We tend to listen.
It’s been almost a year since the actress said she wouldn’t feel genuine making a big point of announcing, “I’m coming out!” and calling it a day. Fast-forward to the new issue of Elle U.K. and Stewart is holding fast to that principal, eschewing labels and instead just comfortably talking about her relationship with her longtime girlfriend, Alicia Cargile. “When I was dating a guy I was hiding everything that I did because everything personal felt like it was immediately trivialized, so I didn’t like it,” Stewart said, referring to her ex, Robert Pattinson. “We were turned into these characters and placed into this ridiculous comic book, and I was like, ‘That’s mine. You’re making my relationship something that it’s not.’ I didn’t like that. But then it changed when I started dating a girl. I was like, ‘Actually, to hide this provides the implication that I’m not down with it or I’m ashamed of it, so I had to alter how I approached being in public. It opened my life up and I’m so much happier.”
It wasn’t exactly a surprise, the Café Society star and Cargile having been photographed dozens of times out and about. Stewart just never felt compelled to share her personal business.
The 26-year-old previously made it clear that she doesn’t think there’s any wrong way to express one’s self, telling Nylon last summer, “I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s like, just do your thing.”
But we’re not quite at a point where publicly coming out, whether it’s via a statement or while discussing life in general during an interview, doesn’t matter or is beside the point.
When I wrote about Colton Haynes‘ decision to publicly confirm that he’s gay and how actions like that from celebrities are still important to the LGBT community and society in general, I saw comments on Facebook such as, “Wasn’t he already out?” “Zzzzz, who cares?” “Why is this news?” and, to paraphrase, “I live in Palm Beach and everyone gets along great—gay, straight, so what?!”
Well, good to know. But while gay rights have advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years around the world, with same-sex marriage now effectively legal all across the United States, those who live in a tolerant, supportive community can still consider themselves lucky (as should all of us who enjoy certain freedoms).
And then the massacre of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, Fla., on June 12 was a particularly horrific reminder that acceptance (or safety, for that matter) isn’t yet something to be taken for granted.
Living life and not letting fear stop us is the best way to combat the forces that would destroy a tolerant, inclusive society, but the very concept of people who think there’s something wrong with being gay is anachronistic. It’s just like being straight, in that it’s nature. It’s humanity. It’s all good.
But at this point, it’s still the more stories the merrier. More tales of human experience that might sound like someone else’s—a person who doesn’t have millions of fans, as K.Stew or Miley Cyrus has. Miley, remember, really took the live-and-let-live conversation mainstream last year before getting back together with Liam Hemsworth, saying, “I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”
But it still makes a positive difference when they do share, and often times those who make that decision, like Haynes or Ellen Page, are responding to what they feel is a need to speak out in order to free themselves and help others who might feel alone or uncomfortable in their own skin. On the other side of the same coin is the importance of not making a deal about it, of preaching “do your thing,” as Kristen or Miley have done, and in so doing also letting others know that it’s all OK.
Perhaps a combination of the two will ultimately lead to a moment in time where people can just focus on living their own lives however they see fit and no one bats an eye because it really doesn’t matter, in a good way.
And then we all win.