We Believe Amber Heard

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Amber Heard‘s personal life has come under extreme speculation ever since she filed for divorce against Johnny Depp a few weeks ago, and alleged he was physically and emotionally abusive to her. Sadly, the bisexual actress has seen the media dig into her past and pull out any tawdry tidbit they can to use as a clickbait in their tabloidy-headlines, and this week’s item was an incident that happened with ex-partner, photographer Tasya Van Ree.

TMZ first reported that Tasya and Amber were arrested for “misdemeanor domestic violence” after a fight at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in 2009, though the charges were dropped the next day. Tasya’s statement addressed the new reports:

“In 2009, Amber was wrongfully accused for an incident that was misinterpreted and over-sensationalized by two individuals in a power position. I recount hints of misogynistic attitudes toward us which later appeared to be homophobic when they found out we were domestic partners and not just ‘friends.’ Charges were quickly dropped and she was released moments later. It’s disheartening that Amber’s integrity and story are being questioned yet again. Amber is a brilliant, honest and beautiful woman and I have the utmost respect for her. We shared 5 wonderful years together and remain close to this day.”

TMZ is now also reporting that the arresting officer is a gay woman herself. Clearly they aren’t aware that internalized homophobia is a thing, but that’s giving them too much credit, like they even care. As mentioned in Morning Brew today, Amber’s friend iO Tillett Wright wrote a piece for the Refinery29 about the abuse Amber suffered, and the responsibility the media has in getting the facts right, and not crucifying the victim, which in this case, is a bisexual woman whose identity and credibility are under attack.
 
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Some actual headlines that have been published about this tragic situation include:

Depp’s pal Benicio Del Toro: Amber Heard sounds ‘manipulative’ (New York Daily NewsJun 8, 2016)

 
 
Amber Heard Busted For Beating Girlfriend (The National EnquirerJun 7, 2016)
 
And these are just from the last few days. Sadly, many of these kinds of pieces mention Amber’s sexual identity or past relationships as an indicator of who she is as a person, and often as some kind of “proof” that she is dishonest. There’s also been a lot of positive discussion about how these facts have absolutely nothing to do with Johnny Depp’s horrid treatment of her, and why the media is grossly misfiring when it comes to their treatment of both a victim of domestic abuse and a bisexual woman.

The fact is that women, especially queer women, are still powerless and voiceless against the patriarchal society we live in, the one that vindicates Johnny Depp, Bill Cosby or Brock Turner before it questions them. What Amber feared might happen if she called the cops on her abuser is exactly what happened: She’s been scrutinized and challenged and, above all, doubted. The same media who was fascinated by their marriage and relished any salacious tidbit they could has now turned on her, creating their own stories based on conjecture or a rare photo of her smiling as some sick sort of proof that women lie about these kinds of things, and laugh all the way to the bank. Like all of their headlines and accusations and anonymous sources are worth any amount of money she might get from her soon-to-be-ex-husband, much less the physical and mental anguish she’s suffered.

When Amber first came out publicly to us in an interview at the GLAAD Media Awards, she spoke about why she felt it was so important to be out in Hollywood:

“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. “

After that interview, one of Amber’s reps requested we take the interview down. At first, they alleged she never said any of those things; so we told them we had video. Then they said it had been up long enough; why didn’t we just take it down? Thankfully, our bosses at Viacom at the time supported us in keeping the interview up. Needless to say, they did not want to grant us interviews with her after that.

But not long after, I met Amber at a TCA event when she was promoting The Playboy Club. Not only was she incredibly warm-hearted and kind, but spoke lovingly about Tasya, still her partner at the time, and being a queer person, and even helping to make sure the lesbian character on the show be more believable. (I recall her saying the producers thought the lesbian character should wear some kind of larger granny panties that Amber laughed off because obviously she’d be wearing the same kind of underwear as any of the straight women would.)

Amber had no qualms about being herself, speaking her truth, being who she was, even with her own publicists looking to silence her. (Sadly, this is still happening with stars at all levels.)

The next and last time I saw Amber was last year at a press day for The Danish Girl in London. It was a roundtable with several other journalists, where she spoke eloquently about her role in the queer-themed film but seemed much more guarded, which I assumed was because of her now being half of a Hollywood it-couple that piqued the fascination of all publications. Even after being married to Johnny, she’d be asked about her sexual identity in interviews, where she maintained her stance that she is proud to be who she is, and proud to be out. That’s not the kind of person who lies. 

I believe Amber. I believe any woman who steps forward to say “This happened to me, and this is not OK.” And because the media continues to profit off of women’s pain, the only way to combat these falsehoods is to use our collective voice, as women and gender non-conforming individuals who know what it’s like to be told that our identities are invalid or less than or just a phase, to say this is not OK. That means no longer supporting Johnny Depp by giving him money at the box office, or clicking those headlines or buying those magazines that claim to have some kind of exclusive from someone close to Johnny, who just can’t believe he’d ever do something like that. 

Maybe the power we have is in our belief. The belief we have that women don’t lie about being abused; that bisexuality exists and is something to be proud of; that it is completely possible for someone to be a huge, likable movie star and still an abuser. When we are armed with the knowledge of truth, it makes us stronger and smarter, and I’d like to think it engages our power. But we have to utilize that power, leverage it to let the white-male-led media and culture that we live in know that women are to be not only believed, but affirmed, and anything that suggests otherwise—headlines, Tweets, your mom’s opinionshould be challenged; that any other woman who comes forward to say that she, too, has sadly been abused, will be believed; that she won’t be vilified like Amber Heard.

But should our misguided society continue to behave as if bisexual women are scheming and dishonest and with an agenda, she is not alone in this. Because not only do we believe her, but we love her enough to call out anyone who dare allege she’s a liar.

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