Thursday Trends: Female Celebrities’ Fluid Sexuality

Maria Bello (Salon)

Maria Bello (Salon)

Last week, actress Maria Bello released her new memoir. “Whatever…Love Is Love” chronicles Bello’s journey as a single mom who self-identified as straight, but then unexpectedly fell in love with her female best friend. She penned a piece for “The New York Times” in 2013 that centered on worrying how her son would react to the news. (If you’re wondering, his response is her memoir title verbatim.) From there, Bello decided to redefine her relationships in a way that worked for her, and she now sexually identifies as a “whatever.”

Bello isn’t the only female public figure whose sexuality has shifted within the public eye. Oscar-winning actress Tatum O’Neal recently revealed that she likes and has been dating mostly women for some time now. O’Neal didn’t self-identify as lesbian or bisexual (she had previously been married to, and had children with, tennis ace John McEnroe), and says she’s “not one or the other.”

The millennial generation also has its share of sexually fluid women who eschew labels. Actress Amber Heard dated photographer Tasya van Ree before marrying actor Johnny Depp earlier this year. She also doesn’t label herself “one way or another.” Actress Lindsay Lohan famously had a volatile relationship with DJ Samantha Ronson, but then publicly self-identified as straight years after the relationship was over.

Though the majority of examples come from entertainment, the political sphere can claim on entrant. Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, self-identified as a lesbian when she met her now-husband in 1991. Years earlier in 1979, McCray had written an essay for “Essence,” titled “I Am A Lesbian,” which centered on gays and lesbians within the black community. McCray’s essay didn’t receive much attention until just before her husband decided to run for mayor in 2012.

What’s interesting about McCray’s case is how others in the media reacted to it: Many termed her some variation of “former lesbian.” But McCray never self-identified as anything remotely resembling that. Here’s how she responded in 2013 when asked if she self-identified as bisexual:

I am more than just a label. Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins. Finding the right person can be so hard that often, when a person finally finds someone she or he is comfortable with, she or he just makes it work.

It’s fantastic how so many women (and people in general) are gaining the courage to step outside the box and do what works for them, especially in terms of sexuality and relationships. What I love about the above examples is that they’re all open to new experiences and don’t use labels to limit them. And that’s just beautiful.

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#ThrowbackThursday: Angelina Jolie and Jenny Shimizu, 1996

Angelina Jolie and Jenny Shimizu (The Daily Mail UK)

Angelina Jolie and Jenny Shimizu (The Daily Mail UK)

Long before she become a well-known humanitarian with perfect bone structure and Mrs. Brad Pitt, Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie was kind of a wild child. But before wearing Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in a vial around her neck, she did something that (rightfully) now seems like no big deal.

Jolie began dating actress/model Jenny Shimizu on the set of their 1996 film “Foxfire.” Jolie claims that she fell in love with Shimizu “the first second [she] saw her,” and would’ve married Shimizu if she wasn’t already married to actor Jonny Lee Miller.

Reports put the definitive end of the relationship around 2005 (coincidentally the same year she starred in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” opposite Pitt), but imagine an alternate universe where Jolie and Shimizu are the ultimate Hollywood bisexual power couple. Intriguing, right? Too bad it’ll only happen in our minds.

Oregon Will Have the First Openly Bisexual Mayor

Kate Brown (The Democratic Party of Washington County)

Kate Brown (The Democratic Party of Washington County)

Progress is being in Oregon today: Former Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown will be sworn in as governor, becoming the first openly bisexual woman (actually, person) in the nation to hold the office. Brown succeeds former governor John Kitzhaber, who resigned due to a criminal probe into his fiancée’s role in his office.

She was appointed to Oregon’s State House of Representatives in 1991, was elected the following year, and re-elected two years later in 1994. She moved to the Senate in 1996, and was elected Senate Majority Leader in 2004. She began serving as Oregon’s Secretary of State in 2009.

While her main interests center on removing barriers to voting registration and growing small businesses and entrepreneurship, she’s also advocated for LGBT rights. Brown was profiled in the “Out and Elected in the USA” survey of LGBT government officials in 1992. She’s been married to her husband Dan Little since 1997.

Brown hasn’t run into any trouble with her constituents with her status as a bisexual woman, as  Oregon is known for being very socially progressive. As Hannah Hoffman of “The Statesman Journal” notes:

Her sexuality has never been a prominent issue in Oregon, where Portland recently had an openly gay mayor in Sam Adams and where the current speaker of the House, Tina Kotek, is a lesbian.

Hopefully, we’ll see the rest of the country follow suit.