This week Vulture published an interview with Oscar nominated actor Lucas Hedges that quickly made headlines. Hedges—who starred in Lady Bird as well as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the forthcoming Boy Erased, in which he plays a young gay man sent to conversion therapy—had some interesting things to say about neuroses, family, and art, but the only part the media was interested in was this (emphasis mine):
Hedges knows that since he’s starring in Boy Erased, people will ask him about his own sexuality. “I owe it to this part to speak as honestly as possible,” he says. “In the early stages of my life, some of the people I was most infatuated with were my closest male friends. That was the case through high school, and I think I was always aware that while for the most part I was attracted to women, I existed on a spectrum.”
He remembers a sixth-grade health teacher describing sexuality as a broad range where many people may fall in some difficult-to-define space between straight and gay. “I felt ashamed that I wasn’t 100 percent, because it was clear that one side of sexuality presents issues, and the other doesn’t as much,” he says. “I recognize myself as existing on that spectrum: Not totally straight, but also not gay and not necessarily bisexual.”
The headline in People read, "Lucas Hedges Opens Up About His Sexuality: I'm 'Not Totally Straight.'" HuffPo said, "‘Boy Erased’ Star Lucas Hedges Says He’s ‘Not Totally Straight.'" The Gay Times said basically the same thing, and on and on and on. The media loves coming out stories and this was, kind of, one of them.
Or was it? I am aware that it's not my job (or anyone else's) to define or question anyone else's sexuality, but let's look at what Hedges said again: He said was infatuated with boys as a child, and as he got older he was infatuated with girls. That's not gay; it's straight. Generally speaking, boys who grow up to be straight think girls are icky and girls who grow up to be straight think boys are icky, at least until the puberty years, when, for most people (including, it seems, Hedges) that shifts. This is a completely normal part of human development and I'm shocked it would require any sort of coming out.
Still, I get why Hedges would "come out," if that's what this interview was. He played a gay boy in Lady Bird as well as in Boy Erased. Playing someone of a different sexual or gender identity is dangerous territority, and if you need proof, just ask Scarlett Johansen, who was so savaged for agreeing to play a trans man in the biopic Rub & Tug that she dropped out. Or ask Jack Whitehall, or Kimberly Pierce, or Ruby Rose, who left Twitter after getting dragged online for agreeing to play Batwoman in the CW series Arrowverse. Why? Because the fictional Batwoman is a fictional lesbian, and Rose, who calls herself "gender fluid," apparently doesn't count. It's almost enough to make one presumptively come out.
Or maybe I'm being too cynical. Like Hedges, I do think that sexuality exists on a spectrum and that it can shift and evolve with time. But I also think that any actor who desires to play queer characters would have good reason to inflate his/her/their queerness. It's a savvy business move. It's also, however, confusing. Hedges says he's not straight, gay, or bi, so what exactly is he? All of the above, or none? Perhaps the problem is that the words we've traditionally used to convey sexual orientation no longer serve us. In light of this, a proposal: Instead of identifying ourselves with those old-fashioned labels like gay, straight, or bi, maybe we should identify ourselves by our Kinsey Scale scores instead. Developed by famed sexologist Albert Kinsey in the 1940s, according to the Kinsey Scale, a score of 0 means exclusively heterosexual, a score of 6 means exclusively homosexual, and most people are somewhere in the middle. Where is Lucas Hedges? No idea, but for myself? On a scale of 0 to 6, I'll take a 7.