Why are we so obsessed with celebrities coming out?

Kristen Stewart's mother tells her daughter's business to the press, setting the rumor mill on fire again

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published June 15, 2015 8:00PM (EDT)

Kristen Stewart      (Reuters/Danny Moloshok)
Kristen Stewart (Reuters/Danny Moloshok)

Maybe this is what a celebrity coming out can look like now. Not with a press conference -- but a shrug. In an interview with the Sunday Mirror this week, Kristen Stewart's mother, Jules, spoke of her famous daughter's "Game of Thrones"-like upbringing in the company of wolves, her "off the charts" success -- and her new relationship. "I’ve met Kristen’s new girlfriend," she says. "I like her. What’s not to accept? She’s a lovely girl." Well, that was easy.

When you're as famous as Stewart — and you've been romantically entangled with your equally famous costar Robert Pattinson — it's natural the fans and media are going to be curious about whom you're dating. Of the RPatz, era, Jules says, "They were a great couple, but she's 25 years old and I’d like to see her have a lot more life experience before she chooses someone to settle down with. I’m very sad that Kristen and Robert didn’t have a chance to be alone together, they had to have the whole world with them and all the public stuff ruined everything, life became overwhelming." But they both seem to have bounced back from their 2013 breakup just fine. He's reportedly engaged to musician FKA Twigs, and rumors have been swirling for months that Stewart and her personal assistant Alicia Cargile's relationship is more than just business — fueled by photos of them together looking happy and close.

If this apparent confirmation of the relationship is true, it's a pretty genius way to roll out the news. The younger Stewart herself may have no influence on her mother's Mirror interview, but if she did, well played. Despite long-standing gossip about her sexuality, the "Twilight" franchise has meant that she's maintained a particularly young — and often religiously conservative — fan base. And while the Hollywood landscape is changing, and actors who are not straight offscreen are being readily accepted in a variety of roles, it's still hard enough to get work in an industry Stewart recently called "disgustingly sexist" without the potential stigma of typecasting. For an actor's mother to set the tone by saying, essentially, that her daughter's relationship with a man was real and valid, and this new one with a woman is real and valid, is both incredibly simple and refreshingly novel. Jules says, "I feel like people need to be free to love whoever they want. I accept my daughter loves women and men .... We all choose our friends so we should be free to choose our lovers."

It's a similar sentiment to the one expressed last week by Miley Cyrus, who, in a cover profile in Paper, declared, "I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl." And though Cate Blanchett recently found herself walking back and clarifying her comments on previous relationships with women, she nonetheless added, "But in 2015, the point should be: who cares?"

The answer is, still, the press and the fans. You don't have to be gay or bisexual to be the subject of tabloid speculation — everybody with a public profile is. But the welcome shift is that we are moving to a place where the gender of a celebrity's latest love object is increasingly less relevant. And same-sex relationships aren't and shouldn't be career deal-breakers. In the years since Tom Hardy unabashedly replied, "As a boy? Of course I have," when asked if he'd ever fooled around with men, his career has gone to new heights. Anna Paquin has done just fine as a "non-practicing bisexual" since she came out as bi in 2010. Raven-Symone, who came out two years ago, just joined "The View." And with this quiet revelation, the odds are good that Stewart — who has several film projects currently in various states of completion — will be just fine too. Acting is supposed to be a job, not a way of life. And take a few words of wisdom from Kristen Stewart's mom, who says, "It’s OK to be who you are in my world. "

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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