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Sam Smith coming out as non-binary - help me understand!

(532 Posts)
namechangeblah2019 Sun 15-Sep-19 03:01:25

Name changed for this in case it gets messy.

I don't know if you've seen in the news but the singer Sam Smith came out as non-binary recently and has now asked that people use they/them pronouns with regard to them.

Absolutely not a problem with using those pronouns - I'm not a fan of theirs particularly so it's unlikely that they'll be cropping up that much in conversation anyway!

But - and I promise I am not being obtuse here, I am just old and slow but I am willing to learn grin - what exactly is non-binary? I just can't wrap my head around it. Surely the existence of non-binariness as a concept positions it as an alternative to an existing binary (i.e. men being macho and loving beer, women being all pink and girly and love wine) which I thought we all got over (or are meant to be getting over - sadly some people are very slow on the uptake!) anyway?

If I put on a pair of trousers or drink a pint or watch football I don't feel any less like a woman. I still feel like namechangeblah2019. How can you both refute the existence of a gender binary but also claim to be outside of it?

Please be kind to me - as I say I'm not implying they are wrong at all and if that is how they feel most comfortable being referred to then good on them and we should all respect that! I just want to learn as I currently feel like a right old fogey blush

TerfTalk Sun 15-Sep-19 03:05:41

I am gender critical; I don't think that gender is important, and would all be better off without it.

However, some people place a lot of importance on their "gender". They use it to define and identify themselves. Their choice.

However, I don't want gender in my life. I am happy to use SS's pronouns. But I will never identify myself by my "gender".

8by8 Sun 15-Sep-19 03:14:12

Essentially Sam smith does think that there is a gender binary, that men and women are different, and have different personalities.

But Sam smith thinks that Sam smith is unique and special and different because sam smith does not neatly fit into those stereotypical personalities so is not “really” a man.

Head over to the feminism board for more smile

anothersecond Sun 15-Sep-19 03:18:48

I heard this on the radio the other day. The person reading the news couldn't get it either and kept saying, "he is now non binary.", "he identifies as they." I don't care either way but the reader would have been saying, "they."
It's a tricky concept for some people to understand.

anothersecond Sun 15-Sep-19 03:19:46

should not would

TheSerenDipitY Sun 15-Sep-19 03:19:48

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EmeraldShamrock Sun 15-Sep-19 03:32:47

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HennyPennyHorror Sun 15-Sep-19 03:38:12

Emerald keep your negative bitching to yourself. This is not about Harry Styles hmm

Non binary just means someone who doesn't feel either male or female. It's nothing to be scared of or to worry about.

HennyPennyHorror Sun 15-Sep-19 03:38:47

And Emerald the theme of the Met Gala was CAMP! Harry did it well.

LiveInAHidingPlace Sun 15-Sep-19 03:45:15

"Non binary just means someone who doesn't feel either male or female."

And how does one feel male or female?

I don't feel male or female, so I suppose I must be non-binary, how very exciting. Unfortunately, as an aged boring old wife/mother, I suppose I shall just continue to not really make much effort with my appearance while continuing to be oppressed by my actual biological sex.

What I find hilarious is that every supportive comment I've read still refers to him as 'he'. Even the people who support this shite can't actually follow their own stupid made-up rules.

No one is scared of it. They just think it's ridiculous.

GCAcademic Sun 15-Sep-19 03:46:41

My problem with the concept of non-binary is that it reinforces gender stereotypes, implicitly casting everyone else into a rigid binary that only a special few have somehow evaded. It’s the opposite of abolishing gender, which is what feminists have been striving to do for decades. It also seems to me to be horribly defeatist and also individualistic, as if the assumption is that we can’t work together to change society and the person will therefore just opt out of any collective attempts to abolish gender stereotyping and turn themselves into a special case.

Non binary just means someone who doesn't feel either male or female

How many of us feel either male or female? I don’t “feel” female, I just know that my body is female. Does that make me non-binary?

Durgasarrow Sun 15-Sep-19 03:50:56

From what I've been seeing on Twitter, Nonbinaries are now in a pissing match with trans women about who is the biggest victim, and right now the NBs are winning.

