Maisie Williams always thought GoT’s Arya Stark was queer, but was she?

The last season of Game of Thrones was such a disappointment, I’ve blocked huge chunks of it from my memory banks. Like, until this moment, I completely forgot that (spoiler) Arya sleeps with Gendry before the Battle of Winterfell. That actually happened in the last season! She was basically like “we’ll probably die, do you want to?” I also forgot that people found it controversial too – a fictional teen who had been taking care of herself, a girl who had been beaten, stabbed and almost died, a warrior and a faceless assassin wanted to experience some intimacy with a guy she trusted. That was controversial. I think they were mad that a teenage Arya had sexual agency. As it turns out, people were also mad because many fans thought Arya was a queer icon. Even Maisie Williams kind of thought that too.

In her new Teen Vogue Firsts interview, Maisie opened up about the first time she was ever surprised by her GoT character.

“The first time that I was surprised by Arya I guess was probably in the final series where she whips off her clothes and sleeps with Gendry,” Maisie says in the video with an ironic chuckle. “I thought that Arya was queer, you know? So… yeah. That was a surprise.” Maisie adds, shrugging.

Arya’s steamy love scene with Gendry at the beginning of Season 8 caught fans off guard, too. Even though Arya’s decision to have sex with Gendry was heavily influenced by the idea that she would be killed in the looming Battle of Winterfell, the unlikely romance confused viewers enough to make headlines for several days after the episode aired.

[From Teen Vogue]

Is Arya canonically queer though? Or is she just a tomboy who eschews societal gender roles? It’s f–king tricky. I mean, Maisie was the one living in the character and if she feels she was playing a queer character, so be it. I actually thought, at the time, that the scene made perfect sense. The impending doom of the Battle of Winterfell, the fact that she and Gendry were friends and had looked out for each other back in the day, and the fact that queer and straight people can experiment and experience different kinds of sex?

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, HBO/GoT.

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28 Responses to “Maisie Williams always thought GoT’s Arya Stark was queer, but was she?”

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  1. Lucy says:

    “Queer” is such an amorphous term, though, isn’t it? I identify as queer because I’m attracted to more than one gender. Arya can be queer and also attracted to men.

    • Hellohello says:

      Exactly. Let’s broaden the conversation about what queer means. Plus, many, if not most, people who identify as queer have initial sexual experiences with someone of a different gender. There are very few “gold star lesbians” out there.

      • Hellohello says:

        Ok, just here replying to my own comment because as I read further down this comment thread, it seems some clarification about the word “queer” may be helpful. It can refer to someone who is not straight, it can additionally refer to someone who does not perform gender within the common confines of their societal/cultural binary, which, I would argue, Arya embodies. In season 1 when Ned talks to her about growing up and being a lady, she eschews this. At the end when Gendry more or less proposes, her response remains the same – it’s just not for her. Whether Arya is attracted to men only or to a wider range of genders may be irrelevant, especially since this part of the character was not developed in the show or in books. She does not perform gender in the way that her culture expects or reinforces, which inherently makes her queer. Generally, saying someone is a tomboy implies that their defiance of gender expectations is a phase they will outgrow, with butch (someone who identifies as female but embraces masculine identity markers) being the adult version of tomboy, which is far less culturally tolerated (see Breann’s treatment in life).
        I appreciate those in the comments below discussing how gender performance can encompass a range of traits and behaviors. I hope that you also understand that calling someone queer is not a negative thing. It actually makes space for those of us who feel the heavy burden and watchful cultural eyes upon us find a place of belonging among those who also understand the challenge that comes with the experience of living outside of the sex and gender binaries.

      • Gemma says:

        Who does perform gender inside the norm though and who decides what the norm is? Is a straight dude wearing nail polish queer? Is a woman who decides not to have kids? Are straight people who have “kinky” sex? I’m not trying to be antagonistic here, but those are things I’ve noticed before in the whole clusterf*ck that is this discussion. I won’t pretend we’ll find an answer here, but I like precise language and I’ve always found “bisexual” the best way to label myself, whenever I have to. Queer sounds… hollow and wrong, especially if you’re not a native English speaker like I am.

