Multi-platinum recording artist Demi Lovato, who publicly shared their nonbinary identity earlier this year, said their gender journey has been an ongoing part of their life since elementary school — and they expect it to be a lifelong journey. 

“We all are so much more if we allow ourselves the ability to look within ourselves and challenge that binary that we’ve grown up living in,” they told Kate Sosin at The 19th Represents Virtual Summit. 

Lovato went on to describe the experience as “challenging everything I’ve known, everything I’ve grown to believe I should look, and do, and act a certain way.” 

They described being nonbinary as being their most authentic self — without needing to be validated by others. 

“It’s chucking all of that out the window and being like, this is who I am, take it or leave it. I don’t need you to take it, but I feel great, even if you don’t,” they added. 

Lovato recalled first exploring their gender in fourth or fifth grade, when they would dress in a more masculine way outside of performances, such as appearances on “Barney & Friends,” and beauty pageants where they had to be “glammed up.” They said that set a tone for years to come.

“That was the catalyst to the rest of my life, living in this hyper-feminine state that I didn’t totally always identify with,” Lovato said.  

The “aha” moment, they said, came towards the end of 2019 as they recorded a song with English singer Sam Smith, who had come out as nonbinary earlier that year. After Lovato asked Smith questions about being nonbinary, the fellow singer invited them to a poetry reading that night to watch Alok Vaid-Menon perform. 

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They said as they watched the poetry reading, tears streamed down their face — and at one point they belly-laughed loud enough for most of the room to hear. Lovato was moved. After the performance, they approached Vaid-Menon — whose writing often explores cycles of trauma and healing through gender expression — with a question: “Is being nonbinary just being healed?”

“Yes, oh my gosh, you get it,” Vaid Menon responded. 

“For me … it was being healed of the gender norms that had put trauma on me, in my life growing up,” Lovato said. “It was saying goodbye to all of that that made me feel like I was finally home,” they said. 

Lovato said that while they were initially nervous to come out as nonbinary — knowing that “some people wouldn’t be stoked” — they knew it was something they had to do. LGBTQ+ fans were among those most supportive to the news, Lovato told The 19th.  

“I feel like they get it. They understand what it’s like to come out and not be received well by certain people or family members.” 

Lovato noted that a painful part of the process has been realizing that certain family members don’t accept their identity, although they had expected them to. Regardless of that pain, and some straight fans not being as receptive to their identity, Lovato said that they can’t dwell on the criticism.

“I can’t think about the people that are going to critique what I’m doing and saying and how I’m living today because this is what’s keeping me alive, not their opinions of me.”