Recently, Demi Lovato has been feeling more feminine. The singer and actress a few days ago told “Spout Podcast” host Tamara Dhiaan that when it comes to pronouns, she’s “adopted she/her again.” Lovato, who came out as nonbinary in 2021, explained her decision: “I’m such a fluid person.”
“Fluid” would be one word to describe Lovato, whose Instagram profile since April has read “They/them/she/her.” Cue the confusion from even woke media, though podcaster Dhiaan followed up the interview with this very helpful clarifying tweet: “For the record: Demi Lovato did NOT say she is abandoning they/them as her pronouns, she simply said she is adding she/her.”
The Washington Post also chimed in to help make sense of this very important celebrity announcement. “While some outlets’ language suggested Lovato had ‘gone back’ to she/her pronouns, experts say it’s common for trans and nonbinary people to use multiple pronouns, and to interchange pronouns throughout their gender journey.” Ah, yes, those credentialed, highly educated gender and sexuality “experts,” whose academic journals feature papers with titles like “Locked down queer love: intimate queer online relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to Sabra Katz-Wise, assistant professor in adolescent/young adult medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, “Oftentimes, people might cycle through different gender identities, or different language they’re using or different pronouns, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not their true selves.” When it comes to sex and gender identity, people are supposedly “born this way,” we’ve been told. Unless, to use Katz-Wise’s words, “It’s just sort of part of this larger gender journey that people are on.”
Count me as nonplussed. But not that nonplussed. For what the dustup over Lovato’s announcement reflects — besides the obvious incoherence of gender ideology — is a predictable progression in our celebrity culture. For generations, Americans have reveled in the scandals of our entertainers, both out of a natural curiosity about those we see on the big screen and to comfort ourselves that they, like us, are fallible and foolish. “The whole celebrity culture thing — I’m fascinated by, and repelled by, and yet I end up knowing about it,” admitted Anderson Cooper (and he would know, wouldn’t he?).
Yet the more we’ve become addicted to celebrity culture, the more we’ve taken on the manias and disorders of the celebrities we venerate. They’ve helped justify our own descent into self-worship and its attendant mental and social disorders. I’d argue that’s because many celebrities, and certainly the broader entertainment industry they represent, are the apotheosis of mental illness, hedonism, and vanity.
That certainly seems to be the case with Ms. Lovato, who is deserving more of our sympathy than emulation. As a teenager, she suffered from bulimia nervosa and self-harm, and spent her first stint in rehab at age 18. Yet in 2017, she acknowledged that she still struggled with alcoholism and a cocaine addiction. She overdosed on opioids the following year. In 2020, she admitted she was still struggling with an eating disorder. Last year, she said she has ADHD (and was not bipolar, as she had earlier been diagnosed). She also recently claimed that while she working for the Disney Channel, she was raped at the age of 15. In other words, Lovato is a very troubled soul.
Perhaps an earlier generation might have looked at Lovato’s pronoun fluidity as a sad consequence of a life defined by sexual exploitation, mental illness and substance abuse. They might have shaken their heads with compassion, or turned to their children and told them how Lovato served as a cautionary tale about celebrity and hedonism. Perhaps they might have even offered a prayer for her, that she might find normalcy and peace.
Not in 2022. Today, we identify Lovato’s fluidity as emblematic of what a happy life can look like: a disordered dance in which people are exhorted, if not coerced, to indulge their narcissism and caprice. Lovato is a darling of the left and its platform of radical sexual ideology, serving as lead performer for NYC Pride Week and Grand Marshal of the LA Pride Parade. She was a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign’s Americans for Marriage Equality. She even spoke and performed at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
As long as Lovato’s still trending (which she undoubtedly is) don’t expect the indulging of her celebratory self-deception to stop. Perhaps it’s time for WaPo to update its profile on her in honor of her (their? both?) relevance to sexual and gender politics. Anything to help Lovato and all her acolytes on their “gender journey.” As Lovato fan Aaron Williams, who uses they/them pronouns, told the Post: “If it wasn’t for social media and the change in conversation in popular culture, I may not know these labels existed.” Woke corporate media are proud to feature testimonies like that of Williams’, which shows how powerful these narratives are.
It’s hard to resist the temptations of our narcissistic culture, given how our social media age rewards carefully curated, performative representations of ourselves. That’s compounded by the fact that our nation is suffering record high incidence rates for depression and mental illness. People are more likely to celebrate rather than shame those whose actions are harming them or exacerbating destructive behaviors (monkeypox, anyone?).
Lovato’s “journey” of fluidity has not seemed to dispel the demons that still plague her. Indulging her narcissistic tendencies will certainly not help, though it may temporarily make us feel better about ourselves. Will anyone in Lovato’s world of fellow stars, hangers-on, journalists and “experts” have the courage to tell her the truth, and give her a chance at discovering not fluidity but stability? That’s the problem when you reward narcissism: it tends to breed.