‘What the Hell Is Gender Fluid?’: Billy Dee Williams Clarifies Usage of Gender Pronouns, Says He Was Simply Discussing the 'Softer Side' of Men

Billy Dee Williams participates in the global press conference for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” on December 04, 2019 in Pasadena, California.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez (Getty Images for Disney)

It looks like we got a little bit ahead of ourselves here.

In a recent interview with The Undefeated, Williams says his Esquire Magazine quote, where he said he identified with both “feminine” and “masculine” parts of himself, was misunderstood.

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“Well, first of all, I asked last night. I said, ‘What the hell is gender fluid?’,” Williams began the interview.

The Undefeated reports Williams as saying:

He was misunderstood, he says.

“But what I was talking about was about men getting in touch with their softer side of themselves. There’s a phrase that was coined by Carl G. Jung, who was a psychiatrist, who was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, and they had a splitting of the ways because they had different ideas about the...what do you call it? Consciousness. Unconscious. It’s collective unconsciousness. But he coined a phrase that’s, ‘Anima animus.’ And anima means that is the female counterpart of the male self, and the animus is the male counterpart of the female.

“So, that’s what I was referring to. I was talking about men getting in touch with the female side of themselves. I wasn’t talking about sex, I wasn’t talking about being gay or straight. People should read [Jung]. I mean, it would be an interesting education for a lot of people.”

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Admittedly, I believe it was the usage of pronouns (he said he referred to himself as “himself” and “herself” in the interview) that sparked interest in most publications, including this one. To have someone, especially of Williams’ generation, specifically use that particular language seemed progressive.

As the media assigned the term “gender fluid” to his identity, Williams wanted to also clarify his sexual orientation.

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“No, no, no, I’m not gay — by any stretch of the imagination. Not that I have anything against gay people. But personally? Not gay,” he told the Undefeated.

It is important here to note that gender identity does not dictate sexual orientation or vice versa. Though the two concepts are routinely conflated, they are distinguished terms. As the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) notes, gender identity refers to “your own, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary)” whereas sexual orientation “describes a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person.”

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Regardless, Williams most definitely has every right to identify as he chooses and we want to make sure his clarification is documented. As The Undefeated reports, Williams identifies as a man, “a very cute man,” in fact.

And that’s that on that.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.