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Billy Dee Williams reveals our collective gender confusion

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Billy Dee Williams, best known for playing the smooth-talking Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars universe, appears to have come out as “gender fluid.”

In an interview with Esquire published last week, Williams said he “never tried to be anything except myself.”

“I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously,” he said.

Part of being himself, he explained, means expressing gender fluidity or identifying as either male or female. “And you see 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.”

If we lived in an era with strong gender stereotypes, where the media didn’t celebrate Harry Styles in a tutu or GQ’s broad definition of the “new masculinity,” it would make sense for Williams to say that living outside of gender norms deserves its own term.

But you can feel feminine and masculine without changing your pronouns. People managed it for centuries.

For many years, people have been advocating that there is no one right way to be “masculine” or “feminine.” Last month, Alicia Keys went on a two-minute rant about gender stereotypes in our society, which push children into gender roles and encourage people to judge those such as her 4-year-old son, who felt bad for wearing rainbow nail polish.

“This is a very normal, ancient, powerful, spiritual understanding that we all have masculine and feminine energies and we should be able to explore and express them however we want to,” Keys said on her Instagram. Keys says she often expresses more “masculine energy,” and we should all be able to express “different energies” inside of us without judgment.

This view of gender, however, is becoming passé. Now the narrative goes something like this: If you don’t fit into an existing box, create a new one. It’s already an old hat to demand an expansion of what it means to be male or female. Instead, we’ve reached the idea that if you don’t fit into one gender’s stereotypes, you must identify with both.

Pop star Sam Smith recently revealed that he identifies as nonbinary, preferring the plural pronoun “they.” Smith tweeted that “after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.” The Associated Press’s original story on Smith’s announcement referred to Smith as “he,” which drew ire from progressives who decried it as bigoted.

Just as fans rallied around Smith, after the Esquire interview published, supporters were quick to endorse the idea of a gender-fluid Williams. The Human Rights Campaign tweeted congratulations to him “for coming out and living your truth as gender fluid.”

By moving from “express your gender however you like” to “if you express gender differently, you must be both male and female,” liberals have done themselves no favors. Even as their weaponization of pronouns purports to turn skeptics and forgetful speakers into bigots, the new popularity of gender fluidity creates a philosophical problem. For gender fluidity enforces gender stereotypes. If your son likes to play with dolls, do you tell him he’s simply thinking outside the box, or do you tell him he might be a woman? If your child wears blue one day and pink another, what will that mean?

Liberals are still trying to get their story straight. When they figure it all out, this much will be certain: The answer will be much more complicated and confusing than it ever needed to be.