Tyler James Williams, who has been absolutely killing it on Abbott Elementary, recently released a statement on the dangers of speculating on whether someone is part of the LGBTQ+ community. And he’s spot on. On his Instagram stories, Williams clarified that he wasn’t gay. Now, we’re not going to go what led to him having to release this statement in the first place. But it says a lot about the society that we are living in today that he had to release this statement and open up about such a personal matter in his life because of pressures around him.
Most importantly, Williams went on to say, “I think the culture of trying to “find” some kind of hidden trait or behavior that a closeted person “let slip” is very dangerous. Overanalyzing someones behavior in an attempt to “catch” them directly contributes to the anxiety a lot of queer and queer questioning people feel when they fear living in their truth. It makes the most pedestrian of conversations and interactions in spaces feel less safe for our gay brothers and sisters and those who may be questioning.”
And I didn’t cut down the statement because this bit has to be taken in whole.
Speculation if someone is gay or not seems harmless to some. It’s just speculation to the person doing the speculating. A bit of fun where they analyze someone’s behavior to see if they want to date a girl, boy, or someone else. But treating that speculation as “harmless fun” speaks to the ignorance of the person in question because people have died because of speculation. They have been beaten, harassed, and thrown out of their jobs and homes because the mere thought of them being gay was enough to other them.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I look at our current landscape and I’m scared. I’m scared of what is happening to our transgender sisters and brothers, our drag family, and our non-binary people. Every day it feels like we are being shut out of libraries because we can’t read with kids, our medical care taken away because trans identities aren’t real to some, or people are painting us as deviants who need to be destroyed. That’s why Williams statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Being part of the LGBTQ+ is a wonderous thing that makes me feel alive. But there are absolutely some who wouldn’t want me to be alive because of it.
Then there’s what Williams said about how speculating someone is part of the LGBTQ+ community can make them police themselves. It may make queer people look at their own actions and put themselves in a box because, “maybe I’m too much” or “maybe this could get me in trouble.” Or, most importantly, “maybe this will out me when I’m not ready yet.” And speculating if someone is gay or not takes away that choice and forces people into a corner. It also forces straight people into binary expressions of self where they can’t do something because it “might” be seen as gay. And that hurts everyone because we should be free to express ourselves in any way we want.
Williams continued by saying, “Being straight doesn’t look one way. Being gay doesn’t look one way. And what may seem like harmless fun and conversation may actually be sending a dangerous message to those struggling with real issues.” That dangerous message circles back to the ignorance of it all. Ignorance that turns a blind eye to the way that our rights are being taken away because those speculating see it as a bit of fun. And this goes for people speculating about a friend, a family member, and in Williams case, even a celebrity who is in the public eye and absolutely has to police himself because someone is always watching. Someone is always judging.
And the major difference between someone Tyler James Williams and just some regular ol’ person is that Williams has better resources to fight these battles if he were part of the LGBTQ+ community. Regular ol’ people don’t have those protections. And the little we have feels like it’s dwindling each day. So instead of speculating if your friend, family member, or celebrity is part of the LGBTQ+ community, people should take a step back and think about what it would feel like to have every single action of yours broken down and analyzed under a microscope and ready to judge you. Maybe even kill you. And it’s because of who you are.
And if you can’t do even that, shut up, sit down, and listen to the LGBTQ+ community for once. Because our lives depend on it.