Post-Breakup, Speculation Over Shawn Mendes' Sexuality Goes Viral

Sunday November 28, 2021
Originally published on November 24, 2021

After Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello split last week, Gay Twitter went viral with speculation that he is gay and closeted. "Hundreds of users posted memes on social media in the past week, many of them joking about how gay men will be flocking to the heartthrob's home now that he's single," writes NBC News. Google searches for "Shawn Mendes gay" hit a three-year peak last week as news of the couple's split broke, dwarfing searches for Transgender Awareness Week, which landed at the same time."

While many feel questioning Mendes' sexuality is fine, others see it as shaming someone with sexual identity issues. @mattxiv tweeted: "are some of the shawn mendes gay jokes funny? yes... do they also remind me of that unspeakably awful, gut-punch feeling i'd get when i was closeted and someone TOLD me i was gay because i let the mask slip and acted feminine for one whole second? also yes"

Others agreed:

NBC added that Mendes has not addressed the latest hearsay and did not reply to a request for comment. He has previously said the gossip is "frustrating."

"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," he said in an interview on Dax Shepard's podcast, "Armchair Expert," last year.

But the bigger question is what harm does this kind of speculation — called "Wishdar" — can do to the individual being questioned. "But while speculation about sexuality among gay friends has existed as long as gay people have, when the speculation moves to a public forum, it can be damaging, some experts say," NBC News noted.

Dr. Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and the author of "Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man," told NBC News "such speculation can be particularly damaging if the subject is actually gay and is not ready to come out on their own terms."

"If it actually is true that they might be gay and people are speculating about it, you're going to sort of make them feel threatened and endangered," Drescher said, stressing that he was speaking hypothetically and not about a specific public figure. "Even though he may like getting his name in the newspaper and people talking about him, there would be a part of him that would be very, very anxious by all the talk. There would be no way a person wouldn't be made anxious by all of this talk if they didn't want people to know this about themselves."

Out sex columnist Dan Savage had a somewhat different take.

"Sometimes it's hard for gay men to separate their 'gaydar' from their 'wishdar,'" Savage said. "There's not a lot of speculation in the gay community that Louis C.K. must be gay. When I was growing up, Tom Cruise was who everyone speculated about, and now it's Shawn Mendes, because we all wish he would be."

Savage added that such speculation is inevitable.

"You can slap the 'this is potentially harmful' label on it and people are still going to do it," he said. "We're all assumed to be straight, and there's a time in all of our lives when we're saying we're straight when we're not because we were forced to say that. So we look at other people who are currently saying that, and we know that there is a significant percentage of them who are lying like we did when we were kids."

Check out these pics from Mendes' Instagram: