Amber Heard has been in a public relationship with one of the world’s most recognizable actors, Johnny Depp, since 2011. Although she’s been acting since 2004, her star has risen considerably since then, and not just because of her beau. At 28, Amber has starred in NBC’s The Playboy Club and five feature films in the last five years, including The Rum Diaries with her new husband. That’s right: Johnny and Amber are now officially married.
The year before she met Johnny, Amber came out to us in an interview on the red carpet of the GLAAD Awards. Despite her publicist’s attempts at having us taking it down and obvious want of keeping Amber in the closet, the actress has been out and proud about her dating both men and women, and has reiterated the sentiment even while dating LGBT ally Johnny Depp.
So why do we still get these kinds of comments whenever we write about her?
“She has not done anything relevant to this site since she dated a woman.”
“Why are you still covering her? She’s straight now.”
“‘The future Mrs. Johnny Depp’ /puke.'”
Amber, like Angelina Jolie, Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood, has never reneged on her sexuality, nor has she played down her past relationships with women, yet she still receives ire from some in the lesbian community. The biphobia has grown even stronger as she graces more magazine covers and gets hired for more high-profile roles, despite her attachment to pro-gay projects like Self-Evident Truths. Johnny even wore the campaign’s T-shirt (reading “We Are You”) while on The Ellen Show last year. At a time when there are still public figures who live inside a glass closet, Amber is an actress who came out when she was still coming up in the industry, and has continued to be a positive, affirming queer person. She found someone she loved, and wanted to marry them—and it was a man. Had she decided to marry a woman, like ex-girlfriend Tasya Van Ree, we’d undoubtedly be championing her while greater straight society called her a huge loss; too “beautiful” to be gay.
It’s hugely disappointing that anyone who is part of the LGBTQ community would disrespect Amber’s (or Angelina, Anna, Evan or any one else’s) choice for her own life when it’s exactly what we’re demanding for ourselves. Equality is the ability to possess what and who we want, and that extends itself to bisexual women (and men). It’s understandable that, as queer people, we want to have recognizable figures in the mainstream world that are gorgeous, talented and “ours” to claim; our “proof” to dissenting voices that lesbian and bisexual women are able to be all the things that are assumed we’re not. In 2015, we still fight stereotypes and misplaced ideals of what a gay woman looks like, or how she acts.
Here’s the good news: Amber can still be one of those people. Yes, we’ve been burned before by women like Anne Heche or Sheryl Swoopes who have come out and been hugely public faces for lesbianism, and later recanted, only to say they will never be with a woman again. It hurts to have that happen, like we’re giving conservative bigots more reason to say, “See? You might change your mind! It’s just a phase!” But Amber hasn’t done that, and we have to stop acting like her marriage is a personal betrayal instead of her personal happiness.
Just last month a new study reported that bisexual women “are more likely to suffer poor mental health and psychological distress than lesbians.” The Journal of Public Health said “bisexual women were 64% more likely to report eating problems and 37% more likely to have deliberately harmed themselves than lesbians.” They were also “26% more likely to report depressed feelings and 20% more likely to have suffered from anxiety.” Researchers said the cause of this kind of stress is most likely due to “more negative social attitudes toward bisexuality compared with lesbian and gay identity.”
I’m not saying Amber Heard is depressed or suicidal or anorexic. What I’m saying is people just like her, who are open to finding love with a man or a woman, are unfairly stigmatized from within their own community. The people they are looking to for support are still part of the problem, and that means that as a collective of LGBT-identified women, we need to be a part of the solution. We can’t control how straight people and homophobes treat bisexuality. But can we control how we do? Right here, right now, we can. That means being an ally, and being respectful about a person’s identity, especially if they are supportive and a champion of yours.
Amber Heard is currently filming The Danish Girl, the long-awaited adaptation of a true story based on the first ever sexual reassignment surgery. Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne plays the character of Lili Ebe, a transgender woman who has the surgery, and Amber plays her wife, Oola. This queer tale will be highly discussed and reviewed in its eventual release, and who better to have among its spokespeople than an out and proud member of the community? There will surely be conversations about why the film did not have a transgender actress play the role of Lili, but otherwise, I am confident in Amber’s ability to discuss the relationship in the film with informed grace.
Amber is also starring in four upcoming films (The Adderall Diaries, Magic Mike XXL, London Fields and When I Live My Life Over Again) so we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the near future. Hopefully you will see this as visibility and not as an attack on your own sexuality. Tomorrow, we will be featuring a roundtable discussion piece with our bisexual writers, that delves even further into these issues, as they provide candid answers about their experiences as bisexual women in this world.