A virtual "Living Room Concert for America" was produced by iHeartRadio and aired on Fox this past Sunday, hosted by none other than Sir Elton John. The performance was to raise funds for the not-for-profit Feeding America, that runs over 200 food banks, and First Responders Children's Foundation, which supports those first responders who are coronavirus outbreak and in financial need.
Many famous musicians were on the bill including Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Billie Eilish, the Backstreet Boys, Tim McGraw, H.E.R., Billie Joe Armstrong and Sam Smith, according to MEAWW. They broadcast themsevels using cell phones or web cams from their own living rooms, and gave a glimpse into their own homes and home life.
The good-natured affair ended up embroiled in an identity-politics controversy on social media after Elton John referred to Sam Smith with the improper pronoun "he." Smith, who has delcared himself to be non-binary in September of 2019, took afront to the pronoun, as did his fans. Smith would prefer to be referred to as the plural yet genderless designation "they."
Smith has been misgendered in the past. Recently, "The Project" host Carrie Bickmore wrote in her Daily Telegraph column about how she very nearly misgendered Smith, and almost used male pronouns during an interview with him. She wrote that despite her best efforts, she still came close to mixing it up. She couldn't get her head around Smith's non-binary pronoun preference, and neither could Elton John.
Some fans on social media were willing to give Elton John the benefit of the doubt over his confusion about Smith's absence of gender, but others have taken a far more aggressive stance, calling for The Rocket Man to be cancelled.
It was when John was introducing Smith that he botched the pronouns, and said, "Here from his bedroom in his home in London, is my dear friend Sam Smith."
Smith sang an acapella version of "How You Sleep" from his elegant and comfortable living room for iHeartRadio's star-studded "Living Room Concert for America."
Fans of Smith voiced their outrage over Smith's misgendering via Twitter. One fan of Elton John 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."
Others tried to give Elton John the benefit of the doubt. One user tweeted, "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."
Another wrote, "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,"
Things started to get ugly with comments like "Sam Smith is a man. If Elton John called him a male pronoun, he didn't misgender him."
The debate then turned to whether of not one is allowed to misgender Smith if they don't know who the singer is, with one person tweeting, "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."
Many of Smith's fans came to his defence, one person wrote, "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 "Sam Smith doesn’t “prefer” they/they pronouns. They USE they/them pronouns it’s not fucking optional. You’re letting your transphobia slip."
The total amount of money raised for the benefit, 'Living Room Concert for America,' has yet to be disclosed. Whether or not Elton John will be cancelled for this slight against his friend is also yet to be determined.