LiveInAHidingPlace Sun 15-Sep-19 03:54:16

GCAcademic exactly. EVERYONE is non binary. I've never met anyone who is 100% rigidly 'feminine' or 'masculine'.

I know very femininely dressed women who also play football.

I know women who wear no make up and also don't do any sports.

I know men who work as mechanics who also own Hello Kitty mugs.

I know men who work in caring professions who also enjoy rugby.

Those people are the norm. They are not special or different or interesting.

I am 100% sure that 99% of self-proclaimed non-binary people will quietly drop the label as soon as they enter the world of work/get a job outside of entertainment/academics. Especially the women, when they realise that they can't identify out of the bullshit that is being an adult woman.

BoomBoomsCousin Sun 15-Sep-19 03:54:40

I find the non-binary thing much more understandable than the idea of transgender really. I see the dislike of s/he pronouns and a desire to use something that doesn't identify sex as very similar to my dislike of Mr/Ms./Miss/Mrs. titles and even gendered (or sexed) names and other ways that our sex and therefore our assumed gender is signaled to others in situations where it's entirely unnecessary.

I've never identified as female gender. Being a woman isn't a part of my identity, it's a part of my biology and lots of things about me fit as much into male gender archetypes maybe more than fit into female gender archetypes. If I weren't half a century through my life I might find the non-binary category very appealing from a feminist perspective. I don't want a gender, I've never identified as a gender and if I were young I would probably see non-binary as a way of making this point and trying to opt-out of society's imposition of gender.

LiveInAHidingPlace Sun 15-Sep-19 03:56:49

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MrsToddsShortcut Sun 15-Sep-19 03:59:30

'Non-binary is someone who doesn't feel Male or female'

Well yes, except the truth is, hardly anyone does. It's a very normal feeling, that has been pathologised.

I’d love to live in a world where men could wear dresses, skirts, make up, without fear and just be men.

I’d love women to be as butch or masculine as they like, or reject make up and socially constructed feminine roles and not be ostracised for it and still be women.

But many organisations (like Stonewall, political parties who have embraced all of this, journalists who write about it etc) who look as though they are deconstructing gender, are actually reinforcing it.

They are going along with a society that has decided that feminine men are probably actually women, and masculine women are probably really men.

And so now you now have young people left right and centre, who thirty years ago, were just blokes wearing a bit of lippy and eyeliner, identifying as non-binary rather than open themselves up to violence. (and I am separating enbys from transsexuals, which is slightly different; genuine gender dysphoria is mercifully, very rare).

Thirty years ago, loads of people messed around with gender norms, because it was allowed. Now isn’t.

Gender is more fiercely policed than at any other time in recent history and we are all the poorer for it. We are being forced into ever smaller boxes labelled masculine and feminine, and if any of us believe we don’t belong in those boxes, or reject the boxes, then there are loads more newly invented boxes to shove us into.

I have every sympathy with young people who decide that they are non-binary rather than negotiate a world that tells them that they have to be one thing or the other.

But the new choices they are being given, aren’t really choices at all; they are socially sanctioned boxes that they may step into, with permission. Because if they don’t, ostracization and violence wait the other side.

Enter Sam Smith, Asia Argento, Ruby Rose, and numerous other personalities, choosing to 'soft trans' rather than be ostracised or subject to homophobia.

Society is perfectly happy with the ‘new’ version of 'soft' trans, part of the widened trans umbrella, that truth be told, incorporates pretty much everyone.

They love it, because it upholds all the gender norms. There is nothing progressive about a society where your choices are Masculine, Feminine or Trans. However, it’s far less of a threat to Patriarchy than a genuinely progressive society, where you have Men, Women, a small number of people who are Intersex, and everyone can be anything they want to be, wear anything they want, and access the full gamut of human emotions and experiences open to us.

That doesn’t serve the Patriarchy at all as it interferes with their ability to keep women ‘less than’, and their ability to push out feminine men from the ‘Man Box’ into…well, let’s face it, they don’t really care where they go, so long as they don’t taint the current prescribed version of masculinity with their girly nonsense!

So Sam Smith, who just wants to wear pretty clothes and nice shoes, *and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that*, by the way, finds it easier to legitimise what he sees as his feminine side, by calling it his 'female' side and coming out as non-binary.

