UPDATE: An earlier version of this article misgendered Sam Smith as 'him'. It should have read 'them'. The error has been corrected.
At the iHeart 'Living Room Concert for America' held on Sunday, March 30, Elton John hosted an hour-long special to raise funds for all the heroes and pillars of society working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic: aka the health care workers and first responders.
The event saw performances by Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, the Backstreet Boys, Tim McGraw, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, H.E.R., Sam Smith and more. However, what caught social media's attention was one little slip-up at John's end, when the music legend referred to Sam Smith as a 'he'.
Grammy-winning singer Smith had come out as non-binary back in September 2019, announcing that they have changed their pronouns to gender-neutral ones: they/them/their.
However, Smith getting misgendered hasn't happened for the first time; more recently 'The Project' host Carrie Bickmore had also opened up in her Daily Telegraph column about coming close to misgendering Smith's pronouns during an interview with them. Despite making her best efforts, Bickmore claimed she came close to screwing up.
While some fans are ready to give John the benefit of the doubt, others have taken a far more aggressive stance, or as pop culture loves to call it: cancel him.
Introducing Smith, John said live on air: "Here from HIS bedroom in HIS home in London, is my dear friend Sam Smith" And taking it to Twitter right away, fans of Smith voiced their opinions on them getting misgendered constantly. With respect to John's slip up specifically, a fan wrote: "Wait, what happened? Elton John called Sam Smith, the adult male, "he"?? Never meet your heroes, kiddos... especially if you expect them to play your pronoun game." Another fan shared a gif of bursting into laughter along with the caption: "NOT ELTON JOHN CALLING SAM SMITH A HE... you really love to see it."
Some people tried rationalizing with the angered fandom, saying: "As an enby I try to be patient with folks like Elton when it comes to their understanding of nonbinary folks since they're not exactly being kept up on this stuff most likely. And since Elton & a lot of the old guard helped pave the way for us, I just hope it isn't malicious."
But it wasn't until the extreme comments correlating Sam Smith's anatomy and preferred gender came in that a full-on war waged on Twitter. "y’all really expect a 73 year old man to know someone’s requested gender (which is mostly, if not only known if you spend time on the internet). get sam smith ‘s nuts out of your mouth and stop blaming elton john who’s an LGBT icon," reasoned a fan defending John, but the real war started with comments like "Sam Smith is a man. If Elton John called him a male pronoun, he didn't misgender him."
Soon it turned into a debate with people claiming they are allowed to misgender Smith if they don't know the singer. They read: "What about those of us who don't know who the hell this SAM Smith is? I assumed since this person has a MALE first name that this person was a male. I don't really care though because I HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE WHO THIS PERSON "SAM" SMITH IS. And I don't care enough to google it."
These tweets were countered by an arsenal of angry fans who argued: "sam smith goes by they/them pronouns! even if you don’t like sam smith, you could at least respect their pronouns. it costs nothing to be a decent human being and be respectful to others." Another fan stressed: "Sam Smith doesn’t “prefer” they/they pronouns. They USE they/them pronouns it’s not fucking optional. You’re letting your transphobia slip."
With the war still raging on Twitter, Smith has now been trending on US trends in the top 3 ranks, after delivering a beautiful acapella version of 'How You Sleep' from their living room for the iHeart 'Living Room Concert for America', which aired on March 30 at 9 pm on Fox.