Hey, straight guys, be like Tyler James Williams, not Josh Hawley

“Abbott Elementary” star Tyler James Williams is not gay.

The Emmy nominee made that clear on Instagram recently — just in time for Pride.


“Usually I wouldn’t address stuff like this, but I feel like it as a conversation is bigger than me,” he wrote. “I’m not gay, but I think the culture of trying to ‘find’ some kind of hidden trait or behavior that a closed person ‘let slip’ is very dangerous.

“Being straight doesn’t look one way. Being gay doesn’t look one way.”

Not exactly breaking news in 2023, and yet the phrase “no homo” keeps hanging around, doesn’t it? Same goes for “straight-acting” on gay dating apps — an uncomfortable reminder that being queer doesn’t automatically inoculate you from stereotypical thinking.

And I speak from my own experience.

When I was in my 20s I wasn’t comfortable being around flamboyant gay men. I was out of the closet, but I had brought my insecurities with me. I had told myself the uneasiness stemmed from my being an introvert. The truth is I wanted to be viewed as a “regular dude” who just happened to be gay. They, on the other hand, were “GAY!” I was almost 30 before I understood how unhealthy my thinking had been.

Williams has wrapped his mind around the same thing from a different perspective.

Rather than defend his masculinity, he explained it. Rather than distancing himself from homosexuality and homophobia, he sympathized and also acknowledged that homophobia doesn’t hurt just gay men.

“Overanalyzing someone’s behavior in an attempt to ‘catch’ them directly contributes to the anxiety a lot of queer and queer-questioning people feel when they fear living in their truth,” he said. “It also reinforces an archetype many straight men have to live under that is often times unrealistic, less free and limits individual expression. I’ve been very clear about the intentionality I try to put into using my platform to push back against those archetypes every chance that I get.”

Williams’ approach to the conversation is a lot different from that of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), whose book “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs” was released last month. Hawley argues that the archetypes Williams refers to are society’s cure, not part of the problem.

Hawley’s stance devolved into self-parody this week with an op-ed for Fox News about “the left’s problem with men, and the Bible” — I kid you not.

“Thousands of American men today are aimless, adrift and struggling, cut off from the good jobs that allowed their fathers and grandfathers to build and support families,” he wrote. “They’re not getting married or having kids. They’re withdrawing from school and the labor force. Meanwhile, the working men who do hold down a job, put in their time, and provide for their kids are lampooned in liberal pop culture as idiots and Neanderthals. They’re the ones Target and Budweiser think need to be taught to be tolerant and ‘inclusive.’”

It’s the kind of disingenuous analysis we’ve come to expect from Hawley, who still tries to come across as Rambo even after the footage of him cheering and fleeing the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6 pretty much showed that persona to be cosplay.

Which takes us back to one of Williams’ much-needed points: Straight men are told to live under crushingly narrow guidelines for behavior. It was smart of Hawley to run from the crowd. He was in danger. But his version of manhood doesn’t let him acknowledge that. He was probably scared. That’s a healthy part of the full range of human emotion, for masculine-identifying humans just like everyone else.

Nothing reins in a so-called alpha man faster than the threat of being seen as gay. I’ve heard “Don’t be gay” used to stop happy men from dancing in bars and “Man up” to prevent sad men from expressing sorrow. There are best friends afraid to hug one another because “that’s gay.”

Homophobia, disguised as masculinity, slowly drains the joy and connection out of life.

This is why Williams’ response was a relief. He could have responded to the rumors about his sexual orientation with resentment or fear. Instead he chose compassion. Not sure if that fits Hawley’s “biblical” definition of masculinity, but it seemed important to Jesus.