Some Thoughts on Sexuality and Assumption

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Ben Whishaw. Dreamboat. Conundrum. Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty Images

In this week's New York, writer Mike Vilensky interviewed Hugh Dancy and Ben Whishaw, the two stars of the boundary-pushing new play The Pride. The pair play gay lovers in two dramatically different, and occasionally upsetting, scenarios. In the original version of the article, both actors were referred to as heterosexual, a distinction which has come under scrutiny for at least one of them (hint: the one who's not married to Claire Danes). We've modified the online version of the story, and thought this was as good a time as any to discuss the idea of sexuality and assumption. And highway truck stops.


Christal: So let's talk about gaydar for a minute here.

VilenskyWensky: Yeah let's talk about that. Some people are saying that mine, in fact, is broken. I don't know if it is, but you know what sure throws it off: super-deep doe-eyes, skinny, hipster Brits in tight sweaters, and accents.

Christal: Those are the most confusing. The tousled hair, the studiously disheveled beards…

Christal: ..the clothes that actually fit.


VilenskyWensky: Have you been mistaken for straight? (And would you mind?)

Christal: Only very rarely. And when it happens I absolutely have no idea what to do about it.

VilenskyWensky: Do you correct the person?

Christal: Well, if it's not some giant trucker who might knife me in a highway rest stop, yeah.

VilenskyWensky: Is that a situation that comes up often?

Christal: Let's move on. If a pixie like you asked me, I'd correct you.

VilenskyWensky: I'd hope so. As for me, I get mistaken for straight on Facebook a lot. But not in person, alas.

Christal: It's funny, I feel like it doesn't bother me to be confused for straight. I guess when people ask me where my wife is, it's weird. But not because it's rude, or anything, because it's just so alien. I mean, lady, look at what all the shit I've got in my hair! And anyway, that only happens in the Midwest.

VilenskyWensky: Yeah I just don't look married. In any part of the country.

Christal: Really, it's a safe-ish assumption for someone to make. Most people are straight. All that's required is to say, "I'm not married." What's actually offensive is when straight people are offended to be confused for gay.

VilenskyWensky: Which in a way, makes it offensive that someone would be offended by being confused for straight.

Christal: Yeah, it's like, "I'm not straight. Not that there's anything wrong with that." Once, at dinner, my boyfriend asked the Husband of a Relatively Famous Female Television Personality if he was there with his own boyfriend. To the guy's credit, he was very sweet about it. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was so mortified he almost passed out into his bisque.

VilenskyWensky: But see, he shouldn't have felt bad. What's wrong with that? Anyway, gaydar can especially hard with actors. Because everyone's always flirting with you.

Christal: I know what you mean. Once I swear to God Josh Duhamel, who I have no doubt is straight, caressed my hand during an interview. It's a thing they do. If a male star is talking to J-13, he'll talk about how he loves kissing, but not on the first date.

Christal: Or if he's talking to Maxim he'll talk about how he is an ass man.

Christal: Or if he's talking to, say, Out, he'll studiously answer romantic queries with vague, double entendres, so that the editors like Aaron Hicklin can tantalize their readers with the thought that one of their most favorite hot actors might actually be available to them. Gay magazine editors can get a whole lot of mileage out of an actor not denying that he's gay.

VilenskyWensky: Well, whatever the case, it's silly to make assumptions.

Christal: Indeed. But when you do make one, and someone doesn't correct you, there's only so much you can do. But still, yes, certainly embarrassing.

VilenskyWensky: Well, there's also the thing about actors, since it's come up. At a certain point in a young actor's career, it might well behoove them to keep letting people assume something or other.

VilenskyWensky: Like did you have a "bi" time?

Christal: I had a bi time.

Christal: It was so horrible.

Christal: Especially for my mom.

VilenskyWensky: So confusing. Now imagine being famous during that time.

VilenskyWensky: And having people all over you about it.

VilenskyWensky: That would suck!

VilenskyWensky: It's awkward enough to explain to your closest friends.

Christal: I know. Seems to me everyone should take it easy about this sort of thing. I once had a canoe trips counselor at summer camp who once asked me to write out the word "ASSUME" in the sand on a beach, and pointed out that when you assume, it makes an "ASS" out of "U" and "ME."

VilenskyWensky: Wow.

Christal: That guy was a dickhead.


Actor Ben Whishaw is Straight in One Magazine, Gay in Another [VV]
Role Play [NYM]