It’s been a roller coaster of a week for Camden, Arkansas-born, Grammy-winning musician Ne-Yo. Shaffer Chimere Smith, who performs under the name Ne-Yo, made headlines for comments during an interview with Vlad TV published Saturday on YouTube with the title “When did it become OK for a 12-year-old boy to say he wants to be a girl? (Part 3).”
“Love who you love. Do what you do,” he said. “I just personally come from an era where a man was a man and a woman was a woman, and it wasn’t but two genders. … You could identify as a goldfish, if you feel like it. I don’t care. It becomes my business when you try to make me play the game with you. I’m not going to call you a goldfish, but [if] you want to be a goldfish, you go be a goldfish.”
On Sunday evening, he tweeted an apology.
On Monday, Ne-Yo made a video on Instagram reversing the apology, saying, “Opinions ain’t special, everybody’s got one. However, this is something I feel very strongly on, and I need y’all to hear this from the horse’s mouth, not the publicist’s computer.”
Ne-Yo’s a father raising five boys and two girls and, he says, “I have no beef with the LBGTQIA+ community. … Do whatever the hell it is you wanna do. Do what you wanna do with your kids. However, somebody asked my opinion on this matter, and this is how I feel. … I definitely plan to educate myself a little bit more on this matter. However, I doubt that there’s any book anywhere or any opinion that’s gonna make me OK with letting a child make a decision like that.”
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Ne-Yo’s comments (and apology, and reversal) come at a politically fiery moment, when Republican legislators across the country are pushing to enact bans on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, when our own state legislators are interrogating medical professionals about their genitalia and when far-right political fearmongerers would have you believe that healthcare for trans youth is synonymous with surgery.
Arkansas became the first state in the nation to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth in 2021, but the law was put on pause shortly thereafter by U.S. District Judge James Moody, who struck it down entirely this year, ruling that the ban violated the the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
For more on how this has played out in Arkansas over the last few years, here’s some further reading: