“People kept saying that I [came out]...I didn’t do that,” actress-activist Rosario Dawson recently told Bustle magazine, referencing a 2018 Pride Month post on Instagram in which she seemed to identify and align herself with the LGBTQ+ community—her “fellow LGBTQ+ homies,” to be exact. In the video accompanying the post, out-and-proud rapper Chika waxes poetic about self-acceptance in the face of discrimination.
While Dawson may not have intended the post—which predated her relationship with then-presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—to be an official coming-out statement, she now says, “I mean, it’s not inaccurate, but I never did come out-come out. I mean, I guess I am now...I’ve never had a relationship in that space, so it’s never felt like an authentic calling to me.”
Why are nuances like this relevant? Because though Dawson may have felt it inauthentic to identify under the broader spectrum of queerness without having been in a relationship that represents that aspect of her attraction (and is well within her rights to feel that way), it’s worth acknowledging that one can identify as LGBTQ+ (because it’s a spectrum, y’all) without any discussion of sexual activity or “relationship” coming into the conversation. This is a fact that evolved into a somewhat problematic debate last week as the public discussed the recent choice of Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union’s 12-year-old child, formerly known as Zion, to henceforth identify as Zaya and use female pronouns.
But Dawson’s revelation is also relevant because of the fact that she’s one-half of a very public relationship; one in which both partners’ sexuality has been heavily speculated about. And though Dawson was presumably speaking with Bustle about her new drama series, Briarpatch, Booker factored heavily into the resulting article (which even notes he’s out getting lunch for her team during the interview). Of particular note, Dawson’s leading role in Briarpatch happens to be a woman in an “illicit” relationship with a senator.
“We did the pilot in September 2018 and I started dating Cory in October 2018, so at first, there wasn’t anything at all!” Dawson says of parallel lives she’s living on- and offscreen, save the illicit part. “It was after [we started dating] that I was like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna maybe be weird,” she continues, recalling how she explained the show to Booker’s chief of staff: “And yeah, he does have aspirations for the presidency and he also speaks Spanish. But besides all of that, there are no similarities!’”
But given the attention (and speculation) already paid to the Hollywood-meets-Capitol Hill couple, can you really blame Dawson for not revealing the most intimate details of her private life? (Or Booker being tired of talking about it, period?)
“It’s the first time I felt like I had to be responsible about my choice of love, which is a challenging thing to do,” Dawson says of the choice to become involved with Booker, particularly as a mother (she has a 17-year-old daughter, Isabella, whom she adopted in 2014). “If you fall in love, you fall in love. But there’s another aspect I had to consider: what this meant in [putting] a microscope on my family and particularly on my daughter,” she added.
The takeaway, you ask? Love is love, queerness is self-defined, and neither is really any of our damned business.
But in case you were wondering, all of Dawson’s clothing for the Briarpatch press tour was from sustainable, vegan lines, a lesson learned from her low-income childhood, where “you wore hand-me-downs and fixed things when broken, not immediately tossing them out.”
So, run tell dat, I guess.