    • Lauren says:

      What’s funny is that there are multiple scenes of Arya showing she’s attractive to Gender in the show in the early seasons. One obvious one is hearing eyeing a shirtless Gender. Did Maisie forget all that?

      She also emphatically states she’s a girl at least once when mistaken for a boy.

      I recognize that queer encompasses many definitions, but I never saw Arya as queer, just a girl who didn’t like stereotypically girly things.

      • Cara says:

        @Lauren, I do remember those scenes between them so I didn’t think it was odd at all that they would sleep together, especially before a big battle where they might die. I was just weirded out since we’d watched her grow up on screen!

      • LightPurple says:

        I was waiting for the two of them to hook up as soon as Arya was no longer a little girl. They were well-suited to one another. And if one of them (Arya) wanted to keep it more of a FWB status, that makes sense too.

  2. Owlsyn (Ableism is Not Cool) says:

    Because she wears pants and a sword she can’t be heterosexual? Why? Tomboys exist. Women interested in women can love frilly, girly things and women interested in men don’t need to wear makeup and get in the kitchen.

    If Maisie or fans saw the character as queer, then I won’t disagree with their interpretation, but if the *only* reasons for that is because of short hair, being tough and not chasing men, I dislike the reinforcement of negative stereotypes about gender roles.

    • michyk says:

      this. i feel that people are forever trying to pigeonhole women as just one thing. even (and sometimes especially) other women. i have a girlfriend who insists she’s not a stereotypical girl (what does that even mean?) because she hates pink. she has immediate disdain for women who wear high heels and full makeup all the time. i just don’t get it. it’s ok to like different things and more than one thing. none of it means you’re ‘less than’ or ‘more than’ anybody else. i think we’re all trying to break out of gender normative patterns and think, but it’s still so ingrained in how we think about ourselves and judge others.

      and totally agree about reinforcing negative gender stereotypes. i never thought of arya as queer or straight or anything. she just had other things to do, to simplify. and i also see wanting to experiencing that level of intimacy if you think you’re going to die. i would think in that moment, in those circumstances ,more people would be fluid than not. especially with someone you trust.

  3. embo says:

    I actualyl didn’t mind her sleeping with Gendry. But I had always seen her as “tomboy” but not as queer. I read the books and never really got the vibe that she was anything other than a kid, and really never got much to make me feel anything about her queerness or lack thereof. but I am also a straight woman and have never really struggled with those types of issues in my own life, so i think its one of those, you can interpret the character however you want (as is always the case IMO, and should always be the case with art; subjectivity is pretty much something that goes hand in hand with consumption of art.)

  4. Sigmund says:

    In this case of GOT specifically, it seems like there wasn’t a lot of communication between the screenwriters, GRRM, and the actors. Ideally, everybody would have been communicating with each other regarding portrayal of characters.

    It’s impossible to say Williams was “wrong,” but there are a lot of nuances here as to what queer even means. In retrospect, more communication between everyone behind the scenes would have made a better show for a lot of reasons.

  5. Aerohead21 says:

    I just assumed she was a normal girl bucking the gender norms of her time. It’s so unfair to assume that a person is queer because they like doing “boy” things or “girl” things. Maybe “things” aren’t supposed to belong to just girls or just boys. That’s what I teach my children, but my generation is very different from Arya Stark’s generation 😂

  6. Lucía says:

    I have absolutely no idea. I do know she shows attraction to Gendry in both the show and the book (if I’m not mistaken that scene in which she’s checking him out when he’s shirtless is taken directly from the book). Once she was old enough, she went right after him and he went along with it lol. Up until that moment there were some people who thought Arya was asexual, so who knows.

  7. bonobochick says:

    I remember reading that quote from her and raising an eyebrow.

    I didn’t see Arya as queer and I didn’t think she was presented that way in the show’s writing. The show also made it clear early on her attraction to Gendry when she wasn’t training for revenge / justice. I think Arya was a tomboy but she was also very anti-being conventionally “girly” like Sansa initially. That may have changed eventually (or superficially) if her family hadn’t been torn apart & she hadn’t gone on the run.

