Amber Heard has long been open about being bisexual, but telling her religious parents she was in a relationship with a woman for the first time was no easy feat.
The Aquaman actress, 32, spoke at the Making Change On and Off the Screen panel at SXSW Saturday, and explained that her parents were unable to process that her sexuality could be viewed outside a “binary system” of positive or negative.
“I am from Austin, Texas. My dad is out of central casting Texan. Good Southern man, and I was raised in a religious home,” she said. “And being an outspoken lesbian, atheist, vegetarian, I remember when I told them about my relationship, that I was in love with this woman, and at the beginning of that it was just tears, tears.”
She added, “They didn’t know how to process it because, for them, it was being thrown into a binary system of processing it, negative or positive.”
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Heard said she “refused” to admit her family strife was a problem and “didn’t display any negativity,” but over the course of five years, watched her parents’ attitudes completely change in a positive way.
“Five years later, I was getting an award, and I asked my parents to drive out to Dallas,” she explained. “And I see them sitting front and center and here I am getting this ‘gay’ award… My parents in five years, look at the journey. Attitudes and hearts can change.”
Heard dated girlfriend Tasya van Ree for four years before they split in 2012. In 2015, she married Johnny Depp, though they split 15 months later. Their divorce was finalized in January 2017. She has also been in a relationship with Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Heard publicly came out in 2010 at an event hosted by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and has said previously that she was warned against revealing she was bisexual in case it negatively impacted her career.
“It did impact my career, it was difficult. It was not easy,” she said at The Economist’s Pride & Prejudice Summit in 2017. “I was the only one working in this way, so it was definitely difficult because no one had done it. I did that even though everyone told me it would end my career, without a doubt.”
Two years earlier, Heard told British newspaper The Times that she hoped her decision to come out as bisexual wouldn’t affect anyone’s opinions of her.
“I don’t want to have to deny my sexuality in order to be me. But I don’t want to have to be defined by it,” she said. “I’m fundamentally opposed to trying to edit myself to be palatable or popular. I don’t give a f—. I fight, but I shouldn’t have to.”
Heard has stayed true to herself over the years, including during the ups and downs of her high-profile relationship to Depp.
Her marriage to the actor ended in controversy and acrimony. Depp recently filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against the Aquaman actress calling her allegations of domestic violence against him a “hoax.”
The lawsuit came after Heard wrote an op-ed in December 2018 for the Washington Post titled, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
In response to Depp’s lawsuit, Heard’s rep said in a statement: “This frivolous action is just the latest of Johnny Depp’s repeated efforts to silence Amber Heard. She will not be silenced.”