How Demi Lovato’s She/They Pronouns Can Help Normalize Gender Fluidity


Earlier this year, Demi Lovato updated her pronouns on Instagram — a move that went largely unnoticed for a global pop star.

“They/them/she/her,” read Lovato’s profile from April.

This week, the public caught wind of the change after the singer spoke about it during an interview on “Spout Podcast,” a series of interviews with musical artists.

“I’m such a fluid person,” Lovato, who came out non-binary in 2021, told the host Tamara Dhia asked about their pronouns. “Recently I’ve been feeling more feminine so I’ve embraced her again.”

On social media, people reacted to the news with appreciation and confusion. Some, including Dhia, have critical media coverage for the lack of context on the nuances and complexities of gender identity.

While the language of some outlets suggested that Lovato had “gone back” to its pronouns, experts say it’s common for trans and non-binary people to use multiple pronouns and swap pronouns throughout their gender journey.

“A lot of times people can go through different gender identities, or different languages ​​they use, or different pronouns, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not themselves,” said Sabra Katz-Wise, assistant professor. as a teenager. /medicine for young adults at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s just kind of part of this larger gender journey that people are on.”

A guide to the words we use in our gender coverage

Indeed, many on social media reinforced this idea and expressed hope that Lovato’s story would help normalize this experience: “It’s a reminder that gender and sexuality can be totally fluid and that’s okay!” an user wrote on Twitter.

And many have criticized the media’s portrayal of the news. “The media reaction to Demi Lovato’s use of pronouns is why I wish I had stuck with them,” another user said. wrote. “The second I switched to he/they, everyone stopped using them.”

Aaron Williams, 21, has been using the pronouns they/them for over a year. But it looks like their gender journey has just begun, they said.

“I’ve become much more understanding and aware of gender as a social construct in the last few years alone,” said Williams, who lives in Port Talbot, Wales. “Being autistic, most of us don’t feel like we can relate to social norms and I’ve realized that I don’t identify with binary gender norms. This is a work of progress.

Cierra “ChiChi” White, a mental health counselor and Twitch streamer in Colorado Springs, said their journey began during childhood after struggling to connect with female labels — particularly as a black girl in a non-black community. “My idea of ​​femininity was completely different from that of those around me,” they said.

“All my life I was very comfortable with all the pronouns for the most part,” White added. “And then I just decided to use their pronouns exclusively and identify as an agender.”

For White, 26, it makes sense that a person’s gender identity and/or pronouns change over time.

“If your ideas are constantly challenged or you meet new people who can help you change or better build your own idea of ​​what gender means over time, it’s natural for that to change,” said White. “I don’t know many people who haven’t experimented with pronouns.”

According to data released by the Pew Research Center in June, approximately 1.6% of the US population identifies as trans or non-binary. The survey also revealed that young adults were most likely to identify themselves this way.

5% of young adults identify as trans or non-binary, survey finds

Katz-Wise, whose research examines sexual orientation, gender identity development and sexual fluidity, echoes White’s view of how communities and environmental factors can influence identity. “There are a lot of contextual factors that seem to relate to people going through these changes,” she said. “A lot of it is about meeting new people [and] learn new terms to which they had not been exposed before.

Amid an onslaught of legislation targeting trans and queer people, many members of the LGBTQ community have been particularly beware of narratives that can fuel stigma and misconceptions about queer and gender experiences.

“I think there’s a real fear that transgender and non-binary rights will be taken away if there’s a suggestion that gender can be fluid because people might say, ‘Well, if it’s fluid and that you can change it, so why not just be cisgender?'” Katz-Wise said. “But really, people wouldn’t usually describe it as they made that change themselves, but rather lived this change that was happening to them.”

Since coming out as nonbinary in May 2021, Lovato has been open about anticipating such changes, telling the then-19th that her gender identity would be a “forever” journey. She has also stated that she identifies as gay and pansexual.

“There might be a time when I identify as non-binary and gender non-conforming all my life. Or maybe there is a period of time when I get older that I identify as female” , she said, “I don’t know what it looks like, but for me, right now, that’s how I identify myself.”

In recent years, other celebrities have come out as non-binary or transgender. In 2019, singer Sam Smith changed his pronouns to them. In 2020, actor Elliot Page came out transgender and non-binary. And this year, singer Janelle Monae confirmed she’s non-binary, telling the Los Angeles Times that she’ll be using both they/them and her/her pronouns.

White is grateful for their stories, “It means a lot to me personally as a transgender and non-binary person because it helps normalize conversations about gender and fluidity.”

“It’s so important for our communities to not just have allies, but to be represented,” they said. “If it weren’t for social media and the conversational shift in popular culture, maybe I didn’t know these labels existed.”

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