Sam Smith Made A Powerful Confession About Coming Out As Gender Neutral

Sam Smith has reached number one on both sides of the Atlantic, recorded an Oscar-winning Bond theme and picked up four Grammys during a glittering career. But since September 2019, the British singer has become equally renowned after coming out as non-binary. And Smith has talked about one particular fear surrounding the decision to become gender-neutral.

Smith first publicly addressed the subject of gender statuses during a chat with The Good Place star Jameela Jamil in March 2019. The vocalist said, “I’m not male or female, I think I flow somewhere in between. I’ve always been very free in terms of thinking about sexuality, so I’ve just tried to change that into my thoughts on gender as well.”

Speaking on Jamil’s I Weigh Interviews Instagram series, Smith continued, “Non-binary/genderqueer is that you do not identify in a gender. You are a mixture of all different things. You are your own special creation. When I saw the word non-binary, genderqueer, and I read into it, and I heard these people speaking, I was like, ‘F***, that is me.’”

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Smith explained how coming to terms with their gender helped them become less self-conscious about body issues. The singer told Jamil, “I am feminine in many ways and I’ve always resented that. I’ll 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 [where] women put on weight,” Smith continued. “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.” For her part, Jamil described Smith as a “total hero” for being so candid about the subject.

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Smith also expanded on their new non-binary status in an Instagram post six months later. The star explained, “Today is a good day, so here goes. I’ve decided I am changing my pronouns to they/them after a lifetime of being at war with my gender. I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am – inside and out.”

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Furthermore, Smith stated that they wanted to be as “visible and open” as possible about the issue. But the vocalist also acknowledged that they were at “no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be non-binary.” Smith went on to pay tribute to the likes of model Munroe Bergdorf and Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox for helping them to develop a deeper understanding of the non-binary term.

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So what exactly does non-binary mean? Well, in layman’s terms it’s when a person feels that they don’t belong exclusively to either of the two traditional gender identities – feminine and masculine. They may identify themselves as having no gender at all, as having at least two genders or as someone who can fluctuate between them.

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How to address someone who identifies as non-binary is often a problem area. The most common pronouns are “they,” “their” and “them.” But some individuals would much rather be referred to as “him” or “her,” while others prefer to be called simply by their actual name and forgo pronouns completely.

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Smith addressed the issue in a statement on Instagram and requested that followers do their best with the use of gender pronouns. The singer also admitted they were “scared s***less but feeling super free right now.” Smith then added, “I hope you can see me like I see myself now.”

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And Smith also explained how they felt able to make such a bold statement. The singer said, “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 f*** it!”

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Born in London in 1992, Sam Smith first began performing at the Youth Music Theatre U.K. in their early teens. They released their first two singles independently before catching attention with a guest vocal on Disclosure’s 2012 club hit: “Latch.” A year later Smith scored a British number one thanks to a collaboration with DJ Naughty Boy.

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After dropping their debut EP Nirvana, Smith scored a solo chart topper in the U.K. with 2014’s “Money On My Mind.” Self-described as an album about unrequited love, their first full-length studio effort In the Lonely Hour followed suit. It also peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 – becoming the second-biggest seller of the year behind Taylor Swift’s 1989.

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Smith also scored major chart success on both sides of the Atlantic with the singles “Lay Me Down,” “I’m Not the Only One” and “Stay With Me.” The latter also saw Smith embroiled in a dispute which was eventually settled out of court, as it was noted for its similarity to Tom Petty’s 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down.” As a result, Petty and co-composer Jeff Lynne were awarded 12.5 percent of the song’s royalties.

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Despite the drama surrounding “Stay With Me,” Smith still performed the track at the 2015 Grammy Awards. It also picked up two gongs on the night for Song and Record of the Year, with Smith winning Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album, too. They further added to their trophy cabinet just a few weeks later with two victories at the Brit Awards.

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Smith consolidated their status as one of the biggest pop stars of the era when they recorded the official theme to James Bond flick Spectre. Co-penned with regular collaborator Jimmy Napes, “Writing’s On the Wall” became the first U.K. number one song from a 007 movie. The epic ballad was also crowned Best Original Song at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

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In 2017 Smith proved they weren’t just a one-album wonder when sophomore The Thrill Of It All topped the charts in both Britain and America. Its lead single “Too Good at Goodbyes” also added to their tally of transatlantic chart hits. Smith subsequently embarked on a world tour to support the record – hitting North America, Australasia, Asia and Europe.

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Smith returned to their collaborative roots in 2018 – guesting on Logic’s “Pray” and Calvin Harris’ “Promises.” The singer also contributed to the soundtrack of Watership Down. A year later Smith departed from their usual epic ballads and joined forces with former Fifth Harmony vocalist Normani on “Dancing with a Stranger.”

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And in a chat on The Zach Sang Show, Smith revealed that their third LP would continue in the same vein. They said, “I feel like I have recently shown a side of me which I normally keep to myself or for my family and friends. I showed everyone it and everyone loved it. It’s almost given me permission to kinda do what I’ve always dreamed of doing but I was always scared to do, which is pop music.”

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Smith was due to release their third LP – provisionally titled To Die For – in May 2020. But the star announced that they would push back its release to later in the year. Smith later told fans that they would be using the break to make several changes to the record: including its tracklist and title.

