Why refusing to use Sam Smith’s non-binary pronouns is so disrespectful

An Australian radio host’s comments about Sam Smith and their use of they/them pronouns has been labelled ‘disrespectful’, after KIIS FM’s Kyle Sandilands ruffled feathers with his refusal to address Sam properly week.

In September last year, Stay With Me singer Sam revealed they were non-binary and will use they/them pronouns going forward, however, months later it seems the world still isn’t ready to accept such a thing.

The internet was quick to slam Kyle as the 26-year-old pop star appeared on his programme, The Kyle and Jackie O Show, on Tuesday (21 April) and before the singer jumped on the phone the hosts discussed their new choice of pronouns.

‘I’m sick of this. Why do I have to do this?’ shock jock Kyle fumed, according to Daily Mail Australia, prompting Jackie O to reply: ‘That’s the way it is these days, hun.’

Saying he ‘wasn’t buying’ Sam’s pronouns, Kyle theorised: ‘I’ll be now allowed to use the N-word, because I identify as a black woman. Is that right? Is that how it works?’

This sort of dismissal of one’s chosen pronouns is particularly ‘hurtful’ when we should be having respectful conversations around gender, according to Jeff Ingold, Head of Media Engagement, Stonewall.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk in the wake of the controversial host’s comments, Ingold said: ‘The language we use is important, especially when it comes to describe or reference someone’s identity. Using and respecting a trans person’s correct pronouns is as important as it is for anyone – it’s basic manners.

‘But we know understanding gender identity can be confusing at first. Nobody is expecting someone to know everything right away. If someone says the wrong thing by accident – which can happen to anyone – just apologise. We’re all human and people slip up.’

He continued: ‘However, deliberately using the wrong pronouns for someone repeatedly is hurtful because you’re disrespecting who they are. Kyle Sandilands’ recent comments about Sam Smith is an example of this. Just think about how it would feel if someone you knew refused to call you by your name or use the right pronouns for you.’


Last year when Sam came out as non-binary, they wrote: ‘I understand there will be many mistakes and misgendering but all I ask is you please, please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you.’

While we’re seeing more discussion in the media around the use of gender pronouns, Ingold wants use to not waste the opportunity to better ourselves.

‘We should use opportunities like this to have real, honest and respectful conversations about why language like this can be so offensive,’ he continued. ‘Using someone’s correct pronouns might take a bit of getting used to, but it causes you no harm and it will make that person feel acknowledged and valid.’

He added: ‘You can also show solidarity with someone who has pronouns that others may mistake by politely correcting someone who has used the wrong ones, even if the person isn’t there.

‘The more we use inclusive language, the sooner it becomes normalised and we move closer to living a world where everyone is accepted for who they are.’

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