Photos of singer-songwriter Sam Smith wearing heels publicly for the first time at the British GQ Awards in London Tuesday night uplifted me all week. When I first saw the photos posted on their Instagram account, my heart burst with rainbow, unicorn and red high heel emojis. And for the uninitiated, the photo above is not Sam Smith wearing heels. That’s a shot of my kid Harry, who also wears heels, taken in 2007 when he was a junior in high school.
Here’s the picture of Sam Smith’s red carpet moment.
Black patent leather Gucci heels aside, it was the 27-year-old, four-time Grammy winner’s text copy that gave me all the mom feels:
“As I was walking to my front door I stopped and listened to my heels clonking against the floor. And I just thought ‘FUCK YES’!! There was a time where I thought I’d never ever ever be able to be myself like this in front of the industry or anyone. It feels so good and I just wanted to share that with you all.”
I sent big virtual hugs to Sam Smith for so openly sharing their feelings about the sense of freedom that comes with gender expression. And for saying how right it feels to be their true self.
Sam Smith’s gift.
While I’d watched Sam Smith’s big night at the Grammys in 2015, I wanted to know more about this young possibility model. So I did a little research. I learned of their love for feminine clothes growing up and how they wore full makeup to school. They came out in 2017 as genderqueer and as nonbinary in March of this year.
Sam Smith’s Instagram post is a gift for all the genderqueer nonbinary kids, teens and twenty-somethings that have yet to feel okay expressing their gender identity. I hope LGBTQ+ kids everywhere will be inspired and empowered to freely just be themselves. And I hope the rest of us will cheer them on with full support. Fuck yes!
My Son Wears Heels Memoir Turns 3!
On the heels of Sam Smith wearing heels, I’m reminded of another reason to revel and reflect. The University of Wisconsin Press published MY SON WEARS HEELS three years ago today. It was the labor of love I wrote to help families with LGBTQ+ kids of all ages. I wanted those moms, dads and caregivers to know they weren’t alone with their confusion, worry and fears. I knew that if I could encourage them to listen carefully, keep an open mind and love unconditionally, I would ultimately be helping their kids.
These past three years now represent a whole new crop of toddlers. Some assigned male at birth prefer pink skirts, sparkly tops and their mom’s heels to stereotypical “boy clothes.” There are toddler girls who won’t wear dresses, like neckties and want a buzz cut. And guess what? Some of those gender nonconforming kids may not yet be able to articulate their identity. They may feel both male and female, neither boy nor girl, or clearly not the gender that appears on their birth certificate. And while they will learn that traditional society has rules about gender and gender expression, they need the space and support to evolve and discover themselves.
Reading about Sam Smith’s childhood preferences reminded me of my parenting journey. And because Sam Smith and Harry are just two years apart, I can’t help but wonder how their mother felt. Did she want Sam to just fit in with other boys the way I wanted Harry to fit in? Did she fear being judged a “bad mom” for parenting a boy others deemed “too feminine”? Ideally Sam Smith’s mom let them lead the way as she followed their zigzagging footsteps.
I spent two decades behind a child who knew exactly who he was, even though the language for his identity didn’t exist. There was no internet in the early nineties, and I hadn’t learned the term “gender identity” yet. Later, when Harry wanted to wear heels to his high school graduation, I wasn’t even sure how to spell “stiletto.” But I assure you he did. In his first year of college, Harry informed me he was genderqueer and had to explain the term. While MY SON WEARS HEELS was being printed, Harry came out as nonbinary, a term I’d never heard before. The truth is, humans evolve as a species and as individuals. Parents, families, societies and language will just have to continue keeping up.
My life with a son who wears heels led me to this: If you want the kids in your life to be happy, secure and self-confident, just let them be. Trust them to know themselves. And trust yourself enough to enjoy the journey with them. It will be better than any awards show.
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