In the dissolution of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s marriage, I’ve been hearing a lot said about Heard. Including this: Heard’s bisexual ‘tendencies’ (not that he may have been violent towards her) caused the downfall of their marriage. I’m not sure what they mean by a ‘tendency’. Heard has been out since at least 2010 and as far as I can see didn’t try to hide her orientation or relationships before that. When Depp started seeing her he knew this.
But I’m reading that he was driven insane by jealousy over Heard’s orientation. Which he knew about when they started dating. Because everyone knew. Because she was out. Publicly. And by the fact that she has lesbian friends. Not to mention the advice to simply not ever marry bi people.
So here’s what bi people shouldn’t do:
- be bi, continue to be open about their orientation while in a relationship
- have queer friends
- have friends who someone else might think she was attracted to
- Never do anything that someone might construe as flirting
- get married at all
Does this seem reasonable to you?
She has queer friends. Of course she does.
Heard has a bunch of lesbian and bi women friends. From a cishet perspective, not having close friends you could be mutually attracted to makes a kind of sense. It’s not terribly unusual for straight women and men to avoid having close friends of a different gender, or to limit the types of interactions they have with their different-gender friends. A quick google of “can men and women be friends” brings up a ton of people arguing that it’s simply not possible to have a platonic friendship with someone of a gender you’re attracted to.
By the way? What I’m getting from those articles is:
- Creeped out. Really, really creeped out.
- Women are far better at boundaries than men. In almost all of those examples it’s a case of women being open about wanting to just be friends, and men not taking their words for it and trying it on the first moment they think they might get a chance to. Classy, men. Classy. (And by the way? I know I’m risking the fire of a thousand douchebags by even saying this out loud but guys? Don’t do that.)
But let’s leave off the creepiness and stick with what’s practical. If you’re straight it may make a twisted kind of sense to simply make close friends with people of your own gender. It’s not like you’ll be short of options. And to be honest, if you’re a woman and any of those links above indicate what you think will happen if you dare to be platonic friends with a straight guy? I wouldn’t blame you.
If you’re queer, though? Things get more complicated. You don’t assume that you can easily distinguish potential friends and potential partners from a distance. They’re the same group of people. Even if you’re a monosexual gay or lesbian, you’re going to run into some trouble when you want to hang out with more than one person at once. I guess you could restrict yourself to only having ace friends of a gender you don’t fancy, or only spending time with different-gender gay friends one-on-one. While that might work for some people, though, it feels like an awfully restrictive way to live your life. And I’m pretty sure your ace friends are going to feel more than a little used. But if you’re bi? If you’re gonna have friends at all, sometimes you’ll fancy ‘em. You can’t get around that. So, since this is literally the way it’s been all your life, you get on with things and you figure out your own boundaries.
Having queer friends is about more than attraction. Being queer in a heteronormative world- and bi in a mononormative one- is a really particular experience. Like everyone, queer people tend to gravitate towards others we have things in common with. Specifically, we build queer communities- both formal and informal- where we can hang out with others who get us. While I love my straight friends, there are times when I just want to be around other queers. Or other bi people. Of course Heard does too. Of course she has queer friends. Like every minority group, we gravitate towards each other.
And yeah, if you’re a famous actress it’s likely that all of your friends- of any orientation- are more conventionally attractive than the average. Conventional attractiveness is pretty explicitly selected for in Hollywood.
She has women friends. They’re good-looking. Of course they are.
But, you might say: it’s one thing for Heard to have women friends. Queer women friends. It’s another thing for her to be obviously flirty with her beautiful bi women BFFs. Isn’t that crossing a line?
Maybe. If you haven’t ever met women or watched how we interact with our close friends. In case you’ve been hiding on the far side of the moon for the last few millennia: women friends tend to get expressive. Not everyone, of course. But it’s accepted that we tell each other how beautiful we are. That we are physically affectionate with one another. That we have long, deep conversations. Women rely on each other for emotional support in ways that our society just doesn’t accept men doing with each other. The line between friendly and flirty can be blurry as all get-out. In fact, ask any queer woman you know about trying to work out if a woman fancies her or if she’s just being friendly. I’ve got platonic friends who’ve rhapsodised about my butt. Others who I’ll snuggle and spoon with at the drop of a hat. This is normal, and if straight women interact this way nobody thinks twice.
But we have different standards for bi women, don’t we?
It seems to me that the only way for bi women in relationships with men to ‘acceptably’ behave is this: deny our queerness in our everyday life. Maybe show up at a fundraiser or a gala every so often. Don’t correct people if they say that you’re straight now or that your partner has ‘converted’ you. Leave the queer community. Delete your queer women friends from your phone and unfriend the lot of them. Definitely don’t spend time with them in person and if you do, don’t hug them, laugh, have in-jokes, or show any appreciation or affection towards them. Never be attracted to anyone other than your spouse.
And if you don’t? If you don’t allow your friendships and the shape of your life to be determined by the gender of the person you’re in a relationship with right now? If you don’t change your entire personality to suit their jealousy? Well, then. I guess you must be asking for whatever comes to you, don’t you.
Does that seem reasonable to you? Or does it seem like someone excusing abuse my grabbing onto the first biphobic tropes they could find and hanging onto them for dear life, knowing that most people will agree with them? Sounds a lot like the latter to me.
Oh, and by the way? If you don’t believe me? Take a look at the domestic violence rates, broken down by sexual orientation and gender. Look at it. Look. And tell me again that the problem is with Heard:
The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, released again in 2013 with new analysis, reports in its first-ever study focusing on victimization by sexual orientation that the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner was 43.8 percent for lesbians, 61.1 percent for bisexual women, and 35 percent for heterosexual women, while it was 26 percent for gay men, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual men
Tell me again that this was her fault.
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