This time last year I had big-ish hair and a smooth baby-face complexion. Customers in the bar I worked at would often say I reminded them of Sam Smith.
Not exactly thrilled by this comparison, it wasn’t long before I’d shaved my head and begun to grow a beard. It’s safe to say I am not the singer’s Number One fan. I love his work with Disclosure/Naughty Boy but when it comes to his own work I find it a bit repetitive; the same themes, the same tempo.
However, although not a fan, I am still left speechless by the hatred that was posted by some LGBTI people yesterday, attacking Smith for misquoting Sir Ian McKellen and suggesting he might be the first out gay male to win an Oscar.
What can we say for our community when the most hateful comments no longer come from mis-informed, white, cis-gender, heterosexual males but from within our own supposed support network?
Sam Smith is a LGBTI pop star prototype for the millennial generation. They have grown up in a world where gay people in many countries can now get married, adopt children, publicly come out and not be vilified.
Whether we like it or not, LGBTI life has become more assimilated within a heteronormative society and culture. Sam is part of that. Because of this, it is little wonder he, and others like him, do not know their queer history in the same way that older generations might.
Helping to push the community forward is not why he signed up to be a pop star. As he has said, ‘I want my music to be sung by absolutely everyone, just like I listen to straight people every day of my life, and I’m not straight.’
He didn’t want to make waves, he was just a kid who simply wanted to sing songs and take selfies of himself with the Kardashians.
But now he’s a few years older, he’s been to more LGBTI events and he sees the position he’s in. He’s ready to stand up and say something. Which leads us to Sunday night’s Oscars.
Sam collected his award and said that he’d read an article by Sir Ian McKellen which had said that no openly gay person had won an Oscar.
‘If this is the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope that we can all stand as equals one day.’
A photo posted by Sam Smith (@samsmithworld) on
So, Smith’s choice of wording was unfortunate (despite adding the ‘If this is the case’ proviso), and it’s sadly not the first time he’s made a bit of a mess whilst trying to make a difference (last year he was criticized by some for ‘whitesplaining’ a racist incident in London).
But people are forgetting his intentions were good. He was trying to take his personal moment of glory and shine a light on something close to his heart. Something that remains an issue in many parts of the world.
Instead, he fluffed his lines and before you know it he is Public Hate Figure #1 in the eyes of many in the LGBTI community.
When his error was pointed out to him in a potentially catty tweet by Dustin Lance Black, Smith apologized graciously on Twitter, only to put his foot in it further at the post-Oscars press junket by joking that he should date one of the previous out Oscar winners – whom it turned out had died from AIDS in 1991.
Obviously he should do his research if he is going to enter the ring, but does he really deserve the public character assassination he is receiving?
He is just young, naive and needs someone to educate him if he wants LGBTI politics to play a bigger part in his persona.
To me, it’s really interesting how people are using such personal attacks against Sam; commenting on his weight gain/loss, the girth of his beard, his not-so-masculine nature.
It only proves what we knew all along; that RuPaul knows everything. The drag superstar once said, ‘It’s very difficult for gay artists to have the kind of support that someone like Britney Spears has with a gay audience. I think it’s inner shame. It’s self-loathing.’
Seeing our own insecurities magnified on the world’s stage is hard for some gay people to deal with and, sadly, many of us just choose to criticize instead of support.