobia.
Rev. Irene Monroe can be reached via her website irenemonroe.com