‘Non-binary’? A completely made-up concept. ‘Gender fluidity?’ No, you can’t transcend biology. Calling oneself ‘they/them’? Illiterate nonsense. Sex isn’t an identity people need years to discover: it’s inscribed in our bodies.
“My name is Joanna and, after many years of healing and self-reflection, I’d like to share with you the revelation that I am actually a woman. I am officially announcing my pronouns as she/her.”
If I ever say anything so stupid, my friends will no doubt laugh uproariously. If they take me seriously, I hope they’ll roll their eyes and tell me I need to get out more. Yet, when pop singer Demi Lovato made just such a statement yesterday her words were treated reverentially by media outlets like the bisnisheboh and the Guardian.
Also on bisnisheboh.com
Speaking on her ‘4D with Demi’ podcast, the chart topping performer told listeners she wanted to share something very personal:
Over the past year and a half I’ve been doing some healing and self-reflective work. And through this work I’ve had the revelation that I identify as non-binary. I’ll officially be changing my pronouns to they/them. I feel that this best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression and allows me to feel most authentic to the person I both know I am and am still discovering.
What on earth does this mean? Non-binary is a completely made-up concept. In reality, people are either male or female; a miniscule number of people are intersex – but Lovato is not and does not claim to be this. Science tells us that people cannot move between male and female on a whim – no matter how much ‘fluidity’ they feel. Lovato’s claim to be non-binary is her way of declaring herself to be so special she even transcends biology.
But there’s an irony to Lovato’s supposed non-conformity. Sex is not an identity people must dedicate years to discovering: it’s inscribed in our bodies. It is determined before we are even born. I don’t identify as female, I simply am female. For this reason, it is impossible to describe how it feels to be a woman without resorting to outdated stereotypes. And absolutely no one exists only as a stereotype. I have a fondness for flowery dresses and baking cakes. But I also like breaking the speed limit on motorways and, on occasion, knocking down walls and chopping down trees. Does this mean I am non-binary too? Are we all non-binary?
Of course, Lovato is not the first public figure to come out as non-binary. Sam Smith beat her to it by a full two years. Back in 2019, he declared: “I’m not male or female, I think I flow somewhere in between.” Earlier this month, 23 year-old Owen Hurcum became Wales’ first openly non-binary mayor. If we were all non-binary then Lovato, Smith and Hurcum would no longer be quite so different. They need ‘cis-gender’ and ‘heteronormative’ people to exist so that they can be special.
And how special they are! Not only does science not apply to them, neither do the rules of grammar. The Guardian helpfully explained to readers: “Lovato has also described themself as queer, and their sexuality as fluid.” Now, I know The Grauniad is famed for its typos but ‘themself’ is not a word but a contradiction. ‘Them’ is plural, while ‘self’ is singular. Combining the two is illiterate. Telling readers that ‘they have given extensive support to LGBTQ causes’ leaves us confused. How many people gave this support?
Lovato is, like everyone else, perfectly free to identify as anything she likes. Indeed, making public declarations about your gender or sexuality is rapidly becoming boring. Those who feel the need to do so should be left to get on with it. But it’s worth asking, will Lovato afford us the same luxury? In her podcast, Lovato announces that she is ‘officially’ changing her pronouns to they/them. Does this mean everyone else is compelled to say something they know to be nonsensical?
What Lovato says matters for another reason. She first came to fame with the 2008 Disney movie Camp Rock. Her seven albums have all reached the top five in the US charts and, her most recent, Dancing With the Devil … The Art of Starting Over, reached number two in both the US and UK last month. Lovato clearly has a lot of fans and many of them are teenagers and children.
Sam Smith and Demi Lovato normalise the idea that gender is something to angst over, decide upon and publicly announce. Lovato said, “I’m doing this for those out there that haven’t been able to share who they truly are with their loved ones. Please keep living in your truths and know I am sending so much love your way.” The message to young people is forget smashing stereotypes and changing the world; stay at home, stare at your genitals and insist everyone acquiesces to your feelings.
Despite a year and a half of self-reflection, I’m not completely convinced Lovato has thought this through. At this year’s Brit awards, Smith was excluded from both the gendered categories. Perhaps what he and Lovato are hoping for is a special non-binary category where all the contenders get to decide for themselves who identifies as the winner.
Demi, love, you’re a woman. Just get over it.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!