Today is National Coming Out Day, a day when LGBTQ people across the country are supported and encouraged to let their family and friends know about their identities as long as they feel safe. For a lot of people coming out is a big relief, but for others, it’s a huge source of fear and apprehension. In an interview with Variety, Miley Cyrus talked about what coming out was like for her and how she realized she is pansexual.
Miley came out as pansexual last year, just after she told Paper Magazine she also identifies as genderfluid. While pansexuality is often lumped in with bisexuality, that’s not quite right. Being pansexual means your romantic and sexual attraction don’t depend on gender. Basically, pansexual people are attracted to other people, not other genders.
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Miley told Variety she knew she wasn’t straight early on.
“My whole life, I didn’t understand my gender and my sexuality. I always hated the word “bisexual,” because that’s even putting me in a box. I don’t ever think about someone being a boy or someone being a girl,” she said. “My eyes started opening in the fifth or sixth grade. My first relationship in my life was with a chick. I grew up in a very religious Southern family. The universe has always given me the power to know I’ll be OK. Even at that time, when my parents didn’t understand, I just felt that one day they are going to understand.”
Miley was lucky to feel confident her parents would understand and accept her identity. While coming out is a great thing, we also have to recognize that much LGBTQ youth don’t have parents as accepting as Miley’s. According to the True Colors Fund, 40% of all homeless youth are LGBTQ, and the most common reason these teens are homeless is that their families didn’t accept their sexuality.
Miley, however, was able to talk to her parents about being gender neutral and pansexual.
“I never related to loving being a girl. And then, being a boy didn’t sound fun to me,” she said. “I think the LGBTQ alphabet could continue forever. But there’s a ‘P’ that should happen, for ‘pansexual.'”
Like Miley mentioned, though, she didn’t always have the vocabulary to understand her identity. It wasn’t until Miley visited an LGBTQ center in Los Angeles that she figured out she is pansexual.
“I went to the LGBTQ center here in L.A., and I started hearing these stories. I saw one human in particular who didn’t identify as male or female. Looking at them, they were both: beautiful and sexy and tough but vulnerable and feminine but masculine. And I related to that person more than I related to anyone in my life,” Miley said. “Even though I may seem very different, people may not see me as neutral as I feel. But I feel very neutral. I think that was the first gender-neutral person I’d ever met. Once I understood my gender more, which was unassigned, then I understood my sexuality more. I was like, ‘Oh — that’s why I don’t feel straight, and I don’t feel gay. It’s because I’m not.'”
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Not understanding your identity can be confusing and very, very hard. But just like Miley, a lot of times people don’t know that there are identities outside of straight or gay – or that you don’t have to limit yourself to one or any identity at all.
In her interview, Miley also talked emotions and how taxing being on The Voice can be. Miley told Variety she cries every time she has to kick someone off the show. One girl leaving the show was particularly tough for Miley and her mom.
“On The Voice, this young girl started crying when she left, because I’m the reason she came out. My mom started crying,” Miley said. “She was like, ‘I’m so sorry about the way I was when you were that age and coming out.’ She never understood me until she saw that girl who couldn’t be herself. It was very cool.”
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