I was very excited when Sam Smith came out as gay earlier this year. By that point, he'd already bagged two number one singles on the UK chart, and was shaping up to be one of the biggest names in British music. And he'd just told everyone that he fancied men.
"This is going to be very helpful for a lot of young people," I thought, "Well done, Sam Smith. You've done a very good thing."
Unfortunately, since then, Sam has made a number of statements about being gay in the press that I've not necessarily agreed with, culminating this week when he told Digital Spy he wasn't "trying to be a spokesperson" for gay people adding: "It sounds awful of me, but I'm really just trying to live my life and write music about it. I'm not trying to heal the world."
This is the same Sam Smith who, earlier this year, told people not to make "an issue" of their sexuality, telling the Jim & Kim Morning Show: "Don't make it an issue. Let's make it a normality."
Let's start with that first comment, shall we? As far as I'm concerned, if you voluntarily put yourself in the public eye and you are openly gay, then in my opinion it really doesn't matter whether you want to be a spokesperson for LGBT people or not.
Sam Smith did not become famous by accident - if all he wanted to do was sing without any of the other stuff attached then I'm sure there's a Caffè Nero somewhere he could have done a weekly spot in - and as a gay man who has made the conscious choice to be in the public eye, he should recognise that there are gay and lesbian teenagers all over the country who don't necessarily know any gay people apart from the ones they see on TV, and those young people are now looking to him. And I know this because I used to be one of them.
I can tell you for a fact that when I was 13 years old, and I didn't know what I was feeling about being gay because I didn't really have anyone I could talk about it with, I would have loved to have had somebody like Sam Smith to look up to.
And if I'd heard Sam Smith say something as unhelpful as "to make it equal, we have to act equal" (a quote from the same interview) I would have taken that as gospel. I'd have tried my hardest to keep my head down and be as subtle as I could. And I would have wasted six months to a year of my life trying to be something that I wasn't.
The thing is, when I was a teenager, it was very obvious to everyone around me that I was not like the other boys in my class. I was effeminate, I didn't like football and I quite simply did not fit in, and no matter how hard I tried to alter myself to be more like the other boys, it was just never going to happen. And there will be thousands of young people all over the country exactly the same as I was, just trying to get to the end of a school day without being called out by the people around them.
What young gay people need to hear is that it's everyone else who has a problem, and that there's nothing wrong with them. That they should embrace being different from everybody else, that they shouldn't try and assimilate themselves, particularly if they're only setting themselves up to fail from the beginning.
So what I'm saying to Sam Smith is that he might not want to be a spokesperson for gay rights, but as far as I care he doesn't really have a choice in the matter. If he wants to sit next to Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, then he's going to have to face up to the fact that his words have weight to them now.
I'm sure he didn't really mean anything by his comments, but that's not the point. He says if we want "equality" then we just have to "act equal". But he's wrong.
Change comes about when a load of people in short shorts get together and make a racket. It does not come about when a 22-year-old singer/songwriter in a turtleneck keeps his head down and says nothing.Suggest a correction