Kristen Stewart on the Pressure of Coming Out and Representing Queerness
By Antoinette Bueno
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Kristen Stewart is opening up about the complicated dynamic of the public's fascination with her personal life.
The 30-year-old actress covers InStyle's November 2020 issue, and talks about her new film, The Happiest Season, with its director, Clea DuVall. The film is a romantic comedy about a woman named Harper (Mackenzie Davis) who brings her girlfriend, Abby (Stewart), home for Christmas, though she hasn't told her parents that she's gay. Stewart says she personally related to the story.
"It deals with very poignant things that, for me, are extremely affecting and triggering -- even though now the word 'triggering' triggers me more than anything in the whole world," she says. "But the movie is so funny and cute, and I loved the couple. They're both people I really felt protective of in different ways, because I've been on both sides of that dynamic where someone is having a hard time acknowledging who they are and the other person is more self-accepting. I [personally] came into the more complex aspects of myself a little bit later. I never felt an immense shame, but I also don't feel far away from that story, so I must have it in a latent sense."
"I don't want to aggrandize my own pain, because I know that others' pain has been so great," she adds. "Living in this world, being a queer person, there are things that hurt constantly."
Stewart talks specifically about her own experience, when she was pressured to put a label on her sexuality.
"The first time I ever dated a girl, I was immediately being asked if I was a lesbian," she shares. "And it's like, 'God, I'm 21 years old.' I felt like maybe there were things that have hurt people I've been with. Not because I felt ashamed of being openly gay but because I didn't like giving myself to the public, in a way. It felt like such thievery. This was a period of time when I was sort of cagey."
"Even in my previous relationships, which were straight, we did everything we could to not be photographed doing things — things that would become not ours," she says. "So I think the added pressure of representing a group of people, of representing queerness, wasn't something I understood then. Only now can I see it. Retrospectively, I can tell you I have experience with this story. But back then I would have been like, 'No, I'm fine. My parents are fine with it. Everything's fine.' That's bullsh**. It's been hard. It's been weird. It's that way for everyone."
Stewart acknowledges that she felt pressure to be a spokesperson for the queer community.
"I did more when I was younger, when I was being hounded about labeling myself," she recalls. "I had no reticence about displaying who I was. I was going out every day knowing I'd be photographed while I was being affectionate with my girlfriend, but I didn't want to talk about it. I did feel an enormous pressure, but it wasn't put on me by the [LGBTQ+] community. People were seeing those pictures and reading these articles and going, 'Oh, well, I need to be shown.' I was a kid, and I felt personally affronted."
These days, she has a different attitude about being seen.
"Now I relish it," she says. "I love the idea that anything I do with ease rubs off on somebody who is struggling. That sh**'s dope! When I see a little kid clearly feeling themselves in a way that they wouldn't have when I grew up, it makes me skip."
As for what the actress has been up to in quarantine, she describes a typical day.
"I walk my dogs and take walks with people," she says. "I feel horrible about the state of the world, so I'm donating money -- but I'm not marching, and I'm feeling weird about it. I'm a frustrated optimist. I'm always thinking, 'It can't be as bad as this.'"
"I read the news every day, but I don't fixate on it," she adds. "I have some friends who won't stop, and it's all they talk about. I'm not saying I don't want to confront these things. But in terms of how involved I am, I've never been the face of anything. I don't even have a public Instagram. I really do like to support people who are already doing it and have been for years."
Stewart is also gearing up to play Princess Diana in the upcoming film Spencer. The film unfolds over three days in the early '90s, as Princess Diana escapes to Norfolk, England, for Christmas and finds herself questioning her marriage to Prince Charles and her place in line to become queen.
"We don't start shooting until mid-January," she shares. "The accent is intimidating as all hell because people know that voice, and it's so, so distinct and particular. I'm working on it now and already have my dialect coach. In terms of research, I've gotten through two and a half biographies, and I'm finishing all the material before I actually go make the movie. It's one of the saddest stories to exist ever, and I don't want to just play Diana -- I want to know her implicitly. I haven't been this excited about playing a part, by the way, in so long."
Meanwhile, ET spoke with Stewart in January, where she responded to fans who wanted her to play another iconic role -- Catwoman. While Stewart said the idea was "silly," she did say she was proud of Pattinson for taking on the Batman role. Watch the video below for more.