Shawn Mendes Opens Up About Sexuality, Masculinity
Shawn Mendes has opened up about the pressure he felt to respond to speculation about his sexuality without coming off as homophobic.
“It was so frustrating for me because there were some people in my life that I was very, very close to who were gay and in the closet,” the 22-year-old Canadian singer said during an interview on Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. “And I felt like this real anger for those people. I don’t know, it’s such a tricky thing.
“You want to say, ‘I’m not gay but it’d be fine if I was gay, but also there’s nothing wrong with being gay but I’m not.’ You don’t really know how to respond to the situation.”
Mendes said he has come to realize he doesn’t need to say politically correct things.
“I’ve realized that we just have to stop having to be experts and politicians about it, especially as a famous musician who’s a guy,” he explained. “I need to be really f**king messy and say the wrong things and apologize and say the right thing after I apologize and be confused about how to respond when people say I’m gay.”
Mendes said “everyone’s calling me gay since I was 15 years old” and shared how sensitive he was about his “feminine” characteristics.
“I really suffered with that s**t,” he admitted. “A lot of guys go through that and even worse than that there are just so many guys that are gay and in the closet and must be hearing s**t like that and just being like, ‘I’m terrified to come out.’
“I grew up, all my cousins were girls and I didn’t grow up wrestling. I grew up getting my hair braided on New Year’s Eve. It just completely depends on the way you grew up in your life and your surroundings.”
Mendes, who described himself as “a little bit more manly” than the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury, went on to say guys should not be shamed for being vulnerable.
"We need to cry. Stop thinking this is being brave and strong and start thinking it's the opposite, actually," he said. "We're holding in these emotions and not crying – and being a**holes. Nothing about that is nice."
Listen to the full chat with Mendes here:
Last year, Mendes called speculation about his sexuality as “hurtful.” In an interview with The Observer Magazine, he said: “I get mad when people assume things about me because I imagine the people who don’t have the support system I have and how that must affect them.”
Months earlier, Mendes told Rolling Stone the rumours are a “massive, massive thing” in his mind. “In the back of my heart, I feel like I need to go be seen with someone — like a girl — in public, to prove to people that I’m not gay,” he said. “Even though in my heart I know that it’s not a bad thing. There’s still a piece of me that thinks that. And I hate that side of me.”
Mendes has never shied away from being an ally of the LGBTQ community. He has been photographed hanging out with openly gay athletes Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy and singers Sam Smith and Troye Sivan.
Speaking to Billboard on the BBMAs red carpet in 2018, Mendes called for acceptance. “I just say to open your eyes and open your mind,” he said. “Let somebody be and feel and live how they want to live.”
He reflected on his experience with longtime songwriter partner Teddy Geiger, who spoke about transitioning in 2017.
“There was a moment when, I remember, I referred to Teddy as ‘she’ without thinking – and it takes time to be able to learn that, obviously – and the way she looked at me was [with] this intense amount of joy,” recalled Mendes.
“And I swear if everybody in the world experienced one of their best friends, you know, experiencing that, there would be no questions. People would not be questioning it. It’s just not worth it to question it.”
Mendes revealed in 2018 that he was in the running to play gay teen Simon Spier in the romantic comedy Love, Simon – which he described as an “incredible, incredible movie” and “really amazing.”
Listen to music from Shawn Mendes