Over the weekend, Billy Dee Williams inadvertently thrilled Star Wars fans who interpreted quotes from the actor to be identifying as gender fluid. The excerpts in question surfaced within an Esquire interview in which Williams praised Donald Glover’s take on young Lando Calrissian (Glover previously stated that Lando is a pansexual character) in Solo. During the course of the interview, Williams described himself as “feminine” and “masculine” while suggesting that he personally prefers pronouns including “himself” and “herself.” More fully, “I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.”
Williams never specifically used the term “gender fluid,” but nonetheless, his quotes drew widespread praise in that context. While speaking with The Undefeated this week, he expressed some surprise and confusion over the matter: “Well, first of all, I asked last night. I said, ‘What the hell is gender fluid?’ That’s a whole new term.” Williams then clarified that he was simply expressing that he feels in touch with his feminine side, and not about “sex” or “gay or straight” (however, sexual orientation and gender fluidity are not one and the same). The discussion gets a little muddled:
“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.”
Williams further told The Undefeated that he is “not gay — by any stretch of the imagination. Not that I have anything against gay people. But personally? Not gay.” Clearly, he freely admitted to the outlet that he wasn’t familiar with “gender fluid” as a term. It’s also not unusual, as he did, for people to mistakenly link gender fluidity to sexual orientation. The latter term refers to the concept that gender exists on a spectrum and can shift between masculine and feminine as well as according to expression. Those who choose to not identify as a fixed gender often prefer the use of specific pronouns like “they” rather than “he” or “she.”
Overall, this sounds like a learning experience for all, including both Williams and those who misinterpreted his initial remarks to Esquire. Read his full discussion with The Undefeated here.