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Are Young Stars Changing the Way People Come Out?

Amandla Stenberg

Announcing your identity with a People magazine cover is so 2000s, writes Emily Bashforth.

Coming out is a very personal process. Some shout it from the rooftops, others write letters to loved ones, some sit each family member down for a deep chat, while others never feel the need to formally come out at all. Now young stars are changing the public's perceptions of what coming out means.

Young people in the public eye are announcing their sexual orientations and genders nonchalantly -- sometimes as a casual aside in a Snapchat or magazine interview -- and providing younger generations with an entirely different atmosphere in which they can discuss their own identities.

Girl Meets World star Rowan Blanchard came out as queer in 2016 via Twitter. Fourteen years old at the time, she wrote, "I personally don't wanna label myself as straight, gay or whateva," continuing: "So I am not gonna give myself labels to stick with -- just existing."

At the time, Rowan said she'd only ever liked boys in the past but didn't want to discount the very real possibility that she could, at one point, be attracted to another gender: "Yes, [I'm] open to liking any gender in future is why I identify as queer."

The Hunger Games'Amandla Stenberg came out as nonbinary via Tumblr in 2016 and uses they/them pronouns, saying to a fan, "They/them makes me comfortable." They also came out as bisexual on Teen Vogue's Snapchat in the same year but recently came out as gay in an interview with Wonderland magazine. Chatting with friend and musician King Princess, Amandla said, "I was so overcome with this profound sense of relief when I realised that I'm gay -- not bi, not pan, but gay -- with a romantic love for women."

Model and actress Lily-Rose Depp, 17, was featured in a campaign promoting sexual fluidity in 2016. Later, she said people interpreted the campaign the wrong way and saw it as her coming out, when, in fact, she starred in the campaign out of support of not having to label your sexuality. Lily said, "A lot of people took it as me coming out, but that's not what I was trying to do. I was literally doing it just to say that you don't have to label your sexuality; so many kids these days are not labeling their sexuality and I think that's so cool. ... If you like something one day then you do, and if you like something else the other day, it's whatever. You don't have to label yourself because it's not set in stone. It's so fluid."

By discussing sexuality and gender in such a chill way, young stars in the public eye are showing audiences that coming out needn't be so scary. By casually dropping it into a conversation or a tweet, these celebrities are helping to end the harmful perception that being LGBTQ+ is something so vastly outside the norm of society that it has to be announced to the world in some extravagant way. They're taking the pressure off and saying, "Hey, kids, it's OK. Who you are is not weird, and you don't need to be afraid to tell people. Who you are is normal."

In such a heteronormative society, young people can grow up believing that to be LGBTQ+ is wrong. They can grow up believing that fitting into a box and having a particular label is the only way to be accepted. By dismantling this idea, we're creating a space for young people to live feely without feeling shackled down by the pressures of society.

EMILY BASHFORTH is studying to be a journalist in the United Kingdom.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Emily Bashforth