In an interview with The Sunday Times this weekend, singer Sam Smith said that he feels "just as much woman as I am man." (Since he never asked to go by different pronouns, we'll continue to use "he" in our coverage.)
Smith went on to say that he enjoys dressing in women's clothing and shoes, has several pairs of high heels at home, and at one point in his life "didn't own a piece of male clothing, really."
While it's fantastic to see a celebrity like Smith feel safe enough to be candid about his fluid gender identity, and it's encouraging that mainstream media outlets have covered the news positively, one particular aspect of the coverage has been a little problematic.
Several news outlets have taken what Smith said in this one interview and declared him "gender non-binary."
"Sam Smith opens up about identifying as gender non-binary," one headline reads. "Sam Smith has opened up about identifying as gender non-binary in a new interview," reads the first line of another article. And several others hopped on this train, calling the singer "gender non-binary" again and again.
That would all be fine if he had ever actually said he identifies as non-binary (which, by the way, usually doesn't have a "gender" in front of it). But Smith actually explicitly says in the interview that he isn't sure of what label he'd use for his gender identity. And if he's not ready to use a label, we should definitely not be forcing one on him.
Gender identity is deeply personal, and something that a gender non-conforming person should tell you about themselves, rather than something anyone should ascribe to them. So while it's okay to say that Smith has a fluid or non-conforming gender based on this interview, it's not okay to call him non-binary or transgender or genderqueer. Those are very specific labels that might not describe how Smith experiences his gender.
So please, let's stop calling Smith "gender non-binary," and wait until he tells us what to say.
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