The Piece That Asks Gay Men To Give Sam Smith a Break

The Piece That Asks Gay Men To Give Sam Smith a Break

When I happened upon this post on pride.com, I was immediately thrown back a few years ago when here on Kito Diaries, Sam Smith trended amongst KDians and mostly not in a good way. A lot of KDians also didn’t like him, his music or his LGBT politics – or a lack of the thereof. Well, it turns out it’s not just a Nigerian gay thing.

Anyway, here, have a read, and if you don’t like the Stay With Me singer, perhaps by the time you get to the end, you’d learn to cut Sam Smith a break.

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Love him or hate him, Sam Smith is currently the biggest gay pop star in the world. With five top 10 hits under his belt (and that’s only in the US), the 25-year-old singer is coming into his own, and while he could’ve easily distanced himself from the LGBT community after being mercilessly (and deservedly) dragged for his Oscars faux pas, he’s embraced it even more.

Smith is currently on a worldwide apology tour. He’s hit up Zane Lowe, James Corden, and even Ellen DeGeneres to show that he’s grown up. He’s apologized for claiming “no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar.” He brushed up on his gay history. He’s given up The Notebook in favor of Weekend. And he even announced that he’s genderqueer.

“I don’t know what the title would be, but I feel just as much woman as I am man.”

But many people—especially gay men—just aren’t buying it. Gay Star News recently posed the question “Why do gay men hate Sam Smith?” and the Facebook comments were instantly a battleground.

“How could we hate the first gay man to win an Oscar (sarcasm)?” wrote one commenter.

“Just don’t like his music and he comes across as a bit of an annoyance and try hard,” said another.

The article sites the infamous 2014 Gawker takedown, “Sam Smith’s Fucked-Up Gay Conservatism,” alleging that Smith de-gays his entire public persona for mainstream—and heterosexual—acceptance. The writer, Rich Juzwiak, took Smith’s ambiguity as a personal attack on queerness, claiming the pop star took the “be gay, but don’t shove it in our faces” route to fame to be more palatable for the middle-aged moms who still actually buy albums.

To a degree, that is true. Even if it wasn’t his intent, he certainly profited off of a conservative gay image. He was open about that fact in 2014, telling The Fader: “I’ve tried to be clever with this album, because it’s also important to me that my music reaches everybody. I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody— whether it’s a guy, a female, or a goat—and everybody can relate to that.”

It’s a pretty genius move from a marketing standpoint. LGBT folks are only 4.1% of the population and to be successful in the music industry, you’re almost certainly going to need the support of straight people. But did Smith purposefully stumble into an “I’m not like other gays” position? And does that help, or hinder, the community?

Other gay acts like Years & Years and Troye Sivan have huge LGBT followings but have yet to break out into the American mainstream. It’s nearly impossible to say the use of ‘he/him’ pronouns didn’t hurt their careers, but Smith’s refusal to use gender identifiers certainly didn’t hinder his. Stay With Me went on to be #2 in the US. He nabbed four other top 10 songs and won on Oscar for his Bond-theme, Writings on the Wall.

But the pressure on Smith to be queerer feeds directly into the “right way to be gay” pipeline. Smith is openly gay, so isn’t that gay enough? Even as a public figure, we don’t get to tell Smith who he is and how to build his career.

We often separate gay men into dichotomies: the tops and the bottoms, the femme and the masc, the regular Grindr users and the hopeless romantics. But what about the verses?

No, I’m not saying Sam Smith is a vers. But can we get mad at Sam Smith for not being “gay enough” without perpetuating the dichotomy that heterosexual people put us in as gay men?

There aren’t just two ways to be gay. Yes, there are stereotypically gay men and those who defy all of those stereotypes, and then there are men who straddle both (pun intended).

The thing is, none of us have to be one or the other. Most aren’t. Why should Sam Smith?

As Gay Star News notes, “there is something subversive about Sam’s femininity.” Smith is simply a guy who’s learning who he is and being himself. His gayness might be more subtle than some would like, but he’s so authentically himself. He wears his heart on his sleeve and in his music, and millions connect to it. He is the openly gay icon we have, whether we accept him or not.

Let the sad lady sing the blues.

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7 Comments

  1. Francis
    November 06, 05:42 Reply

    Hmmmm, I wasn’t aware people had an issue with his songs being gender neutral. I actually prefer gender neutral songs as they are more relatable

    • Pink Panther
      November 06, 05:46 Reply

      Well, you know gay men. We like what is ours to be firmly ours, complete with a label categorically stating that this belongs to us.

  2. quinn
    November 06, 07:31 Reply

    Now I’m sure gay men can give him a break. I’m not super into his music but he definitely has it!

  3. Foxydevil
    November 06, 07:38 Reply

    In the video of ” too good at goodbyes ” he actually had a male love interest.
    I don’t know where this issue is coming from?
    Should he rub lipsticks, wear a lingerie and shake his ass before he is gay enough?
    Everyone can’t be over the top!
    And not everything is a marketing ploy.
    Cept for Adam Lambert, many gay pop stars made music that accomdated everyone…
    From Elton John, to Frank Ocean, George Michael (lBHS) even the hip swinging Ricky Martin knew when to tone it down.
    Gays will complain about everything, our papa hates us, the world hates us, even an openly gay pop star is not gay enough simply because he isn’t dressed in drags, twerking on a plastic cock.
    SMH
    ?.

  4. Sens8
    November 06, 07:44 Reply

    Gay people sha. So because he’s not singing about shacking up or breaking up with ‘a dude’ he’s not gay enough?!!! Looks like the next challenge gay people have to overcome is giving up the illusion that they are accepting of all types of gayness not just the ones that are ? in the day but those that don’t pander to the queer stereotypes both in business and life. I don’t see anyone criticising Tim Cook for not making Apple gayer since he took over. But most gay guys will queue for a the new iPhone X. Leave San Smith alone. He’s doing him and doing him is successful.

  5. Baddest
    November 06, 13:34 Reply

    This is why I Can never identify with Gay people because they cry about discrimination but they discriminate against themselves the most,they snitch against themselves the most.What has Sam smith done wrong,it is his life and career,now he is not gay enough for you people. I like guys and I don’t consider myself gay,I don’t have penetrative sex with guys,someone will come and tell that I have IH, it is crazy,so much labels in the Gay world,Too much drama,stop labeling people,let and let live,leave people to live their life as long as they re not hurting you,this is the same thing gay people cry about but most are always judging and labeling others…I tire abeg

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