Queer Voices

Why Miley Cyrus Is This Woman's Non-Straight, Non-Binary Role Model


If you haven’t heard, Miley has been up to a lot more than sticking her tongue out and hanging out in her underwear.

In the course of two short days, Miley has kicked-off her foundation for homeless LGBT youth, the Happy Hippie Foundation, and given an interview to Out magazine where she discussed not identifying with any particular gender. She also cavalierly stated she’s had sexual relationships with women.

Miley isn’t playing around anymore. And I'm very happy about it.

I'm downright enthusiastic.

In the wake of the complete Bruce Jenner tabloid debacle and subsequent (incredibly powerful and inspiring) interview, gender identity has been forced into the forefront of the public debate.

This is no less than amazing. This is something we should ALL be talking about.

Now more than ever, black and white are your two options for any kind of opinion. You either love the Kardashians or you hate them. The dress is either black and blue or it’s white and gold. Everyone should have guns or no one should.

Comment culture has made us into a strongly-opinionated fleet that leaves no room for middle ground. The Internet has taken something extremely valuable away from us: it’s taken away our gray area.

I don’t mean for this to be taken out of context. I am not referring to a gray area between right and wrong, between yes and no. I’m not referring to a gray area where I say one thing and mean another.

I’m talking about a gray area of identity and ownership.

What Miley is doing is perfectly demonstrating how to mean what you say and expect no less than to be taken seriously for it.

When she says she doesn’t identify as a girl or a boy, that in fact she would rather identify as nothing, then that’s exactly what she is. Even calling her "gender-queer" is a bit of a stretch, since she’s not using that word to describe herself.

It’s a complicated thing for a celebrity to identify themselves. No doubt Miley’s words will be taken out of context, flipped, stretched and contorted beyond recognition.

But she doesn’t care — and that's a very valuable lesson.

Young people, especially young women, grow up with so much uncertainty. We’re told who to listen to, who to admire, what behavior is “slutty” and what behavior will grant us access to a life deemed acceptable.

There’s not a lot of room for understanding your own body, your own intentions, desires and goals.

You’re identified at birth with a gender that carries an incredible amount of social weight. And for some, that weight is so heavy that suicide is the only answer.

When you’re faced with so many decisions that already seem made for you, right down to your gender identity, speaking your own truth is an incredibly terrifying task.

When Bruce Jenner spoke out about his transition to becoming a woman, he was called attention-seeking. Yet, he did it anyway and adamantly. No one should have to be concerned with the outcome of their truthful words or how others might hear them.

The part that matters is the truth.

I can understand Miley’s struggle with gender. I’m a lesbian, and gender and identity is something I struggle with every day. To hear a young woman who faces so much criticism in her everyday life state, “I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate; it’s the box that I get put into” is incredibly powerful to me.

In fact, it's freeing.

It isn’t just young people she’s standing up for. It’s every single person that’s ever felt stifled by an identity they were assigned at birth or even an identity they gave themselves. It’s standing up for me and the times when I want to agree that I find a man sexually attractive and don’t say it, in fear that I’ll misrepresent my own identity.

Miley isn’t representing or misrepresenting any identity. She’s just being herself.

Whatever label you put on yourself or the world puts on you, it doesn’t mean half as much as the what you feel inside and your pride to express every worthy thought you have.

Because we’re all worthy of that — celebrity or not. We’re worthy enough to be proud of what makes us unique and what makes us not quite fit into a box. We’re worthy enough to find our own identity and be okay with the parts of ourselves that still might not fit tidily under that umbrella.

What we really need to learn is this: labels and identities aren’t one-size-fits-all. Neither are people.

You’re never going to be just one thing — and that’s f*cking awesome.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Note: Though Jenner has come out as “for all intents and purposes a woman,” he has not yet indicated that he would like to be known by a new name or female pronouns, so this story uses male pronouns.

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