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Of course, Smith’s private life has often courted just as much attention as their music career. In 2014 the singer came out as gay and revealed they were dating Jonathan Ziezel, a model and actor they’d met on the set of the promo for “Like I Can.” Unfortunately, by the beginning of the following year the couple had gone their separate ways.

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Smith was subsequently linked to a number of men. Charlie King from scripted reality show The Only Way Is Essex claimed that he and the singer had enjoyed a six-month relationship, although this has never been confirmed by Smith. Reports then emerged that the Oscar-winner had started dating model Jay Camilleri.

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In 2017 Smith did confirm that they were seeing another famous face – 13 Reasons Why star Brandon Flynn – during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The vocalist couldn’t stop beaming as they told the comedienne, “I’m quite happy, so it’s quite weird.” Sadly, Smith’s blissful state didn’t last too long.

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Within nine months the couple had split, with Smith erasing all traces of the actor on their Instagram page. Shortly after, the singer told The Times that they were finding the break-up hard to process. They said, “I’m still trying to figure out what I took from that relationship and what it meant to me. It’s still quite raw.”

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Despite deleting photos of Flynn on their social media pages, Smith still claimed that the pair were on good terms. They told the newspaper, “All my relationships have ended in a nice way, never nasty.” Smith also described Flynn – who was later linked to Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto – as “wonderful.”

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Most celebs complain about having their private life scrutinized. However, Smith admitted they were proud to be part of a same-sex celebrity romance that had received just as much attention as a heterosexual one. They told The Times that “seeing gay relationships [in a public way] is important and refreshing. You don’t see it loads.”

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Smith was in a less romantic mood when they appeared on British radio station Heart FM in February 2020. When asked how they would be celebrating the most loved-up holiday of the year, the singer replied, “It’s my 27th year of being single on Valentine’s Day. I’m over it.”

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“It’s offensive,” Smith continued. “Yeah I’m sad today. Today’s a sad day. It’s more like a funeral. Look, I don’t want to be a Debbie downer but this isn’t my favorite day. I’m quite anti-Valentine’s Day.” Smith then revealed that a previous stint working in a card shop may have caused their dislike of the holiday.

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Smith also used the opportunity to discuss their non-binary status. They told the host, “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?’”

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The issue of Smith’s gender also cropped up during an interview on Apple Music’s Beats 1 with Zane Lowe. The singer said that they had found the whole process of coming out as non-binary quite difficult. And there was one particular thing that Smith was still very much worried about.

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In a candid chat with New Zealand DJ Lowe, Smith said, “What’s hard is people changing their vocabulary; that’s very, very difficult. It takes time. Everyone messes up. I’m going to be misgendered to the day I die. This is going to take a long, long time for people to not use gender in their vocabulary.”

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However, Smith was keen to point out that they had no regrets when it came to telling the world about their non-binary status. They added that “this is all about feeling safe, and it makes me feel happy and it makes me feel comfortable. And if I get to live a life where I’m a little bit more comfortable and happy, then I think it’s worth it.”

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In an interview with the Press Association two months later, Smith confirmed just how beneficial the coming out process had been to their daily life. The star discussed how they had worked on their third LP while they were “really deep into exploring my gender, exploring my queerness… I changed my pronouns and I was feeling so happy to be myself.”

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Smith went on to add, “I was going out in Los Angeles a lot and I was dancing and I was drinking loads, having a wonderful time with all my friends. I went into the studio and the guys who were writing with me said, ‘What do you want to say?’”

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This question appeared to inspire something of an epiphany, as Smith went on to explain. They added, “And I literally said in that moment, ‘I finally feel like I’m ready to fall in love. I’m ready to show myself to someone. Because I’m liking myself for the first time and accepting myself.’”

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Unfortunately for Smith, not everyone is so accepting. In April 2020 Australian shock jock Kyle Sandilands caused controversy when he expressed his bemusement at the gender-neutral pronouns Smith prefers to be addressed as. He told KIIS FM listeners, “I’m sick of this. Why do I have to do this?”

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Sandilands outraged listeners further when he joked that he now wanted to be treated as a “48-year-old black woman.” He added, “I’ll be now allowed to use the N-word, because I identify as a black woman. Is that right? Is that how it works?” And Sandilands isn’t the only media figure who appears to struggle with the concept.

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In September 2019 the TV presenter Piers Morgan took umbrage with talk of the Brit Awards scrapping its gender-based categories. He told Good Morning Britain viewers, “I think it’s great that so much time on awards should be wrecked like this because one guy can’t decide if he’s male or female. They want to accommodate non-binary performers like Sam Smith, which is what I said last week, which category will he now enter? He won’t have to, he’ll now enter the non-binary categories.”

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The always outspoken Morgan then addressed the star directly, adding, “All respect to him if he wants to do that, no problem. If you want to do that Sam Smith, that’s on your dime. You do what the hell you like. Don’t change everything else for you. But maybe I’m wrong.”

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Of course, with several other celebrities following Smith’s lead, the likes of Morgan and Sandilands may have to get used to the idea. In January 2020 singer and actor Janelle Monae also casually revealed their non-binary status in a tweet. And Miley Cyrus, Jonathan Van Ness, Ruby Rose and Ezra Miller are just a few of the other famous faces who have admitted that they don’t identify with a single gender.

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