Amber Heard has been training hard to play the sea queen Mera, Aquaman’s love interest, in the upcoming Justice League movie, Aquaman. The 31-year-old actress’ career is hotter than ever, and she looks stunning on the cover of Allure’s December issue. No doubt, she has fascinating things to say on all sorts of topics—like, say, the sudden flood of sexual allegations against Hollywood’s heavyweights. As it so often does, the interview also calls attention to her ambiguous sexuality and her high-profile relationships with men like Elon Musk as well as women like artist Tasya van Ree. When the publication asks if she identifies as bisexual, she cuts, “I don’t identify as anything,” adding, “I’m a person. I like who I like.”
Heard says everyone in her life warned her that coming out would hurt her career, but she didn’t want to hide. She tells Allure, “I didn’t come out. I was never in” and goes on to explain, “It’s so important to resist labels. I don’t care how many letters you add. At some point, it’s going to spell ‘WE ARE HUMAN.’”
Heard isn’t alone either. Stars like Miley Cyrus refuse to declare their orientation as well. Cyrus told Variety last year, “I always hated the word ‘bisexual,’ because that’s even putting me in a box. I don’t ever think about someone being a boy or someone being a girl.” Cyrus, 24, says her first relationship was with a girl, and that she now considers herself “pansexual.”
American Crime Story actress Sarah Paulson also feels pressure to label herself—and she continues to resist. Last year, she told the New York Times that she worried she’d be “skewered” if she used a particular label because he attractions could change. She also goes on to say, “If my life choices had to be predicated based on what was expected of me from a community on either side, that’s going to make me feel really straitjacketed, and I don’t want to feel that.”
The question remains: Why is the media so obsessed with labeling women whose attractions are gender fluid? Of course, celebrities have the unique experience of battling the press on a regular basis, but a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health uses the term “non-monosexual” to describe women who are attracted to both men and women, because that encompasses women who consider themselves bisexual, “mostly heterosexual,” or something else. While some bisexual people find the “bisexual” label empowering and view it as a way to connect with the LGBTQ community, the report found that others defined themselves that way only on a need-to-know basis. Avoiding labels like bisexual can have consequences, though—some of the women feel guilty about it, because they worry their silence adds to the historical secrecy around LGBTQ issues.
According to the same report, women may resist the bisexual label because they don’t like the stereotypes associated with it, such as that bisexual people are “hypersexual or unwilling to commit to a monogamous relationship.” That makes total sense. Bisexual isn’t just a simple descriptor—it’s a loaded word. People who identify as bisexual are often treated as indecisive, or as if they’re just not ready to come all the way out of the closet, so why would anyone choose to use the term?
In the Canadian Journal of Public Health study, a 25-year-old woman named Stacey told researchers, “I don’t feel like [my sexual identity] identifies who I am, and I don’t even think that sexual preference should identify anybody, like, who they are. Love is love and whatever you’re attracted to is what you’re attracted to.“
Thankfully, an open, accepting attitude is becoming more common among millennials, according to a study from GLAAD and Harris Poll earlier this year. The report, called Accelerating Acceptance, found that while LGBTQ people over the age of 35 commonly use specific words like “gay,” “lesbian” or “straight” to describe their sexual orientation, millennials are more likely to view sexual orientation as a spectrum. They don’t see the need to label each other, and they don’t see the need to label themselves. The “I like who I like” sentiment isn’t restricted to the way they talk about relationships, either. And a 2016 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that people are becoming more willing to have same-sex relationships (or at least, more willing to admit it to researchers). According to that study, the number of American men who reported having at least one same-sex partner since age 18 had nearly doubled (going from 4.5 to 8.2 percent of the population) between the early 1990s and early 2010s. For women, the number more than doubled (going from 3.6 to 8.7 percent).
It was way back in December, 2010, that Heard first revealed at a GLAAD event that she was in a relationship with van Ree. A month later, she tells Metro she is tired of talking about her sexuality, saying, “It’s been frustrating as I don’t label myself one way or another—I have had successful relationships with men and now a woman. I love who I love, it’s the person that matters.”
Here we are, almost seven years later, and the actress is still getting prodded about the same topics. We can only hope that her Allure interview will be the last time that she is forced to defend her sexual freedom.