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.