After calling the use of they/them pronouns “bullshit” in a viral podcast clip, Jeffree Star is defending himself.
The 37-year-old beauty influencer said in a Feb. 19 Instagram story video that he wasn’t “backing down from ... science and facts” in his critique of nonbinary identity. He also denied being anti-trans.
“I saw a few outlets saying that I'm transphobic,” he said. “Jeffree Star, who has five transgender employees. I have over 100 employees of all different ethnicities.”
He added that all he said was that he doesn’t “agree with pronouns.”
In a Feb. 14 appearance on the Barstool Sports podcast “Bussin’ with the Boys,” Star told host Taylor Lewan that he thinks they/them pronouns were made up during the pandemic because people were “so bored.” He also called the pronouns “stupid” and “extra.”
“You’re not ‘they’ and ‘them.’ You’re trans ... you’re male or you’re female,” he said. “And people get so mad when I say that. How are you a ‘they’? What the fuck does that mean?”
The podcast shared the clip as a TikTok, which has garnered more than 9 million views as of Feb 25. The sound associated with the video has been removed, and the post itself isn’t showing up for some users.
On TikTok, some users agreed with Star, chiming in with comments like “facts”, “100% agree”, and “I LOVE THIS”. Star quote-tweeted one post about the podcast appearance to add, “I said what I said. It’s not that complicated.”
But other people criticized Star for the hypocrisy of building his brand around the subversion of gender norms, then bashing nonbinary identity and gender-neutral pronoun use.
Some regard Star, who has shared controversial opinions and called out other influencers since becoming a MySpace influencer and musician in the early 2000s, as a troll — but there’s no denying that his opinion has sway. In 2020, he took some time away from drama after the fallout of the beauty guru verbal smackdown known as Dramageddon 2 and following allegations of sexual violence and hush-money payments, which he denied. But just weeks ago, he reemerged to accuse TikToker Mikayla Nogueira of sharing a misleading mascara ad. He was praised for his return.
When he took to his Instagram story to defend his they/them comments, Star said people find his strong opinions “scary.” But the way he’s managed to spark a weekslong conversation about pronouns suggests that he’s combining the callout culture of the 2010s internet with the culture wars of the 2020s to create the kind of outrage that people are drawn to on social media.
What might seem like silly influencer drama is actually getting millions of views and holding our timelines hostage for days, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. States like Virginia, Florida, and Arizona are considering anti-trans legislation that would limit the rights of trans and nonbinary people, communities that already face a higher risk of violence than cisgender people. Just one day before Star’s comments went viral, a 16-year-old trans TikToker was killed in the UK.
Star has added his voice to a growing chorus of pundits casting doubt on the gender identities of trans and nonbinary people, who already face an inordinate amount of vitriol for existing. He’s just doing it in a full face.