Sam Smith has posted on social media with a picture to let their fans know that they are nonbinary, and their pronouns are ‘they/them.ʼ They wrote in the description that they have decided to “embrace” themselves for who they are “inside and out.”
The use of they/them pronouns typically falls under the broad umbrella of nonbinary gender identity. This term encompasses people whose gender identity doesnʼt sit exclusively with ‘manʼ or ‘woman,ʼ according to the UK LGBTQIA+ organisation Stonewall. Non-binary identities can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identity, having a shifting spectrum of identity or reject the concept of binary gender entirely. It is not the same thing as the trans community, although the two are sometimes linked. The non-binary community can present as masculine, feminine or any other way, and this may shift over time.
Sam was very open about their decision, telling people that it is okay for people to mistake mistakes, as long as they try. “Iʼm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but Iʼve 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 misgendering but all I ask is you please, please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now,” they wrote. They said that they were “scared shitless” but telling the public their pronouns has made them feel “super free right now.”
Smith has since changed their Twitter bio to acknowledge their pronouns, along with aa quote by Jerry Herman, “I am what I am. I am my own special creation.” They said that coming out as non-binary has helped them accept their body image, which they previously struggled with.
“I am feminine in many ways and I’ve always resented that. Iʼll never look like that because there’s a bit of a woman in me who won’t let me look like that. I put on weight in places women put on weight. That spring-boarded everything actually. That’s me looking at myself and thinking maybe I’m not a man, maybe I’m not a woman, maybe I’m just me.”
Of course, despite Sam asking people to “be kind” at the end of their message, social media users werenʼt shy about immediately misgendering in the comments. While some were genuinely curious, wanting to make sure they used the pronouns in the right way, others went out of their way to let the singer/songwriter know they wouldnʼt accept their decision. Many others were just confused (or stubborn) about the grammar involved with using they/them pronouns. Some didnʼt understand that ‘youʼ is gender-neutral. But luckily, there were many supporters who were willing to both learn and educate, replying with detail explanations or basic overviews of pronoun use.
For those who are struggling with how to respectfully use they/them pronouns, Stonewall and various other online resources have great examples on how to get started being more inclusive with language. Overall, the social media comments on Sam’s posts were toxic to read, but hopefully, this will not sway Sam or other non-binary people from sharing their truth.
There have been other notable names that have previously spoken about their gender identity in previous years. Amandla Stenberg, said in 2016 that they/them pronouns make them feel most comfortable, but doesnʼt feel that most people will understand them.
“I know that the media and the general populace that follows me will critique [they/them pronouns]/not understand which makes me feel sad and almost more uncomfortable.”
Ezra Miller also came out as non-binary last year, saying “I donʼt identify as a man, I donʼt identify as a woman. I barely identify as a human.”
Miley Cyrus also told Billboard that they identify as “existing outside the binary.” Other celebrities like Ruby Rose identify as gender-fluid, still preferring she/her pronouns. Smith also released a list of both non-binary and trans community leaders that helped give them “so much clarity and understanding”, including Tom Glitter on Twitter.