Amandla Stenberg Is The Best Role Model For Our Next Queer Generation

Amandla Stenberg, best known for her portrayal of Rue in the first Hunger Games, came out as gay in a lovely interview with King Princess for Wonderland magazine.

Prior to this, Stenberg had identified as both bisexual and pansexual, which she addressed in this interview. She talks about what she describes as “big Gay Sob moments,” when she had realizations about her identity — moments when she cried happy tears because she learned something new about herself.

“I was so overcome with this profound sense of relief when I realized that I’m gay – not bi, not pan, but gay – with a romantic love for women,” Stenberg said. “All of the things that felt so internally contrary to my truest self were rectified as I unraveled a long web of denial and self-deprivation.”

Stenberg’s view on sexuality, and her process of coming out as gay through happy tears, point to a new future of how young people engage with their identity. Right now, because of a specific form of cultural acceptance for a specific queer identity, we get a really narrow expression of LGBTQ identity. These days, we see a lot of queer baiting and questionable representation because although it’s cool to be in the realm of queerness, it’s not cool to plant yourself too close. Stenberg has let us in on the whole process of her realizing her identity — in real time. She hasn’t shied away from the confusion of her identity, she’s embraced it publicly.

Although it’s not new for someone to identify as bisexual before coming out as gay, the way Stenberg did it is pretty unique. There was no part of her coming out story that made it feel like bisexuality was just a phase or a transitioning period. Stenberg embraced every part of her journey.

In a video titled, “How Discourse Creates Homosexuality,” with gender theorist Judith Butler — I know, I’m sorry — she talks about how a bigger LGBT cultural presence can result in more LGBT people.

“It becomes a cultural possibility that one can consider because it’s already in the world,” Butler said.

My hope is that a similar cultural possibility is felt among young people with how Stenberg addresses her identity. I hope they feel comfortable enough in their exploration period that they cry happy tears instead of sad ones. I hope that, for this new generation, it simply feels like learning more about yourself. What would life be like if we didn’t have to arrive our identities through negative experiences? When you read Stenberg’s response to being asked why she loves being gay, you get a glimpse of just that.

“The continual process of unlearning heteronormativity and internalized homophobia can be difficult, but one of the biggest blessings lies in the magic that comes from having to understand love outside the confines of learned heterosexual roles,” Stenberg said. “It is the power to reveal the ethereal love that exists within us underneath socialization. Once I was able to rid myself of those parameters, I found myself in a deep well of unbounded and untouchable love free from the dominion of patriarchy. My sexuality is not a byproduct of my past experiences with men, who I have loved, but rather a part of myself I was born with and love deeply.”

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