Billy Dee Williams, best known for his role in the Star Wars movies, has just come out at as gender fluid.
The Star Wars actor recently opened up about his gender fluidity and using both he/him and she/her pronouns in an interview with Esquire. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”
I totally heart this for a number of reasons.
For starters, it goes against the stereotype that identifying as non-binary is something that is typically associated with a younger generation. At 82, Williams is older than many of the celebrities that also identify as gender-fluid, transgender, pangender, or other gender related identities. When someone comes out as non-binary, whether they are a celebrity or not, its not uncommon for them to be dismissed as being young and confused about who they are. I think it’s wonderful to have this type of representation in our community.
Physically, Williams also presents as someone with an appearance that most would associate with masculine characteristics, mainly because of his mustache. As someone who is over six feet tall with big boy hands and broad shoulders, I often think I am too masculine (physically at least) to present as anything other than male. Of course, I have gotten over that as there are no standards one must meet to be any gender (or non-gender) that you want. Williams is a role model for us as he reminds us that we do not have to be David Bowie-esque androgynous in order to identify or come out as anything we want.
Finally, Star Wars for a very long time has been considered very much a boy thing. There was a huge backlash against actresses Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran who starred in the films and much of the criticism and harassment was by men because Ridley and Tran are girls in a movie.
I know, I know, NOT ALL MEN, thank you.
Having an actor in the biggest movie franchise of all time who is a member of our community is a huge thing. We need allies and representation and thankfully Williams isn’t the only one. Mark Hamill also often voices his support for the LGBTQ+ community as well.
Having LGBTQ+ actors and actresses starring in movies is important, but the movies also need to have LGBTQ+ characters as well. Entertainment should be inclusive and have representation. At the very least it shouldn’t be anti-anything. I’m not saying that every movie and television show necessarily needs to have a LGBTQ+ character, but saying a movie (especially one with aliens and robots) can’t have a gay or transgender character is ridiculous.
Growing up I only saw transgender/crossdressing/non-binary characters in movies and television shows portrayed as a laugh or as fetish-y. It reinforced the idea that we were to be mocked and feared. I never saw anyone like me. No one did. How ground-breaking would it be to see a movie with a husband and wife in bed having a conversation while he’s wearing a nightgown? A male character wearing leggings and reading a book or something normal. The clothing shouldn’t be addressed or a plot point, just… something subtle that isn’t turned into a big deal.
As our society is introduced to ideas and representation and perspectives that are outside the traditional male and female thinking, the closer (however slow it may be) we get to being, well, maybe understood or accepted is too optimistic right now, but perhaps tolerated is the best we can hope for at this point. I would love for Hannah to turn heads at the mall because of my gorgeous dress, not because of my trans-ness. I would love to run errands in boy mode wearing a femme t-shirt and yoga pants and have no one care.
I mean, I don’t know if they care, and I don’t care if they care, but you know what I mean.
I love that emotions, characteristics, and clothes are moving away from being labeled as masculine and feminine. Yes, it’s a slow process and not without resistance, but it is progress nonetheless.