Billy Dee Williams: ‘What the hell is gender fluid?’

The legendary actor — the essence of black masculinity with his velvety-smooth, bedroom-ready voice, which carried over into a ubiquitous Colt 45 malt liquor campaign in the 1980s — gave an interview to Esquire magazine about his role as smuggler Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which lands in theaters Dec. 20.

In that interview, the 82-year-old actor said, “And you see, I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine. I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

Media outlets — so many media outlets! — picked that quote up and ran with it. Williams, they reported, is gender fluid. People praised him. Oh, how they praised him.

Thing is, Williams has no idea what that means.

Well, first of all, I asked last night. I said, ‘What the hell is gender fluid?’ That’s a whole new term,” Williams said in an interview with The Undefeated this week.

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.”

Williams says he was a bit shocked to see the headlines — and the praise that came along with how some people reacted to the Esquire interview.

“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 said.

Williams made a common mistake in attaching gender fluidity to sexual orientation. Gender fluidity refers to people who do not identify themselves as having a fixed gender. Many prefer to use non-gendered pronouns: “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

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