Shawn Mendes has once again weighed in on persistent rumors regarding his sexuality.
In a recent episode of the Armchair Expert podcast with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, Mendes said that the constant rumors had led him to question his own mannerisms and presentation.
The 22-year-old also noted the potential damage that such speculation could have for closeted gay people who are struggling with their own identity.
“You were in a very tough position. There were all these rumors about you being gay early on,” Shepard said during the interview. “And I remember thinking, ‘oh, you’re in this impossible situation because if you wanna come out and go ‘I’m not gay’ it has some weird veil of homophobia, which I’m certain you’re not homophobic.”
Mendes called the situation “so frustrating,” because “there were some people in my life that I was very very close to, who were gay and in the closet. And I felt like this real anger for those people.”
“It’s such a tricky thing. You’re right,” he continued. “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.”
Shepard interjected, calling it “a trap.”
“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,” Mendes responded. “I need to be really fucking 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. Everyone’s been calling me gay since I was 15 years old. I’m not gay and I’m like, ‘What does that mean?'”
The rumors had a tangible impact on the way Mendes felt about and presented himself.
“I had these problems with the way my voice sounded. I’m like, ‘How do I sit?’ I’m always first to cross my legs and sit with a position of this feminine style and I really suffered with that shit,” he said. “It kind of ended up becoming something I wanted to just be really open about and honest about. I think a lot of guys go through that and even worse than that there are just so many guys who are gay and in the closet and must be hearing shit like that and just being like, ‘I’m terrified to come out.'”
Shepard said that there were “two obvious reasons” that rumors about sexuality tend to start.
“Generally if there’s a beautiful dude who doesn’t have a girlfriend around him at all times. That’s one reason people go ‘something doesn’t smell right here,'” he said. “Or another reason would be the one you were nervous about — you were somehow not acting manly or masculine or straight. You had to start thinking about how you moved.”
Mendes responded by saying, “All my cousins were girls. 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,” he continued. “Then came a point where it got to be like ‘hell yeah, I got that divine middle ground, that Freddie Mercury. But then I’m also not there either. I’m totally not there. I’m still a little bit more manly than that. It’s all a little confusing so I’m just gonna let it be what it is.”
The singer, who recently notched his fourth number one album with Wonder, ended by blaming toxic masculinity, saying it leads to men becoming “assholes.” Instead, his girlfriend, singer Camila Cabello, had guided him towards embracing his emotions.
“I’m in a relationship where my girlfriend is like, ;We’re going to get in bed and you’re going to put your head on my chest and you’re going to cry into my chest. You’re going to tell me how you feel because if you don’t do that, you’re just going to be an asshole for the next week and I’m not going to deal with that shit,'” he said. “I’m just lucky to be in a relationship that’s for it.”
Earlier this month, Mendes told The Guardian that the “desperation” for him to come out as gay was “such a ridiculous thing,” and said it was “completely ignorant and insensitive of people to be on that shit.”
He last addressed the rumors in 2018, telling Rolling Stone that he felt the need to “prove to people” that he isn’t gay.
“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.”
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