Despite all the horror statistics we hear about suicide and murder (which is awful and partially true) and despite the fact that the UK is still a pretty safe place to be trans, for Sam Smith, as a white man in the West, it is still actually safer at the moment for him to come out as trans than live openly as a very camp gay man.

They don't talk about 'transing away the gay' for nothing. The world we live in is horrifically homophobic (and I believe strongly that transphobia is just an offshoot of homophobia) so while I truly think 'non-binary' is at best, pathologised personality and at worst an annoying affectation, I get why young gay or lesbian adolescents and young people are grabbing it with both hands.

LiveInAHidingPlace Sun 15-Sep-19 04:01:38

MrsTodd I LOVE your post.

lostelephant Sun 15-Sep-19 04:04:52

It gets confusing IMO. I remember there was a thread on here where the poster kept referring to their partner as they/them and everyone was confused how many people were involved. I understand they/them can be used in a singular context, but more often than not it's referring to multiple people.

Sam's statements on twitter also contradicted themselves.

I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you.

Followed by...

P.s. I am at no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be non binary but I can’t wait for the day that I am..

How are we meant to try and respect non-binary when they don't know themselves what it means yet?

MrsToddsShortcut Sun 15-Sep-19 04:05:19

Thank you kindly!

Whatwouldbigfatfannydo Sun 15-Sep-19 04:10:28

It's a big pile of nonsensical, farcical idiocy.
Gender and sex aren't interchangeable terms. Yes, it's right to refute gender as a boundary to be accepted by all. However the answer to that isn't to say you flit between both male and female so therefore your biological sex no longer applies. hmm
He's still a man and I'll refer to him as such because that's his sex.

Although, this has shown how much we need a MN eyeroll emoji! Haha

namechangeblah2019 Sun 15-Sep-19 04:10:41

@BoomBoomsCousin I suppose the argument there would be that from a practical point of view, pronouns being sex/gender based simply make life a lot easier. I'd say a solid 99% of people we come across in life identify with the pronouns dictated by their sex. Likewise, 99% of people's genders are easily identifiable from a look at their personal appearance. Non-binariness works in the large part because very few people are actually non-binary. I can't promise the same could be said if everyone rejected the pronouns of their choice in favour of they/something even more left field. OK, so if a member of your family or a close friend changed pronouns it would be easy enough to remember, granted potentially difficult to get used to. But could you imagine being a doctor, for instance, and having to remember which patient is xe and which is they. Even if you ask politely, there is always the grounds to mess up with so much of that flying around.

MrsToddsShortcut Sun 15-Sep-19 04:10:42


Well quite. He has written a whole heap of contradictory statements.

If I was asked to translate, I might hazard a guess at something like

"I like wearing women's stuff, but I'm a gay man, please don't hate me or beat me up"

Followed by

"This is subterfuge, so I'm not sure what my cover story is yet. When I've spoken to the right people and got my story straight, I'll update everyone"

"P.S Please be kind as I am honestly a nice person" (which I'm sure he is)

BoomBoomsCousin Sun 15-Sep-19 04:28:00

namechangeblah2019 yes. I think the young me that might see it as a step towards a less sexist society would be hoping that most people would, in the long run, decide to reject gender and so I would just be on the vanguard - expecting it to become normal.

But the young me that was just looking for a way out of gendered expectations wouldn't care that much if others did it or if it was difficult for other people. I'd be pissed off with the people that would find it difficult, with the way constant reference to my sex is a part of pushing that female gender with all those expectations that I don't want any part of on me in the first place. I have a small bit of me that still feels a bit that way now at 50+. I'm just too habituated to being her/she and I've found a compromise I'm sort of OK with now in terms of presenting in a way that doesn't constantly have me pigeonholed in ways I don't like. I can't find the sort of energy that would be needed for that constant fight, but at 20 I probably could have. And if that were an argument I was surrounded by - that being non-binary is the way to reject gendered expectations - I might well have gone for it.

FuckFacePlatapus Sun 15-Sep-19 04:38:19

Sam Smith gets on my nerves. Chooses gender like a fashion accessory when one has something to promote.

Jesaminecollins Sun 15-Sep-19 04:39:00

Am I the only one who doesn't like his singing?

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