Sam Smith Didn't Come Out As Gay In A Recent Interview, We Did That For Him
British singer Sam Smith’s new interview with The Fader is getting a lot of attention online — but some of the headlines are missing the point. In the interview, published on Wednesday this week, Smith revealed that last year, he had fallen in love with a man who, sadly, didn’t love him back. The resulting heartbreak inspired his debut album, In the Lonely Hour. Smith sparked some speculation about his sexuality last week with the release of his “Leave Your Lover” music video, but this is the first time he’s really opened up about his love life in an interview.
When asked how “comfortable” he felt sharing that he was in love with a man during the aforementioned The Fader interview, Smith responded:
I am comfortable with myself, and my life is amazing in that respect. I’m very comfortable and happy with everything. I just wanted to talk about him and have it out there. [The album is] about a guy and that’s what I wanted people to know — I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about.
Interestingly, during the interview, Smith never used the word “gay," and yet, take a look at these recent headlines:
It seems like there’s some sort of misunderstanding here. Yes, Smith said that he was in love with a man, but he never once said that he was gay. No, we’ve done that for him.
I can understand why some publications have gone with the “Smith Smith Comes Out as Gay” angle — it’s “clickier” and easier to digest than “Sam Smith Was In Love With a Man.” Additionally, Smith did go on to say that we would never ask “straight” artists if they were comfortable revealing that a former lover had inspired their music. He also said that he wants to make “it” (presumably his sexuality) a “normality,” a “non-issue.” Yes, I can understand how some people might have read those things and immediately jumped to the conclusion, “Sam Smith is gay!” But wait a second…
Shouldn’t we be beyond that incredibly simplistic and limiting way of thinking by now? For as much we talk about understanding that human sexuality is fluid and exists on a spectrum, we don’t do a very good job of walking the walk. In fact, when asked why he thinks that the general public is so interested in his sexuality, Smith replied:
In the short time I’ve lived on this Earth, all I’ve seen are boxes. People put things in boxes; it makes it easier to digest information.
And with these recent headlines, we’ve done just that: put Smith into a box. He didn’t ask to be put there, but we’ve gone ahead and done it, anyway. Maybe Smith does identify as gay. Maybe Smith identifies as bisexual. Or maybe Smith just doesn’t believe in using conventional labels to describe his sexuality, period! He hasn’t said yet, so there’s no way to know for sure, but this much is clear: we need to stop trying to define Smith’s identity for him. After all, at just 22-years-old, Smith admitted that even he’s not exactly sure who he is yet. Why do we think we know so much better?
In the previously cited The Fader interview, Smith also questioned why his sexuality is such an important "talking point" in the first place, insisting that people should be focusing on his music, instead. While I agree to a certain extent, humans are curious creatures by nature. We’re nosey. We want to get to know our pop stars. We want to be able to relate to them and feel like they’re “just like us.”
In reality, Smith will likely never be able to escape the constant probing into his personal life, and I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrating that must be. But by revealing that a man inspired the love songs featured on In the Lonely Hour, I can guarantee that Smith has helped a lot of listeners across the globe to feel much less isolated, powerless, and alone. For that, regardless of how Smith chooses to describe or not describe his sexuality, I am extremely grateful.