Earlier this year Sam Smith came out as nonbinary, and a few months later officially changed their pronouns to they/them, but the announcement was a long time coming. Before their career started taking off over 10 years ago, the singer embraced their feminine side and expressed that side through their style choices. Unfortunately, at the age of 19 Smith was the victim of a hate crime when they were attacked for dressing in women's clothing, and opened up about the incident during a recent interview with Out.

“I used to wear lots of makeup and female clothing, and I got punched by this man, and ever since that happened, I started to dress down,” they explained. “When I started to dress down, that’s when my music career started to lift off, but I made a decision in that moment that I felt more comfortable and safer pushing myself to that male side, and it helped.”

Making the decision to embrace their true self in the public eye has been a truly liberating experience for 27-year-old, yet they recognize the hardships associated with coming out. “In changing my pronouns, I felt incredible freedom. It’s like a brick was lifted off my chest, and with that freedom comes another kind of pain,” Smith said. “Feeling this free in our skin is answered with abuse. And that’s really hard.”

At the end of the day, Smith would rather be true with themself than pretend to be something they're not. “I feel happier and more comfortable within myself when I’m wearing more feminine clothes, which I’m experimenting with more and more,” they said. “I thought living a life playing pretend would be less painful than being authentic. But I’d rather be myself, even if it means being abused for it. I’d rather get all this s--t for being myself than lie to myself. That’s not a way to live.”

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