U.S. R&B artist Ginuwine sparked debate on social media after he declined a kiss from transgender co-star India Willoughby during the latest season of the reality television show “Celebrity Big Brother UK.” Several observers accused the singer of exhibiting transphobia because he said that he would not date a transgender woman, while his defenders asserted that Willoughby put him in an unfair position and disrespected his dating preferences (video below).
On Jan. 2, the British reality series kicked off its 21st season, which features Ginuwine and Willoughby among its cast of celebrities living under the same roof. Ginuwine, born Elgin Baylor Lumpkin, rose to fame in 1996 following his hit song “Pony,” Radio Times reported.
Willoughby is a journalist and presenter for BBC News. The 51-year-old broadcaster is the first transgender woman in history to host a network talk show, according to The Sun.
During an early episode, Ginuwine and Willoughby engaged in a conversation about dating transgender women while sitting closely together on a couch.
“You would date me, yeah?” Willoughby asked the R&B singer.
“Not if you were trans,” Ginuwine responded, adding that he would not date any transgender woman.
When Willoughby asked if Ginuwine would date her with only the knowledge that she was a woman, the singer cryptically said he would date a woman.
Willoughby hugged Ginuwine and appeared to attempt to playfully kiss him before he wrestled away from her grasp, his face a mixture of amusement and embarrassment. Following the episode, several social media users accused Ginuwine of being bigoted towards transgender women, according to BET.
“The s**t between India and Ginuwine IS transphobia & im tired of them saying that it isn’t,” tweeted out one viewer. “If you say you won’t date someone because they’re trans but you would date them if you don’t know, IT IS TRANSPHOBIA.”
“Ginuwine discriminates against trans women, as do most cis men,” tweeted another observer. “That was India’s point.”
A social media user questioned whether Ginuwine knew “how much he’s insulted ALL trans women by saying he’d never date a trans woman. Also presumptuous and arrogant of him to assume we’d all be lining up to go out with him.”
These tweets received far more responses than likes, but mirrored a growing conversation within the LGBTQ community about how transgender women are viewed by men.
On Jan. 4, a media producer and transgender woman named Serena asserted during an interview that there was a cultural stigma that compelled men not to view transgender women as romantic prospects.
“If the idea is that a guy dating a trans woman makes him gay, then what you’re basically saying is that a trans woman is not a woman, she’s like a boy playing dress up,” Serena told Mic.
The producer added that she had previously been pursued by men who would become hostile after they learned that she had transitioned, noting that their reaction was “to get angry or to get violent, or to be like, ‘Why did you trick me?'”
Meanwhile, several social media users defended Ginuwine against the accusations of transphobia, with some asserting that Willoughby was sexually harassing him when she attempted to kiss him, Hip Hop Wired reports.
“RE: the whole trans convo on CBB, I [sympathize] with India’s point about how hard it is dating as a trans person & the stigma attached,” a Twitter user wrote. “But I feel like Ginuwine was unfairly put on the spot and almost *assumed* to be transphobic as a black man.”
“Multiple Hollywood elites were called out for forcing themselves on peoples in a sexual manner,” tweeted another Ginuwine defender. “It interesting now that the same peoples dragging Harvey Weinstein are now made at ginuwine for not kissing somebody he did not feel comfortable kissing.”
Another viewer asserted: “Ginuwine saying he wouldn’t date a trans woman is a preference not discrimination… plus he barely knows the woman, if you out here kissing random people then you got a problem.”