For Cyrus, who never felt particularly feminine or masculine and never felt the "bisexual" label came close to capturing her sexuality, navigating her identity was difficult. And it wasn't until the Crisis in Six Scenes actress tapped into the LGBT community in Los Angeles that she was able to tap into her truth.
"I went to the LGBTQ center here in L.A., and I started hearing these stories," says Cyrus, who has since become a leading activist in the LGBT movement through her Happy Hippie Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources to LGBT youth, homeless citizens and other vulnerable communities.
"I saw one human in particular who didn’t identify as male or female," she continued. "Looking at them, they were both: beautiful and sexy and tough but vulnerable and feminine but masculine. And I related to that person more than I related to anyone in my life. Even though I may seem very different, people may not see me as neutral as I feel. But I feel very neutral. I think that was the first gender-neutral person I’d ever met. Once I understood my gender more, which was unassigned, then I understood my sexuality more. I was like, 'Oh — that’s why I don’t feel straight and I don’t feel gay. It’s because I’m not.'"
Even still, Cyrus says coming out as pansexual — as someone who is attracted to people of any sex or gender — to her religious Southern family was a fraught experience. But "the universe has always given me the power to know I’ll be OK," she says. "Even at that time, when my parents didn’t understand, I just felt that one day they are going to understand."
And they did — during a heart-rending moment on The Voice.
"On The Voice, this young girl started crying when she left, because I’m the reason she came out," Cyrus explained. "My mom started crying. She was like, 'I’m so sorry about the way I was when you were that age and coming out.' She never understood me until she saw that girl who couldn’t be herself. It was very cool."