Sam Smith has asked fans to refer to them using the pronouns they/them – six months after coming out as non-binary.
Here Jess Glass, a general news reporter at PA Media who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, reflects on the announcement.
Sam Smith coming out and using they pronouns gives me a lot of hope as a fellow non-binary person.
I had always found something slightly off about being seen as a woman and being called “she” as if I were wearing shoes that were a size too big. It wasn’t life-ruining, but it always felt a little wrong.
I accepted that everyone felt like this, that being an adult meant existing with a mild sense of crawling discomfort under your skin each time someone addressed you. Eventually, I figured out that is not quite true.
I first realised I was non-binary after talking with a trans friend about their identity a few years ago. To identify as something, you need to know that it exists and I had been pretty ignorant of the whole LGBT community prior to going to university.
I spent months thinking about it before mentioning being trans to my closest friends, and it was even longer before I tentatively started introducing myself with they pronouns and began asking close friends to use they and them for me.
Deciding to use they pronouns was of a leap into the dark. As I had only recently realised that I was trans, there was a fear that somehow I was lying to myself, and that my identity was a sham.
However, the more people who started calling me they, the more I realised how right it felt, and how finally I had found a way of being seen by others which matched with the way I saw myself.
Having those four letters attached to my identity was a simple way to be recognised and it gave me an answer to something I did not know I was missing.
A lot of people in my life took time to adjust. Many friends found it hard to separate my still quite feminine presentation from my gender identity. But I know they’re trying, and for me a sincere attempt is good enough.
Being non-binary does not mean I cannot enjoy dresses and make-up, because they are not exclusively for women. Those things are for everyone, just as Sam Smith can wear suits without their gender being questioned.
It was a gradual process with my grandmother, who went from refusing to learn what a pronoun is to mostly getting things right.
Being fundamentally recognised by those closest to me brought more joy than I realised was possible, as did coming out professionally. Even now, a colleague casually using “they” for me is quite emotional.
Sam Smith and thousands of other non-binary people are out in a society which struggles to accept all trans people, where we are taught about a strict gender binary even as children.
Having they pronouns listed in my Twitter bio adds a transphobic twist to the abuse I receive on the platform, combined with jokes about identifying as an attack helicopter, or grammatical arguments about the use of they as a singular.
Sometimes questions are made in good faith, from people who simply do not know about trans issues but want to respect people for who they are.
The voices of those who intentionally use pronouns as a way of hurting people are often louder than those who support them, and there will be a lot of people who simply refuse to understand.
But I cannot help but hope that Sam Smith publicly using they pronouns will bring more of these good faith questions to light and in turn produce more allies to the whole LGBT community.
For me at least, being my authentic self is worth the backlash and I really hope they feel the same.