Conservatives are upset at Sam Smith because their music video and tour performances are seemingly too sexual. We discuss this backlash, how society views cis, thin, straight bodies and how it demonises marginalised people who are not afraid to explore their gender and sexuality without shame.

Sam Smith Music Video Receives Backlash

In January 2023, non-binary singer Sam Smith received backlash for their music video. Many conservatives deemed it too sexual and explicit, especially for a younger audience. Smith’s video ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’ showcases the singer in lingerie, wearing corsets, and other traditionally feminine clothing. Immediately after the video dropped, conservatives pushed for an age restriction on YouTube.

They accused Sam Smith of shoving their queer and trans identity down everyone’s face. Many also started misgendering them. Despite this criticism, Smith tweeted a picture of them dressed in a beautiful and extravagant feathered black gown. The tweet reads: Never too much.

This misguided and unnecessary concern for children is somehow only present when trans and non-thin people are expressing their sexuality publicly. The only crime Smith committed was being a queer, non-binary and non-skinny person in a world that demonises LGBTQ+ people. This is especially evident given the song’s success in the charts.

Demonising Fat Bodies

As trans journalist Shivani Dave stated, many cis, thin and straight singers have done the exact same thing as Sam Smith. Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and other pop artists have all used sexual videos for their music. There continues to be a stigma around sex and sexuality. However, primarily marginalised bodies are the ones being heavily policed. Our society is not used to seeing people assigned male at birth dressing up in feminine clothing while dancing provocatively.

Yes, the music video is sexual. No, it is not too sexual. The matter of fact is that ‘sex sells’. Sex has always been a part of pop and hip hop music. Yet, people have an issue with it when queer, trans, fat people profit off of it.

Society has not progressed to a point where fat or simply not straight-sized people can be sexual. It is seen as obscene or promoting pornographic imagery as well as obesity. Fat people existing is not glorifying ‘obesity’. You cannot measure someone’s health based on their physical appearance. Therefore, your concern for fat people’s bodies is not genuine. It is misled by a diet culture that uplifts thinness, while demonising fatness.

Sam Smith and Harry Styles: Exploring Gender and Sexuality

Another important issue in this discussion is how society views queerness and gender identity. Harry Styles dresses more femininely, has flamboyant and dramatic performances and does not necessarily adhere to cis straight manhood. However, he never publicly came out. Thus, we as audiences view him as a cis, straight white man.

Sam Smith, on the other hand, has publicly stated that they are gay and non-binary. There is no speculation about their identity. However, the reactions Styles gets for his performances are drastically different compared to the ones Sam Smith receives. Society enjoys the gender-bending play when it is embodied by cis, heterosexual people. Yet, bashes queer and trans people for being themselves.

Styles enjoys and profits off of the LGBTQ+ community without experiencing the oppression that comes with it. However, Sam Smith continues to face backlash from what they wear to how they perform. The core issue is that we enjoy the idea of queerness but not actual queer people.

Republican senator Ted Cruz called Sam Smith’s performance at the 2023 Grammys ‘evil’ and ‘satanic’. In his tweet he sobbed at how ‘demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan’. It is simply ridiculous the extent to which transphobes will go to demonise trans and non-binary people’s existence. Right-wing political commentator Matt Walsh also spoke out. He stated how it is ‘not surprising to see a satanic ritual at the Grammys’.

Sam Smith and Kim Petras Win Grammy Award

Despite all the anti-trans hate Sam Smith endured, their song ‘Unholy’ still won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance of the Year at the 2023 Grammys. Joining them was trans singer and songwriter Kim Petras. She collaborated on the song with Smith.

Kim Petras became the first openly trans woman to win this award. She gave a wonderful speech, thanking trans icons who came before her, such as the late producer SOPHIE. Sam Smith was also the first non-binary artist to be nominated for this category. Petras stated: ‘I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight’.

Smith pays tribute to late Brianna Ghey

During their GLORIA tour, Sam Smith paid tribute to the late Brianna Ghey. Ghey was a young trans woman who was murdered earlier this year, in February. At the London O2 Arena concert in April, Smith wore a halo headpiece with Ghey’s name in sparkling letters.

While the tribute was one of the most emotional moments of the show, it was overshadowed by many conservatives criticising Smith’s choice of clothing during the tour. Amidst all this anti-trans backlash, let’s support trans and non-binary artists such as Sam Smith and Kim Petras. You can listen to their song ‘Unholy’ and Smith’s ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’ on YouTube. Smith is still touring in Europe so make sure to get tickets to their incredible show!

Mainstream music does not give trans and gender diverse creators the recognition and platform they deserve. It is hard enough to take up space as a non-skinny, queer and non-binary person. Therefore, Sam Smith should be celebrated for all their identities and for providing a much needed representation for many non-binary people around the world.

sam smith music video backlash