The MCU's Loki, nemesis of Thor and "God of Mischief," is now the first openly queer major character in the MCU.

The reveal occurred in the third episode of the Disney+ series Loki, in a scene where the title character has lunch with a version of himself from an alternate timeline.

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Culture News

Was Kid Cudi's "SNL" Dress Ugly?

As men wearing dresses feels less and less revolutionary, men are going to have to step up their game, experimenting with feminine styles with intentionality instead of just shock value.

Kid Cudi in a Custon Off-White dress on SNL

Kid Cudi officially announced sundress season by performing in a dress on SNL as the musical guest on April 10th.

With vaccines on the horizon and spring in full swing, sundress season promises to deliver this year. Easter even delivered sundress-related drama between Selena Gomez and Kendall Jenner after Jenner posted a picture in the same Rodarte floral dress that Gomez wore in her video for "De Una Vez."

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Culture Feature

Eddie Izzard's Unapologetic Marathon of Self-Discovery

The genderfluid comedian recently announced her preference for she/her pronouns, but she has been openly interrogating the concept of gender for more than 30 years.

EXCLUSIVE - Eddie Izzard poses for a photograph ahead of the Wellstock X For One Night Only event in aid of mental health charity Shout, during which Eddie Izzard performed 'Great Expectations' at the Charles Dickens museum

Vianney Le Caer/Shutterstock

Update 3/12/2021: This week The Guardian featured a profile of Eddie Izzard with the quote "I'm just trying to make a space for myself." In the profile she explains why her she/her pronouns have become permanent.

Having completed her January mission of 31 marathons and 31 standup gigs in 31 days — raising over £300,000 — she's now filming a Netflix series adapting the Harlan Coben novel Stay Close. As she's playing a male role, she figured it would make sense for people to use "he/him" on set, but people stuck with "she/her."

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What Exactly Is "Pronouns Day"?

Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.


Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.

Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).

But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."

But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).

But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.

Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).

But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."

On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"

Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.

Photo by: Lena Balk / Unsplash

"They" is Merriam-Webster's 2019 Word of the Year.

As a singular pronoun, "they" has exponentially risen in popularity over the last few years to refer to nonbinary people—folks who feel neither entirely male nor female. Other neutral pronouns like "ze" and "hir" can also be used, although "they/them" is most widely used among English-speaking communities.

Though so-called grammar purists have dismissed the use of the singular "they" on the basis of clarity, Merriam-Webster (as well as the Oxford English Dictionary) insists that it's totally OK. In September, Merriam-Webster officially added the singular "they," stating: "People have used singular 'they' to describe someone whose gender is unknown for a long time, but the nonbinary use of 'they' is relatively new."

According to Merriam-Webster, lookups for "they" increased by 313 percent in 2019 over the last year. Sure, everyone knows what "they" means in a pretty simple sense, but we still use dictionaries to look up different usages of words and how definitions change over time. A few events in the news this year likely spurred the sharp increase in lookups: Singer Sam Smith and Atypical star Brigette Lundy-Paine both announced they were using they/them pronouns. The American Psychological Association recommended that "writers should use the singular 'they' in two main cases: (a) when referring to a generic person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context and (b) when referring to a specific, known person who uses 'they' as their pronoun." During a House Judiciary meeting in April, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal stated that her child is gender-nonconforming and uses they/them pronouns.

While there's still plenty of work left to do in recognizing and accepting trans and nonbinary folks, "they" being the Word of the Year is a huge start. Though recognizing gender identity outside of the male-female binary might seem a little odd to some—and our current administration continues to pretend like transgender people don't exist—it's crucial that they/them pronouns become normalized, and it's possible to adapt. If "they" can be one of Merriam-Webster's most looked-up words of the past 12 months, it appears that, thankfully, more and more people are getting on board.


Did Billy Dee Williams Really Come Out as Gender Fluid?

The man who made Lando Calrissian a household name may not be a "man" after all

Billy Dee Williams'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 16 Dec 2019

Photo by Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Billy Dee Williams is a sex symbol.

The deep silky tones of his voice. The sly smile that invites you to be as comfortable and cool as he is. He has sexual chemistry with literally everyone, literally all the time.

So when Donald Glover took over the iconic role of Lando Calrissian—essentially playing a younger version of Williams for Solo: A Star Wars Story—it should hardly have been surprising to anyone that Glover and the film's writers would refer to Lando as pansexual. And yet, it did. Just as people of a certain stripe will find cause for outrage in women being allowed to bust ghosts and hypersexualized videogame characters wearing slightly more clothing than they used to, Twitter commentators began attacking this addition to a classic character that they had rigidly defined according to their own narrow views.

According to them, both Billy Dee Williams and Lando Calrissian were consummate cis, hetero, norm-conforming, masculine males. Look at his jawline! Look at his mustache! Look at the way he flirts with Leia! This is a man's man who drinks malt liquor, objectifies women, and makes capes look badass. According to this assessment, the suggestion that Lando Calrissian could even be attracted to anyone outside of the traditional, heteronormative structure of romance was an affront to manhood itself. Anyone that cool and manly could only be into women, and pretending otherwise could only be a part of the SJW attack on civilization.

Those same commentators must be having some complicated feelings today, with the news that Billy Dee Williams, at the age of 82, is not at all hung up on these old ideas. In a recent interview with Esquire, Williams—who is reprising his role as Han Solo's frenemy in the upcoming film, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker—refers to himself/herself with both sets of the traditional gender pronouns, saying, "I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn't take himself or herself too seriously." In case there was any question about the sincerity of that usage, Williams followed up with some clarification, "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."

Many outlets are reporting this as a straightforward story of the actor "coming out" as "gender fluid." While that's an understandable interpretation of events, Williams does not actually use that term within the interview, which begs the question of what it really means to be gender fluid. If you relate to traits of both the traditionally masculine and the traditionally feminine role—e.g. you are biologically male, but value your feminine side—does that mean you're gender fluid? Does it require a direct declaration of a fluid identity? Or regular use of pronouns other than the one you were assigned at birth?

I don't have an answer, because I don't believe there is one answer. Coming to terms with the fact that gender is largely a social construct means coming to terms with the fact that the definitions of terms around gender are subject to societal standards and norms that are currently—if not permanently—in flux. I personally think many in the media have jumped the gun in declaring Williams to be gender fluid without getting direct confirmation that he/she defines himself/herself in those specific terms. But what's way more important than knowing exactly how to navigate new questions and concerns about gender as culture changes is recognizing the problems with the old strictures—problems which Williams' interview highlights beautifully.

Put simply, there are no superficial signifiers that define who a person is supposed to be. Just because Billy Dee Williams projects a public persona that conforms to traditional ideas of masculinity doesn't mean that he/she is beholden to the rigid role that entails. In Williams' own words, "I never tried to be anything except myself." If even someone who seems to have such a natural aptitude for the gruff, cool confidence of old-school masculinity can—at the age of 82—recognize that aspects of his/her identity fall outside the prescribed norms of manhood, then we should all feel a little freer to question the roles that are set out for us.

If all that means for you is letting yourself cry when Sam Smith comes on the radio, changing up your grooming habits, or expanding your wardrobe to include some badass capes, that's great. And if it means using a different pronoun, a different name, or taking more permanent measures to match your gender presentation to your gender identity, then maybe a figure like Billy Dee Williams referring to herself as feminine can help give you some license to defy expectations.