Despite its wholesome subject matter, Heartstopper has attracted no shortage of speculation over the private lives of its main stars. But for series lead Joe Locke, that speculation has taken on a different, no less troubling hue: assumption. Being the star of a major queer show and an outspoken LGBTQ+ advocate, many outlets and fans have assumed the star to be openly gay. Now, for the first time, Locke has publicly confirmed his sexuality on his own terms.
A big theme that has emerged in Heartstopper’s second season is the danger of assuming someone’s sexuality. The storyline for Isaac (Tobie Donovan) depicts how the pressures to form a romantic attachment can affect someone who is asexual. Nick (Kit Connor) is constantly dodging questions about dating girls from his extended family and constantly reiterating that he is bi to those who do know.
“Elle has been put in this world where it’s trans people falling in love and that is such a powerful thing.”
Charlie, meanwhile, was established as gay from the very beginning of the series, and for a long time, his actor Joe Locke was likewise assumed to be gay. While Locke has discussed some real-life parallels that he drew on to play the character, that of course doesn’t make him the same person.
“People tend to assume that I am Charlie Spring and I’m a sweet, innocent person,” he said in a recent Teen Vogue cover story. “Not that I’m not sweet — I’m a nice person, I hope — but I think people assume that I’m a saint, and therefore I can never act or do things in a way that a normal 19-year-old would. That annoys me sometimes.”
The assumption that he is like his character extends to his sexuality. “People have assumed and written it and I haven’t ever corrected anyone because I haven’t felt the need to,” Locke explained. “But I’ve never specifically stated my sexuality.”
Stating it for the record now, Locke clarified, “I have been openly gay since I was, like, 12.”
In another recent interview with The New York Times, Locke shared his coming out story, saying he first posted the news to Instagram. “I had just told my mum, and I was on top of the world,” he recalled.
“I quickly realized I was ready to tell my mum but I was not ready to tell the world. So I quickly deleted [the post] and said my Instagram had been hacked. I went back in the closet for three years. I retold all my friends and they’re like, ‘Yeah, you told us two years ago.’”
One of the reasons why it is important to come out on one’s own terms is not only privacy but being able to have some control over the story of your life. “There’s a big push in our world at the moment to take away young queer people’s autonomy,” Locke said.
“It’s beautiful to be part of a show that really pushes and loves that young queer people can be in charge of their own fates.”