In a new essay for Elle, the 31-year-old Hills: New Beginnings star writes about how over the summer, she and who she refers to as "a female friend" fell for each other while travelling throughout Europe. Though she never names Cyrus directly, the pair was first linked when they were spotted in Italy back in August. They later called it quits in September.
"This past July, I went on vacation with a female friend; the next thing I knew, I was in love with her. It wasn’t quite that simple, of course. But it also wasn’t very complicated, either," Carter writes. "Until that trip, it had never crossed my mind that I was even capable of loving a woman the way I loved her. But after reflecting on my romantic history, I realized that I’ve never really had a 'type.'"
The formative trip came on the heels of Carter's split from Brody Jenner and Cyrus' from Liam Hemsworth, something Carter believes brought her and Cyrus together.
"As my friend and I spent that August traveling through Europe together and trying to move past our respective breakups, my first and only romance with a woman was born," she writes, before referencing a man she dated at age 22 who had "a chemistry that drew me to him."
"I fell just as hard for her as I had the older man so many years before. It was that same familiar force of nature; I didn’t have to think about a thing or over analyze. It just happened and it felt exactly right," she explains. "Reflecting back on our three-year friendship, I realized I’d always been drawn to her in a way I wasn’t with other friends, but until that trip it had never crossed my mind to think of her in a romantic sense."
Despite the short romance -- which a source previously told ET Cyrus initiated -- Carter notes that she'll "remain eternally grateful to my most recent relationship for opening my eyes to this unexplored part of myself, and for inspiring a new level of self-discovery and wonder at all the possibilities of life."
"I’ve been forced to get to know myself in a far deeper way than ever before, and not just in terms of my sexual preferences. I’ve also been forced to reckon with who I am as a person," she writes. "Although the relationship with my friend was often referenced in the media as merely a 'summer fling' or a 'same-sex affair,' it was so much more than that. This was a profound journey of self-discovery."
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Throughout that period of self-discovery, Carter writes that she doesn't "feel like I’m in a place to label my sexuality one way or another, but I'm OK with that."
"[I] find myself attracted to people in a way that seems disconnected from sex and physical traits, and more connected to a person’s mind. It’s not necessarily intelligence, although that helps, but it’s about how they think and operate, how they view the world," she explains. "I guess technically I could label myself a number of ways. Or on second thought, not at all."
"... It’s something I’m still exploring and figuring out," she adds. "... Even I don’t entirely understand what my experience this summer means for me going forward -- and it’s my experience."
Within the essay, Carter also writes about her relationship with Jenner, who she split from in August. While the pair had a wedding ceremony in Bali back in 2018, they never legally tied the knot, something which, Carter writes, didn't lessen their bond.
"The legitimacy of that marriage has become a matter of public debate, but for he and I, it was very real," she writes. "He was quite possibly the most beautiful man on the planet, with a heart of gold and a tireless sense of adventure. I was drawn to his spirit... He became my best friend, and together we had all the fun the world had to offer."
"Eventually though, after years of constant 'excitement,' we found we’d done as much growing apart as we’d done growing up," she continues. "I began to spend a lot of time traveling on my own or with friends, quietly mourning what I knew in my heart would soon be the end of my marriage."
"I'm sure you're going to see a lot of that," he said. "Of course, you have to stay tuned to see what goes on with that. But, you'll definitely see some of that."
Despite her tumultuous few months, Carter writes that she hopes others take notes from her on how to live their lives unapologetically.
"I hope that everyone, when given the chance, takes the time to understand who exactly their most authentic selves are, untethered from what we may have been taught to believe," she writes. "Remain curious. Know that there are many layers within you -- and they just might be the most invaluable ones."