Amandla Stenberg Felt A ‘Profound Sense of Relief’ When She Realized She Was Gay

Actor Amandla Stenberg isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Since her breakout role in The Hunger Games, Stenberg has not only gone on to star in films like Everything, Everything and As You Are, but she’s also been an outspoken voice on racism, sexism, and other social issues. Stenberg is so plugged in to the issues of the day, TIME named the 19-year-old one of the world’s most influential teens.

In 2016, Stenberg told Teen Vogue she was bisexual, but now that she’s learned more about herself, and unleard “ heteronormativity and internalized homophobia,” she has come out as gay.

The continual process of unlearning heteronormativity and internalized homophobia can be difficult, but one of the biggest blessings lies in the magic that comes from having to understand love outside the confines of learned heterosexual roles,” Stenberg told Wonderland magazine.

“Once I was able to rid myself of those parameters, I found myself in a deep well of unbounded and untouchable love free from the dominion of patriarchy. My sexuality is not a byproduct of my past experiences with men, who I have loved, but rather a part of myself I was born with and love deeply,” she explained.

For many, coming to grips with their sexuality can be difficult, but Stenberg said when she realized she was gay she felt a “profound sense of relief.”

“I had a few big Gay Sob moments when I realized I was gay,” Stenberg recalled. “They were joyful and overwhelmed sobs — socialization is a bitch and a half and kept me from understanding and living my truth for a while. I was so overcome with this profound sense of relief when I realized that I’m gay – not bi, not pan, but gay — with a romantic love for women.”

Though she listed Audre Lorde, Syd, and Frida Kahlo among her queer female icons, Stenberg said not seeing many gay Black women in the media negatively impacted her.

“Had I had more representations of Black gay women growing up I probably would’ve come to conclusions around my sexuality much earlier because I would’ve had more of a conception of what was possible and okay,” she said. “Having more representations of Black gay women now and seeing myself reflected in them has been a huge aid in seeing myself as whole, complete, and normal.”

Stenberg may not have seen representations of Black gay women when she was growing up, but young girls these days certainly do. Between Stenberg, Lena Waithe, Syd, Wanda Sykes and others, young women who are contemplating their own sexuality now have a few more people on screen they can look to as examples today.

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