Billy Dee Williams recently chatted with Esquire magazine and told the publication that he uses both male and female pronouns to refer to himself.
“I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” said Williams, 82, who is known for portraying Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars universe. “I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.”
Williams’ comments were interpreted that he identified as gender-fluid. However, the Star Wars actor said that he was unaware of how his words would be construed.
During an interview with the New York Times on Tuesday (Dec. 3), Williams said, “That was a good article, except that thing about gender — what’s it called, gender-fluid?” he said, referring to the Esquire profile. “I had never heard that expression before. But I don’t really know what it means. What does it mean?”
Williams was explained that the term means “that there are people who do not identify as simply men or women,” and he replied “Well, that’s not what I was talking about. I was talking about, I think that men should get in touch with their female self.”
“Men should not be afraid or ashamed of expressing the soft side of themselves,” Williams continued. Although the actor uses both male and female pronouns for himself, he didn’t ask others to refer to him using different pronouns.
While talking to the Times, the actor went on to apparently blend gender identity and sexual orientation, saying, “I wasn’t talking about running around and having a good time, playing male or female sexual games.”
Williams’s clarification speaks to a current evolution taking place in society where it’s becoming increasingly common for people to inform others of what their preferred pronouns are and asking others to use them.
Nick Adams, director of transgender representation at the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD told the Times that although society is shifting towards better understanding gender identity, it shouldn’t lead to presumptions.
“It’s important to acknowledge and respect a person’s gender identity and the pronouns they use,” Adams said. “Someone who uses the singular ‘they’ pronoun, or perhaps uses both he/him and she/her interchangeably, could be telling you they are nonbinary or gender-fluid. However, one should not make assumptions or apply labels based on limited information.”
“You need to listen to what a person actually tells you about their gender identity: their deeply held sense of their own gender,” Adams continued.