The so-called ‘bombshell’ news that Spice Girls Geri Horner and Mel B once slept together, a folkloric celebrity rumour dating back 20 or so years, has now spilled over into a public spat that, less believable rumours go, could threaten the much-vaunted reunion of the band later this year. As worrying as that prospect can be, let's have a moment to consider what Geri’s denial of the event means.
When asked by Piers Morgan on his Life Stories programme, whether she’d ever slept with Geri, Mel B said: ’[Geri] is going to hate me for this because she is all posh in her country house and her husband,’ continuing, ‘but it’s a fact. It just happened and we just giggled at it and that was it.’
Geri responded, hardly in kind, with a stern lawyerly statement via a representative, reading: ‘It has been very disappointing to read about all these rumours again, especially on Mother's Day of all days.’
The formal notice continued: ‘She would like you to know that what has been reported recently is simply not true and has been very hurtful to her family.’
Geri and Mel B having slept together in the Spice Girls’ heyday is such an ancient tale that I didn’t know that I wasn’t meant to know it. That doesn’t make it true, and fans’ - especially queer fans’ - investment in this story, a proto-Larry Stylinson of ‘shipping - shouldn’t affect its truthfulness
Even if Mel B and Geri’s so-called affair (which some speculation insists lasted a year) provides an understandable explanation for Geri quitting the band on Mel's birthday in 1998, fans willing something to be true doesn’t mean it becomes true. Otherwise Posh would be slated to join them on the reunion tour, Rihanna would release some new music right about now and Adele really would come to Brazil! It’s also not ok to out someone, unless, they have course, been a huge hypocrite, like all those right-wing politicians in the US, who pass homophobic laws will secretly having it away with rent-boys.
Yet, as vehemently as Geri denies the sex between the pair ever happened, Mel B’s truth deserves some hearing out. It’s feasible she could be lying to get attention, attaching herself to her bandmate to get Middle England’s dads lusting over the pair, but do we really think Mel B’s imagination is so limited, that that’s all she could conjure up? Or that she, an out and proud bisexual, sees a bit of girl-on-girl action as anything but a fact of her own life?
Mel B’s apparently denied Geri’s denials, a source telling__ The Mirror ‘Mel is totally perplexed by Geri’s denials’, adding ‘Mel feels Geri is making her out to be a liar. She said, "It’s almost as if she is trying to erase our history.’
Mel B might have rode to fame atop a sea of her own ridiculousness: the big hair, the tongue piercing, the loud Northern voice, the leopard print demeanor, the terribly tragic divorce. She might be at a far remove from Geri’s neat new countryside Boden life. But she is a real person with real feelings and denying someone the truth is textbook gaslighting. As a survivor of domestic abuse from other, confirmed relationships, Mel B would be best-placed to say how Geri’s denials have made her feel, so I won't speculate as to whether this gaslighting is abusive. But it’s certainly a damningly familiar part of too many queer people’s lives.
Countless same-sex relationships have played out in secrecy, because one party fears homophobia should the truth get out. A forbidden relationship carries a little thrill, like it’s you two - Romeo and Juliet - versus the world. Yet an entire relationship behind closed doors is an odd one at best. At some point, because the truth always outs, one person will speak about it, or someone else will make a guess, and the other will deny the entire thing happened.
The implication is that the person who spoke out is boastful, uncouth, untrustworthy or a total fantasist. How can this not affect someone’s self-worth? It’s happened with Sam Smith and whoever his first (not very upbeat) album was about, and with Gwen Stefani’s ex, Gavin Rossdale, who spent years denying he’d dated gay pop star Marilyn, who ‘lied against every grain of my being,’ in order to, respectfully, preserve Rossdale’s reputation as a straight man.
These sorts of denials happen to straight couples, especially famous ones who just want to conduct their private lives privately, but there’s something insidious about this carefully-selected language. Geri's had previous reason to be very unhappy with kiss and tells - Robbie Williams hasn't spoke kindly about their fling in the past - and she's had previous reason to upset others, saying she once tried to seduce George Michael. Why does this story deserve such an official rebuttal?
It’s not on Geri’s shoulders to fix all homophobia in the world, or to make good with Mel B over this - paradoxically, if there’s anything we all know about friends who sleep together it’s that it rarely ends well - but suggesting that there’s anything ‘hurtful’ about sleeping with another woman is dogwhistle homophobia. And honestly, who’s it trying to reach? Will Spice Girls fans, who grew up with 'girl power' as their motto, really be put off should it be true that two women who’d flirt outrageously with one another in TV interviews had made good on those euphemisms?
Besides, Geri has already said that she’s slept with a famous woman. In a 2003 interview with Howard Stern, she said: ’I had lesbian sex once. I realised quickly I was not a lesbian. I don’t mind boobs but the other bit is not my cup of tea.’
She added: ‘I could never ever say who it was. I don’t think she was a lesbian either. I’m going to leave the rest to your imagination.’
What’s so hurtful about Mel B claiming it was her, especially after Geri’s described her one-time lady lover’s bits as ‘not my cup of tea’? How does Mel’s claim hurt Geri’s family, unless Christian is the sort of restrictive homophobe who isn’t happy to accept his wife once had a dalliance with another woman? I'm not angry at Geri, I'm disappointed. This is the woman who sang Bag It Up for heaven's sake.
Whatever happened, or didn’t happen between Geri and Mel B, they were both single at the time, they were both good friends at the time. Though both of their lives have since changed, so have attitudes towards homosexuality (we hope). The real shame isn't the doing of it, the shame is in lying about it.