  8. kelleybelle says:

    Arya is my favourite GoT character! Love her. Right from childhood she wanted to be a warrior, not a lady.

  9. detritus says:

    My issue wasn’t Arya having agency, it was the older man who slept with a teen. Cuz she asked of course.

    • North of Boston says:

      In our world I can see that being objectionable.

      But in the GOT-verse I didn’t get the sense they define childhood in the same way. Seeing what she’d gone through, the independent and purposeful choices she’d made throughout the series, and what was expected, accepted of other characters presumably in their teens throughout the show (Lyanna Mormont for one) PLUS the fact that Gendry was someone she knew and trusted PLUS that she initiated it PLUS they both assumed they would be dead soon, it doesn’t seem to be a violation of her or inappropriate on his part.

      • LightPurple says:

        Plus, there really wasn’t that much of an age difference. Yes, he was older but he was still a teen when the series started, closer to Sansa’s age than to Jon and Rob.

      • detritus says:

        She was 18 and he was 23, after they aged her up for the show. I mean, it is fantasy and others can have different opinions, but I’m still not down for it.

    • Lauren says:

      18 and 23 isn’t that big of an age difference. I dated similarly in college. It all depends on the people involved.

  10. candy says:

    Even if she was “queer” in the era of fictional antiquity into which she was born, it probably wasn’t a unilateral path. Pre-Christian eras didn’t have those confines. As an aside, I did feel a lot of chemistry between her and Gendry.

  11. Villanelle says:

    I thought it was creepy because Gendry was a full grown adult when they met, and she was just a child. It wasn’t Arya’s attraction to him that bothered me, it was his for her.

  12. Alexandru Octavian says:

    Maisie Williams is great actress very good person amazing human been sweet kind I admire respect and love her very much Arya Stark is my favorite caracter forever! I dont like Reuben Selby he only use Maisie Williams for her fame monney reuben ruin her life her friendship with Sophie Turner she and Sophie are like sisters grow up together at Game of Thrones set he put her away from her family who really love her very much! I am not rich not famos but i really love this girl Maisie Williams i am sou in love with Maisie I have a big crush on Maisie i will fight all my life for Maisie i am from Romania i wish very much meet her in person one day hug her talk with her invite her eat and drink something be Friends

  13. Abby says:

    Eh, I’m a woman who’s attracted to both men and women. I was a tomboy as a kid and loved playing with imaginary swords and legos as much as with Barbies. As a teen I was always sexually attracted to older men and women. Is any of this weird? No. What’s weird is society’s constructs and standards and enforced expectations of people, and I’m sick of it honestly.
    I don’t know about the actors’ ages, but as for the characters, there didn’t seem to be THAT much of a difference between Gendry and Arya.
    Also, the disturbing thing to me is that people found it weird Arya had sex with Gendry but they didn’t find it weird a child was training to be a cold-blooded killer throughout the show …. okay …..

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      In the first episode, I identified with Arya. I’m heterosexual. Growing up I would rather climb trees, play sports and have duels with my siblings (mostly female) with sticks instead of playing with dolls. The scene where they’re cross stiching? and Arya is bored AF. Totally relate. It was either at the end of the Battle of the Bastards episode or the next one, when Arya says to Sansa, something like, “I would never be as good of lady as you, so I had to be something else.”. Arya was just doing her thing. My impression was she was into Gendry. Like you said @Abby, there didn’t seem to be that much of a difference between the ages of their character’s. Didn’t read the books so I don’t know. lol, having the sex with Gendry before you both might be dead in a matter of hours is worse than being trained as a cold-blooded killer. Good point. Arya, cold-blooded killer, didn’t want to die a virgin.

      I’m more confused at the ‘unlikely romance’ part of the article when it seemed like that’s where it was heading in the series.

      Never involved in GoT forums. Were people disturbed that Margaery married Joffrey and then his much younger brother Tommen?