For the first time, Kae Tempest has shared their experience of coming out as non-binary, describing the process as “beautiful but difficult”. Tempest, whose album The Line Is A Curve comes out next month, recently announced that they would be changing their name and would like to be referred to using they/them pronouns.
The spoken word artist shared the news on Facebook, where they wrote that they had been “struggling to accept” their true self for many years, noting that their announcement was the first step “towards knowing and respecting myself better”.
Speaking to The Guardian, Tempest expressed the difficulty of taking this initial step in the public sphere, explaining that their body dysmorphia had held them back in the past. “Coming out has been huge,” they began, before describing the process as “a beautiful but difficult thing to do publicly. It’s hard enough to say: ‘Hey look, I’m trans or non-binary,’ to loved ones. And I have this twin life beyond my friends and family”.
Tempest then went on to detail the key motivation behind their decision to come out. “Trans people are so loving, so fucking beautiful. I think of my community, and how much strength I’ve got from people telling me I don’t have to go through this alone. If I hide, and I’m ashamed of myself, it’s [as if] I’m ashamed of them.”
Tempest also noted that they wanted to ensure their announcement did good by the Trans community. “I don’t want to say the wrong thing for my people. When trans issues are spoken about in the press, it’s often not trans people doing the speaking. So in this rare moment, there’s a trans person talking about trans things, I don’t want to fuck up or waste the opportunity.”
As Tempest explained, the musician’s journey to coming out as Trans started in childhood. “Until hitting puberty, I lived as a boy,” they began. “People around me would say: ‘You’re a tomboy, you’ll grow out of it.’ I internalised that, and hoped I would. Puberty was disorientating. It brought a lot of pain to me.”
Tempest went on to add that success only dampened their efforts to come out: “I was so desperate to make it,” they say, “I really wanted success. So I just ignored it, and carried on. For a long time, my dysphoria was also hidden from me. For the last 10 years, it has been gnawing away at me. The increasing discomfort of: when are you going to do something? I was resigned to living the life I was in “and then maybe at 50 when I stopped having this career I thought I might be able to finally transition. But increasingly I couldn’t bear it.”
They continued: “All that fear was about shame. I was afraid, because of internalised homophobia and transphobia. I was afraid to be who I was, because I’d learned that it was ugly. I was resigned to being wrong all my life. Coming out and saying I’m trans, non-binary, is me saying I’m on a journey. But I realised the ramifications of what might happen didn’t seem as scary as living with this boiling hot secret in my heart for eternity.”