Sam Smith has opened up about their experience with transphobia in the UK, admitting that they face more instances of public abuse at home than they do abroad.
To celebrate the release of their fourth album, ‘Gloria’, Smith sat down with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe for an exhaustive interview; in addition to the album itself, the pair dove deep into topics like mental health, Smith’s recent trip to the White House, their appearance on Saturday Night Live, and their return to the touring circuit.
At one point in the chat, Lowe asked Smith how they’ve felt since their coming out; the singer first opened up about their transness in 2017, identifying theirself as genderqueer in an interview with The Sunday Times, before later coming out as non-binary (and updating their pronouns to they/them/theirs) in 2019.
Explaining how their life has changed since coming out, Smith told Lowe: “We’ve got two sides, really: my personal life and then my public life. And in my personal life, there’s not one negative. My family can communicate with me; they always did, but they communicate with me now in an even better way. My love life has become better from it – I feel loveable, I feel comfortable my skin, I wear what I want to wear.”
Smith went on to say they’ve ultimately felt “joy in abundance” as an openly non-binary person, and described coming out as “a coming home”. Nodding to a history with gender dysphoria, they continued: “I wish I knew what the words were when I was in school, because I would have identified as that in school because it is who I am, and it’s who I’ve always been.”
Touching on the downsides of being an openly transgender person in the public eye, Smith said: “I think the only negatives and the struggle[s] have been in my public life, and my job. Just the amount of hate, and shitness [sic] that came my way, was just exhausting. And it was really hard.”
Smith and Lowe found a common ground in the fact that as a famous person, avoiding hate is nearly impossible. “It was in the fucking news,” Smith quipped, “[so] it was hard not to look [at the negative comments]. But for me, I can deal with not Googling myself [and] not reading comments – that’s something I can control.
“What people don’t realise, with trans non-binary people in the UK, is it’s happening in the street. Like I’m being abused in the street, verbally, more than I ever have. So that was the hardest part, I think, was being at home in the UK and having people shouting at me in the street.”
Smith then pointed to the larger issue of systemic transphobia faced by people in the UK on a regular basis. They continued: “If that’s happening to me – and I’m famous, I’m a pop star – can you imagine what other queer kids are feeling? It’s just so sad that we’re in 2023 and it’s still happening. It’s exhausting.”
According to Smith, the problem is prevalent “especially in England”, while cities like New York and Los Angeles are far more accepting of people that do not physically appear to be cisgender. “I feel like I can dress and be myself more in these cities than I can at home,” they admitted.
“That’s a wild feeling,” Smith added, “because America is a complex place. I went to the White House the other month, and having Biden stand up and say all these things – talking about trans people and how he sees them – he sees us. I haven’t heard that in my own country.”
Have a look at Smith’s full interview with Lowe below:
Smith released ‘Gloria’ on Friday (January 27) via Capitol. It was supported by singles like ‘Love Me More’, ‘Unholy’ (featuring Kim Petras), ‘Gimme’ (featuring Koffee and Jessie Reyez) and the title track.
In a four-star review, NME’s Nick Levine described ‘Gloria’ as “the most surprising, satisfying and vital work of [Smith’s] career”, and declared that the singer “has never sounded better because they’ve never been more themselves”.