It’s important to know your history.
Thanks to his hit “Writing’s on the Wall” (from the latest James Bond movie,Spectre), Sam Smith won the award for Best Original Song at the 2016 Oscars, beating out The Weeknd‘s “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey and Lady Gaga‘s “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground. In his acceptance speech, the singer, 23, said, “I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen, and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar. If this is the case—even if it isn’t the case—I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world.”
Noble as his intentions were, Smith was misinformed. For starters, when McKellen spoke to the U.K.’s The Guardian in January, he was referring to openly gay actors—not openly gay winners in other categories. “No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance,” McKellen said, later adding, “My speech has been in two jackets: ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.’ I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.”
Worse yet, Melissa Etheridge, another openly gay singer, won the very same award as Smith did in 2007. Elton John did it in 1994, and Stephen Sondheim did it, too, in 1991. Classical composer John Corigliano won Best Original Score for The Red Violin in 1999, and songwriter Howard Ashman won Best Original Song twice before he died from AIDS complications in 1991.