Sam Smith has recently announced in a series of tweets that they would like to use they/them pronouns. This follows their announcement a few weeks ago stating that they identify as non-binary. On Twitter, they wrote, “After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.” Smith is most notably known for their top hits such as “Stay With Me” and “Too Good at Goodbyes” and is no stranger to winning awards.
In a day and age where people are becoming more comfortable with coming out, whether about their sexual or gender orientation, this topic has become increasingly controversial. The growing millennial and generation Z populations have approached this with increasingly progressive minds, but this does not speak for the population as a whole. Many spoke out on their belief that this is simply a publicity stunt, something to bring attention to the singer as they prepare to release new music. Others, firm on the topic, believe that gender is not a spectrum and they are simply confused.
It seems as if everything these days must be argued and debated about. We live in a generation where some topics may be too sensitive to bring up casually and people resort to calling the opposing side stupid for their beliefs. Although the social environment for LGBTQ+ individuals has improved, there is still an incredibly large learning curve when it comes to the spectrum.
This year has seen a slew of artists and celebrities coming out and identifying as LGBTQ+, facilitating an environment where it is common in mainstream popular culture. Thanks to this, pop culture is becoming much more accepting of those who are of a different race, gender or religion. For those who are scared of accepting themselves, seeing people step up and speak out may encourage them to do the same.
There is actually a phenomenon in psychology which can account for the increase in people becoming more public, which in layman’s terms is simply just being a copycat. Typically, this can be perceived as something negative as people cannot stand when people copy one another but, in this scenario, this gives room for more people to be educated and become allies.
With such a popular celebrity coming out as non-binary and changing their pronouns to they/them, it paves the way for a widespread educational moment. Many gave light to the fact that although they respect the singer’s decision, they are not sure of how exactly to use the pronouns. The hope one day is that people, as a culture in general, will be able to refer to another using their preferred pronouns without issue.
This strays away from the perception that the media is nothing but detrimental to the public and causes nothing but the loss of brain cells. This is all but the case as the media and pop culture exposes a multitude of people to things that they are not familiar with or have never even heard of before. If a person does not understand how something works or is confused about the topic, they can simply Google it or go on public forums. Even responses to Smith’s announcement tweet served as a public service announcement, explaining that “they” can be both singular and plural—contrary to common belief.
Personally, I hope that this opens the door and paves the way for more people to feel comfortable and safe enough to not only accept who they are but be out and truly embrace it. A large factor to depression amongst teenagers and young adults is the inability to be comfortable with themselves. I am proud that we have reached a point in time where a pop icon, such as Sam Smith, can identify as non-binary and change the game using different pronouns. For many non-binary youth, Smith is serving as a role model. As a society, we have grown so much and have become so incredibly accepting that we must continue progressing.
I, along with many others, hope that this is only the beginning.