In high school, obsessing over Disney Channel stars was a big part of my personality. I could tell you the star signs, favourite movies and upcoming projects of Raven-Symoné, Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato at the drop of the hat.
In heterospect (the art of looking back on your life and finding the moments you should have realised you’re gay), it was no wonder I was obsessing over these stars and not, say Nick Jonas. And ironically, all of these stars ended up coming out as queer themselves (minus Hilary, but she famously ended homophobia in 2008 and is an A+ ally so she can stay on this list).
There’s something particularly emotional about your teenage idols coming out as queer when you’re part of the community. It’s this intense feeling of visibility, community and celebration all rushing in together, kinda like a warm hug to your past self, especially if you were in the closet growing up.
So yesterday morning, waking up to the news about Demi Lovato coming out as non binary truly hit me.
“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,” Demi Lovato shared in a new episode of their podcast, 4D with Demi Lovato.
“With that said, I'll be officially 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 and true to the person I both know I am, and am still discovering."
Earlier this year, Lovato released a YouTube documentary, Dancing with the Devil, which gave an honest and emotional look into Demi’s life, particularly surrounding their mental ill health and traumatic drug overdose in 2018.
Having a pop star with such a huge profile and platform deliver so much unfettered honesty about so many big topics from body image to sobriety to queerness is refreshing and wonderful. They’ve even been open about wanting to make out with Rihanna, and my god, who doesn’t!?
As a non binary person, this news about Demi’s identity was extremely momentous. As I did when I learned that Elliot Page had come out as trans, I immediately woke my partner up and broke the news. They instantly sprung out of bed and hugged me, and we celebrated another celebrity joining our trans community.
Having trans and non binary celebrities living their lives out in the open can have enormous, far-reaching impacts. For queer folks, these celebrities represent our community thriving on a global stage. They so easily can become role models and icons – examples of successful LGBTQIA+ folks using their platforms to educate, spread awareness and unashamedly be out and proud in the public eye.
Even if they don’t talk about their sexuality or gender identity often, the very act of them existing with a global platform feels like an act of resistance: it’s queer and trans folks taking up space in a world that has tried to shut us down.
This is particularly significant for any folks who are questioning their identity, may be young, or may be isolated from queer communities. Someone like Demi means that they can see there’s a wide, vibrant and diverse queer community out there, full of people just like them.
And for folks who aren’t queer, icons like Demi speaking about their identity can encourage people to research, listen, learn. It has the potential to change minds, encourage acceptance and create strong allies.
Of course, Demi’s news is just the tip of the iceberg. More and more celebrities are feeling comfortable to share their sexuality with the world.. Folks like Sam Smith, Jonathan Van Ness, Amandla Stenberg, Janelle Monáe and many more have outwardly spoken about their gender identities and expressions – and every time they do, the world feels a little brighter and safer for us trans folks.
Let’s say someone who has never met an out trans person reads about Demi’s coming out and decides to look further into non binary identities. Let’s say they do the work, become an ally and use their privilege to speak out about transphobia, and celebrate the trans community. The ripple effect that could have on others in that community is unimaginable. It also means that queer folks (who may be in the closet) in that person’s life potentially have a safe person they could talk to, where they didn’t before. That connection could change that queer person’s life.
That’s why representation matters.
Welcome to the trans family, Demi! We are so proud.