While recalling her own tough experience coming out to her family, Amber Heard shared a powerful message to those worried about doing the same: “Attitudes and hearts can change.”
Speaking at a South by Southwest panel Saturday titled “Making Change On and Off the Screen,” Heard explained the difficulty of telling her religious parents that she was bisexual.
“I’m from Austin, Texas. My dad is ‘out of central casting’ Texan,” she said in a recording posted on the official SXSW website. “Big barrel hat, handlebar mustache, loves his guns, good Southern man. And I was raised in a religious home. Naturally, being an outspoken, militant feminist, lesbian, atheist, vegetarian … I remember when I told them about my relationship, that I was in love with this woman. … I remember at the beginning of that it was just tears. It was tears.”
She continued: “They didn’t know how to process it because we hadn’t built the infrastructure for acceptance and tolerance. For them, it was being thrown into a binary system of processing it: negative or positive.”
Heard dated photographer Tasya van Ree for about four years beginning in 2008, and came out publicly two years later after Ellen DeGeneres asked about her sexuality. She said felt she had a “unique responsibility” to speak her truth.
“I just answered honestly. I could tell by the look on this person’s face it was a big deal,” Heard recalled in 2017. “My poor publicist. Then I realized the gravity of what I had done and why so many people – studio execs, agents, advisers – did not want this coming before my name. I became attached to a label. I’ve never seen myself defined by the person I’m with.”
Though the initial reaction wasn’t what she had hoped, Heard said she kept conversations about her sexuality positive and five years later, she and girlfriend van Ree were actively a part of her family members’ lives.
“I was getting an award and I asked my parents to drive out to Dallas. … And I look up and I see them sitting front and center, my dad with his cowboy hat, and here I am getting this ‘gay’ award,” she said. “I was giving a speech and I had written something and I just looked at them and I said ‘Here’s everything. I don’t need a speech, this is the speech right there: My parents, in five years, look at the journey.’ ”