English musician Sam Smith has announced that they have changed their pronouns from he/him to they/them after coming out as non-binary.
Pop star Sam Smith has announced that they will be addressed using the pronouns they/them from now on, following a long process of self-discovery:
“after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.”
Smith came out as non-binary in 2017 in an interview with The Sunday Times, stating “I don’t know what the title would be, but I feel just as much woman as I am man.” It was a big step for the Stay With Me singer, who wanted to be seen as a musician and artist first, before people spoke about their private life and sexuality or gender identity.
Smith more explicitly referenced their non-binary identity in an interview with Jameela Jamil in March 2019, stating, “I’ve always had a little bit of a war going within my body and my mind.”
“I do think like a woman sometimes, in my head. Sometimes I’ve questioned ‘Do I want a sex change? It’s something I still think about, like, ‘Do I want to?'”
Smith stated that listening to other people speak about being non-binary made them realise that their gender fit somewhere outside Western culture’s traditional male/female binary,
“I’m not male or female, I think I flow somewhere in between. It’s all on the spectrum.”
Inside and Out
In an important move forward for non-binary visibility, the 27-year-old singer declared last week that they are changing their pronouns to they/them. Smith explained in an Instagram post that the decision was a difficult one to make,
“I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but fuck it. I understand there will be many mistakes and mis-gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now.”
Smith also identified the ongoing learning process that they are undertaking in understanding and living their non-binary identity,
“I am at no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be non binary but I can’t wait for the day that I am. So for now I just want to be VISIBLE and open.”
The post has thus far received over 600k likes.
Not Just A “Fad”
Smith’s public announcement of their neutral pronouns is a great step forward for the mainstream recognition of people living outside the gender binary. In a time where trans identities are becoming more visible, this is also a valuable teaching moment for everyone to learn about the identity-affirming significance of using people’s correct pronouns.
Much of the response has been suitably positive. However, there have unfortunately been some notable disappointments on the part of journalists to correctly report on this topic. A portion of an article from Associated Press has gone viral after non-binary journalist Ashley Dye pointed out AP’s blatant failure to use Smith’s correct pronouns:
Sam Smith: My pronouns are they/them
Associated Press: pic.twitter.com/8giNaHsjaL
— ashley dye (@ashleycdye) September 13, 2019
In an article for the Tampa Bay Times, Dye pointed out that journalists “have a responsibility to make complex subjects accessible to readers. Journalism has legitimized and explained, at length, bitcoins before it has taken seriously LGBTQ people and our terminology.”
And in news that barely even merits being reported on, Good Morning Britain, host Piers Morgan has cynically derided Smith’s coming out as a publicity stunt. Morgan also implied that non-binary people are a “trend or a fad or a craze”, despite trans identities having existed for literally as long as humanity has existed.
In a more positive light, it seems that out-dated views like Piers Morgan’s are becoming more and more rare. Smith’s Wikipedia article has already been altered to fit in with their new pronouns, in line with the platform’s progressive stance on LGBTQIA+ rights. In a step forward for trans rights, IMDb announced last month that the platform will allow actors to remove dead names from its databse.
Smith joins a growing number of celebrities using they/them pronouns including actor Asia Kate Dillon and creator of series Transparent, Jill Soloway. Needless to say, there are countless non-famous non-binary folks out there using gender-neutral pronouns in their daily lives.
As Ashley Dye states, “It costs nothing to learn and respect how someone identifies.”
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