Next year the Supreme Court will issue a ruling on whether it should be legal for fire workers simply for being LGBTQ+ following a series of court hearings earlier this month. In a moving personal essay for Teen Vogue, bisexual actress and model Amber Heard said all members of the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination, which makes the outcome of that decision critically important for all of us.
Heard began by talking about what it was like growing up queer in small-town Texas and how hard it was not seeing anyone who was like her. Because of that, she thought that she was broken — a feeling many LGBTQ+ people know all too well.
The 33-year-old says she felt that same pain all over again last week after reading news coverage erasing bisexual people from the ruling’s implications. “[N]ews outlet after news outlet said that a trio of cases before the Supreme Court were only about ‘gay and transgender’ people,” she writes.
The cases involve a transgender woman and two gay men who were dismissed from their jobs just because of who they are. However, the Aquaman star reminded readers that bi and pan people are the largest segment of the LGBTQ+ community, and we have just as much to lose from the outcome. Studies show 51 percent of bisexuals report experiencing employment discrimination, and for bisexuals of color, that number jumps up to 69 percent. Another 30 percent have faced sexual harassment at work.
Other studies found that bisexuals are “roughly one third as likely as gays and lesbians to feel comfortable being out in the workplace” and that only 11 percent of bisexuals are out at work, compared to half of gay men and lesbians.
Heard goes on to detail discrimination she’s faced, from losing jobs because she was queer to being spat on and yelled at on the street when she was walking with her former wife. “[D]iscrimination has no state lines,” she said. “In one state we were refused housing. In another state we were asked to leave a restaurant. We were once even harassed by law enforcement who learned we shared a last name.”
While Heard has since gone on to find success in films like The Danish Girl and Pineapple Express, her story gives testimony to the fact that bi people face pervasive stigma and discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives. Research finds that 25 percent of bisexual men and 30 percent of bisexual women live in poverty, that 60 percent of bi people have heard biphobic jokes at work, and that bisexual people are three times more likely to experience police violence than people who aren’t bi.
But Heard stresses she has it much better than others of the LGBTQ+ community, pointing out that “this type of harassment often leads to violence and death” in the cases of “many transgender people, particularly Black and brown trans women.”
This is why she wants bisexual and pansexual people to pay attention to these cases — and for everyone in the community to include them in the conversation about LGBTQ+ employment discrimination. If the Supreme Court rules that someone can be fired for being gay, she points out that they can be fired for being any orientation that isn’t strictly heterosexual: You might get a job while you have a different-sex partner, but what happens when you start dating someone of the same sex?
“What if you are fired because the gender of your partner has changed?” she asked.
This isn’t even just about being fired or refused work in the first place because of your identity. Pointing to polls that show consistently rising support for LGBTQ+ rights in America, Heard argues that the future of the country is at stake. “[T]his is about what our country believes about our basic humanity,” she said.
Heard joins the ever-growing community of diverse LGBTQ+ people, including model Geena Rocero, former NBA player Jason Collins, and drag queen and broadway star Peppermint, speaking out about the recent court cases. “LGBTQ+ people deserve a government that protects us and sends the message that we are not broken. Because we’re not,” she said, “We are beautiful just as we are. And we have rights.”
Amen to that.