The BRIT Awards have responded after Sam Smith spoke out about plans to keep gender-based categories for the 2021 ceremony.
Smith came out as non-binary in early 2019, and changed their pronouns to they/them in September that year.
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Back in 2019, it was reported that the BRITs were planning to scrap their gender categories in a bid to include non-binary artists. The awards ceremony, which occurs every February, was reportedly keen to “evolve” and axe the categories in a bid to change with the music industry.
Ahead of this year’s awards, which take place in May, a source has told The Sun that there has been “a lot of discussion” around the idea of gender-neutral categories, but that it won’t be implemented this year.
The source added: “The concern is that looking at the artists who have released this year – with all of the restrictions and problems – scrapping separate male and female awards categories might actually have had more of a negative impact across the board.
“It’s definitely something that is going to be looked at again in subsequent years.”
In response to the news, Smith shared a message on their Instagram account. “The Brits have been an important part of my career,” they wrote, adding that “one of my earliest achievements was winning Critics Choice in 2014.
“Music for me has always been about unification not division. I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let’s celebrate everybody regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class.”
The BRITs have now responded, with a spokesperson saying in a statement: “The BRITs love Sam. Sam won our Critics’ Choice Award (now Rising Star) in 2014 and went on to enjoy incredible international stardom, winning more BRIT Awards and nominations along the way as well as giving us some of the most memorable performances ever. Sam is an extraordinary British artist and we agree with what they have said today.
“The BRITs are committed to evolving the show and the gendered categories are very much under review. But any changes made to be more inclusive need to be just that – if a change unintentionally leads to less inclusion then it risks being counterproductive to diversity and equality. We need to consult more widely before changes are made to make sure we get it right.”
One change that has been implemented at the BRITs this year came from a grassroots campaign headed by Rina Sawayama that led to the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) agreeing to change the rules for the awards, allowing artists without British citizenship to be eligible for the awards if they’ve resided in the country for five years or more.
Speaking to NME about the historic decision, Sawayama said: “This is the UK I know, and the UK I grew up with – one of acceptance and diversity. It feels really special.
“It remains to be seen what the effect is,” she added of the rule change’s potential impact in the future, “but I really hope that in one, two, five or ten years time, it will have an effect on protecting artists within the political climate.”
Sawayama was nominated for the BRITs Rising Star award for 2021 this week, alongside Pa Salieu and Griff.