Amy Andre

Is Out Actress Amber Heard... Unheard?

Filed By Amy Andre | June 14, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media
Tags: Amber Heard, bisexual, feminism, lesbian, out celebrity

A few months ago, actress Amber Heard (Pineapple Express, Drive Angry) arrived at a GLAAD fundraiser with her long-term girlfriend - and introduced her as her girlfriend. This was her official "coming out," since she had never mentioned her same-sex relationship to the press before.

Amber_Heard_1_from_gdcgraphics.jpgIn the articles that followed, journalists repeatedly said that she had come out "as a lesbian." (Google her name to see what I mean.) But quotes from her explained that she did not like labels, and I haven't seen any article where she refers to herself as a lesbian. For example, in an interview with AfterEllen.com, she said, "I hate the idea of a label just as much as anyone else, but I'm with who I'm with, [and] I love who I love."

She had come out - that was clear. But, from what I could tell, she had not come out as a lesbian.

She had come out as a woman in a relationship with another woman. Having same-sex relationships is something that lesbians do, but not something that lesbians have a monopoly on. Bisexual women also have same-sex relationships. And so do women who choose not to label themselves. What I took from the interviews was that Amber Heard identifies as "unlabeled."

I've waited a while to write about this, because I wanted to see if Ms. Heard would address the topic herself. I haven't seen anything in the press about it, so I assume that either she knows that she's being described in the press as a lesbian and doesn't care - which is definitely her prerogative - or she has tried to correct journalists, but they chose not to report on it - which is definitely a problem.

As a feminist and as a bi woman married to a woman, it's important to me to separate identity from relationship type. When all women in same-sex relationships are assumed to be lesbians (and all women in different-sex relationships are assumed to be straight), journalists, the LGBT community, and the general population miss an opportunity to understand the nuances of sexuality and the fact that who a person is holding hands with does not necessarily give you information about who a person is.

In other words, we're not defined by others and by our relationship to others; I think bisexual feminism, like lesbian feminism (and feminism in general), is about self-determination, self-definition, and the right to identify ourselves for ourselves.

And that includes the right to identify as someone without a "label" at all.

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She lists herself on her official Facebook page as a lesbian:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amber-Heard/136298683081622?sk=info

and that's has she was listed at the GLAAD event as well. In terms of correcting journalists, when she appeared on Top Gear, for example, she was introduced as being bisexual:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtvCHZMN3bg

The following week, host Jeremy Clarkson said she was a lesbian:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhTcBZsT05g

Nothing definitive but make of that what you will.

thank you, thank you, thank you for this
As a woman living in a different-sex relationship, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have everyone simply assume that I'm straight. Labels are restrictive nonsense that are embraced by some of the most open-minded people I know. A person has no control over whom they love throughout the many phases of their life. Loving a man now doesn't diminish the passion and love that I have felt or can feel for a woman, and I too refuse to be labeled based upon whom I want in my bed.

I loved her statement to AfterElton after the GLAAD awards ceremony:

I am acutely aware of the role that the media plays in influencing public opinion and influencing society, and with that awareness comes the burden of responsibility. I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question "Am I part of the problem?" And I think that when millions and millions of hard-working, tax paying Americans are denied their rights and denied their equality you have to ask yourself what are the factors that are an epidemic problem and that's what this is. Injustice can never be stood for. It always must be fought against and I just was sick of it being a problem.