Sam Smith’s gender identity comes under attack from bigots after MTV VMAs nomination

Sam Smith at iHeart Radio event.

Sam Smith sparked outrage among bigots after the MTV VMAs announced only female and non-binary artists in the line-up for the video of the year category.

Grammy award-winning artist Smith, who came out as non-binary in 2019, has regularly been targeted by transphobic trolls for simply existing as a genderqueer person. Over the years, they have faced fatphobic backlashes and constant misgendering, as well as being labelled “satanic” for their pop song “Unholy”, which featured trans trailblazer Kim Petras.

The MTV Video and Music Awards (VMAs) announced their historic slate of nominations on Wednesday (9 August). Women, non-binary and trans people dominated the three major categories (artist of the year, song of the year and video of the year), in a refreshing change from the usual male-dominated line-up.

The video nominees are Taylor Swift for “Anti-Hero”, SZA for “Kill Bill”, Olivia Rodrigo for “Vampire”, Miley Cyrus for “Flowers”, Doja Cat for “Attention”, Nicki Minaj for “Super Freaky Girl”, and Petras and Smith for “Unholy”.

Pop Base and Pop Crave reported that, for the first time ever, this category featured no men – leading to a fierce debate around Smith’s non-binary identity.

Many transphobic critics described the ground-breaking news as “peak delusion”, then referred to Smith using incorrect pronouns and smearing them as an “entitled, attention-seeking narcissist”.

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Several fans, however, have defended Smith and validated their identity.

“I love how Sam Smith being non-binary forces the s***ty transphobes to defend Sam’s masculinity in a way they never would for any other queer person,” one person wrote. “They’re out here like: ‘Sam Smith is a man with testosterone and a penis’. Please listen to yourselves, lol.”

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Another wrote: “As a non-binary person, the comments sadden me. Sam Smith is non-binary. They don’t identify as man. Stop invalidating their gender.”

Smith and Petras’ video, released 10 months ago, features them performing at a cabaret club, and shows off glitzy outfits, raunchy moments and a diverse cast of dancers. It has been nominated in three other categories: song of the year, best direction and best visual effects.

It’s not the first time Smith has had to fight off hate for their recent music. Their devil-horned performance of “Unholy” at the Grammy Awards earlier this year caused a flurry of angry reaction from right-wing bigots.

Elsewhere, the video for “I’m Not Here to Make Friends”, which celebrated LGBTQ+ sex and queer bodies, also had angry trolls up in arms.

In an interview with Apple Music 1 in July, Petras spoke about how she and Smith “stuck together” through the barrage of vitriol and told of her sadness at the hate that Smith regularly receives.

The MTV VMAs will take place on 12 September.

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