The day after Kristen Stewart mentioned she was so gay on SNL,I argued thather decision to publicly label her sexuality was important for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that queer visibility, while increasing and improving, is still woefully underrepresented in mainstream culture.
Whats more, when a celebrity comes out, it gives other people the courage to do the same and can help complicate ideas about what it means to be queer and what kind of people identify that way (hint: all kinds of people with all kinds of life experiences and all kinds of other intersectional identities do).
While I was busy celebrating Stewarts noble, if not somewhat nonchalant decision to finally (publicly) choose a label for her sexual identity, others were frustrated (or confused) that a woman who once dated a man was now identifying as gay instead of bisexual or pansexual or sexually fluid. Was she erasing her true identity? And if so, why? Or were her past relationships with men just that in the past and she now felt that gay better encapsulated or explained her current identity? Or was she using the term as a general (and purposefully imprecise) catchall phrase for not straight?
To make things even more complicated, in an interview last week with The Guardian, Stewart further addressed her sexuality and noted that shes just trying to acknowledge that fluidity, that greyness, which has always existed… But maybe only now are we allowed to start talking about it.
She continued: Its cool that you dont have to nail everything down any more. That whole certainty about whether youre straight or gay or whatever, before then claiming the term bisexual for herself and asserting, Youre not confused if youre bisexual. Its not confusing at all. For me, its quite the opposite.
So, wait shes not so gay after all? Shes actually bisexual? Or is she sexually fluid? Or does she see bisexuality as encompassing sexual fluidity or vice versa?
Its cool that you dont have to nail everything down any more. Kristen Stewart
Maybe Stewarts claim that she was so gay was more semantic than anything else because Im so bisexual or Im so fluid on SNL may not have been as strong of a statement or a punchline as Im so gay.
Maybe thats a problem.Bisexual people often feel their identities are misunderstood, mistrusted or all together erased, and maybe as we talk about those identities more, they can and will have the same impact. Maybe Stewarts sexuality (or understanding of it) is evolving and that means the language she uses to talk about will continue to shift. Maybe she felt gay that day and feels bisexual some days and feels sexually fluid some other days. Maybe all or some or none of the above.
Ultimately, its not clear and I dont want to put words in Stewarts mouth. But that doesnt mean we cant or shouldnt try to gain from her public displays and discussions of her sexuality. Shes provided a beautiful and complex jumping off point to think and wonder and worry (in the best sense possible) about identity.
Seeing a mainstream celebrity challenge our cultures long-held belief that a persons identity is or must be completely rigid whether she intended to or not is groundbreaking, long overdue and, to be perfectly honest, downright thrilling.
And even if Im just projecting and Stewart doesnt see herself in anything that Ive written here, that projection and all of the potentially radical possibilities that come tethered to it now exist because of her and that matters.
So, what the fuck is going on with Stewarts sexuality? As far as I can tell, its healthy and thriving and shes approaching and expressing it from whatever position however permanent or precarious that feels right to her at any given moment.
Youre not confused if youre bisexual. Its not confusing at all. Kristen Stewart
And why shouldnt we be able to change the word we use to define ourselves or the way we think about our sexuality whenever it suits us? Just because its fixed for some people including myself, as Ive only ever identified as gay since I was 4 years old doesnt mean that it cant or wont be malleable for others. If you identify as bisexual for six years and then feel gay fits better, and then eight months later decide to identify as bisexual again, how does that hurt anyone?
Still, I get that it may be uncomfortable or troubling to some people, particularly some queer people, because weve spent so much time trying to convince people that our sexual identities are real, arent jokes and deserve consideration and respect. But as our cultural understanding of desire continues to evolve and deepen, we must acknowledge and embrace these complexities that may come with investigating that fluidity, that greyness, which has always existed for some people.
[I’m] just trying to acknowledge that fluidity, that greyness, which has always existed. Kristen Stewart
And, because I know some of you are already heading to the comments section to tell me that a persons sexuality is no one elses business and I shouldnt even be writing about Stewart, I want to emphasize one thing: Having discussions about who we are and what we desire is how progress and understanding is created. Stewart herself seems quite pleased with the conversations that her openness has generated. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly she said of her SNL declaration, In that moment, to make it normal and cool and completely unashamed? It felt really cool.
Stewart and her identity gay, bisexual, fluid or otherwise arent problems or problematic. Quite the contrary, whether she knows it or not, she is emblematic of the future, at least if were lucky (and smart) and follow her example. That doesnt necessarily mean we need to constantly (or ever) redefine how we each personally identify interrogating your desire and your politics to determine your sexuality and then sticking with it is just fine, too. But finding the courage and conviction to embrace labeling and then relabeling if it feels right should be an option.
No one should get to tell us how to feel or how to identify and no one should get to tell us that weve got it wrong or were confused because we might change or challenge our minds about who we want and when and why at any point in our lives whether it be once or never or every other weekend.
In the end, Im advocating for whatever allows all of us to live our happiest, most authentic lives and from the look and sound of things, that seems to be exactly what Stewart wants, too.