In a recent interview, Cara Delevingne revealed she believes that sexuality is fluid—meaning it’s ever-changing and evolving. And the model-turned-actress said this realization has helped her come to terms with who she is. “It took me a long time to accept the idea [of being attracted to women]—until I first fell in love with a girl at 20 and recognized that I had to accept it,” she told Vogue. “I’m obviously in love, so if people want to say I’m gay, that’s great. But we’re all liquid. We change, we grow.”
This concept of sexual fluidity isn’t anything new. The term describes changes and inconsistencies in a person’s sexual orientation, identity, attraction, or behavior, according to Nadav Antebi-Gruszka, Ph.D., an LGBTQ+ health expert. Though no research has assessed the overall number of people who self-identify this way, a small study published in Developmental Psychology in 2008 indicated that two-thirds of women sampled had experienced some kind of sexual fluidity. And though one study isn’t conclusive, it’s likely that Delevingne is one of many who identify this way—and she’s certainly not the only one talking about it. Kristen Stewart,Miley Cyrus, and Anna Paquin have all spoken about being queer (an umbrella term encompassing LGBTQ+ identities)—so have Angelina Jolie, Wanda Sykes, Megan Fox, and Raven-Symone. Sexuality looks different for each of those women, but they’re all increasing queer representation and awareness.
And this kind of public representation is really important for the LGBTQ+ community. Being queer can be a particularly lonely minority experience, according to David Gudelunas, Ph.D., a Fairfield University professor specializing in gender and communications. Children in racial, religious, and socioeconomic minorities often grow up surrounded by people who can understand and relate to their unique struggles, like family members and neighbors. “So you have a range of role models who are not just in your family, but from the community generally,” Gudelunas says. “Most queers kids are brought up by straight parents, raised in straight neighborhoods, go to straight schools, and so on. There’s not a lot of range to choose from in terms of role models.” And that’s why celebrity LGBTQ+ representation can be so huge.” It gives somebody at home someone to identify with,” Gudelunas says.
And celebrity representation can do more than provide support—it can generate conversation about issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. “Any respectful and humanizing representation of sexual fluidity in media—including social media—is helpful in promoting greater awareness,” Antebi-Gruszka tells SELF. This can help reduce stigmas attached to queer identities, which can lead to more acceptance for and less discrimination toward minority groups.
Plus, social media has “changed the game,” Gudelunas says, because it gives celebrities direct access to fans. This less filtered approach to communication makes conversations more constant and more candid, which can create a more honest representation of the community. This, Antebi-Gruszka says, can lead to increasingly open discussions about sexual fluidity, allowing for a more “pluralistic, diverse, creative, and open-minded” society. “By not being forced to put ourselves in a ‘box,’ we allow for the most intuitive and sincere expression of the self,” they say. “By respecting and celebrating the endless diversity of sexual and gender expressions, we contribute to a more progressive and sane society. We are multidimensional, complex, and ever-changing. Let’s celebrate that!”