"I am a musician, and I identify as queer to my friends and family… but not publicly. I am worried that if I come out publicly, it will close doors to me as I move forward in my career. I don’t want to be a ‘lesbian singer-songwriter’… I just want to be a musician. Is that bad?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Cassidy Hill as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
The Short Answer: No, it’s not bad. Being visible in your music career has everything to do with your specific situation, your target audience, etc. There’s no obligation for you to be a “lesbian singer-songwriter.” It’s all about doing what’s right for you.
The LONG Answer: Coming out is a process that never, ever (EVER) ends, and in This Business of Art (shout out to Tegan & Sara’s second album!), it can be especially tricky. I’ve definitely struggled with it, and I continue to do so. There are times when I think to myself, “Oooh, same sex marriage is now legal in Florida! Should I post about it on my site?” Or “I really like this new song I’m writing, but should I say ‘she’ in this verse?” I’m working on my first music video, and I ultimately made the decision to write in a female love interest (AND I’M TRYING REALLY HARD NOT TO FREAK OUT ABOUT IT ON AN HOURLY BASIS). It can even be something dumb like, “Will I look too gay if I wear this vest on stage?” I’m literally worried that what I WEAR can make people like my music less. My music doesn’t even wear clothes! How on earth is that fair?
HOWEVER, I strongly prefer being out. When I was first starting, I wasn’t really out out. Friends and family knew, but it made me angry that I HAD to come out at all. “My music doesn’t have a sexuality,” as Sara Quin often says. I just wanted to write some songs, play them for people, pack up my guitar, and then go home and do gay stuff. But then: the music stopped coming. I went through a horrible writer’s block that lasted for-frickin-EVER. The efforts of keeping sexuality a secret became overwhelming and my songwritin’ hand became paralyzed with fear. My music might not have a sexuality, but I do. I couldn’t separate the two.
But hey, that might just be my style of songwriting! Maybe you’re much better at compartmentalizing. Maybe you’re starting your music career in a less liberal location than I. Maybe you’d like to keep your music and sexuality separate while you gain a following and establish yourself. Like I said, it’s all about doing what’s right for YOU.
In my situation, I really like the musical community that surrounds me—it’s full of people at every point along the gender/sexuality/ethnicity/etc spectrums. It also helps having role models like Tegan & Sara, Mary Lambert, Jenny Owen Youngs et cetera. I thought to myself, “I want to be that for other people.” Being visible became bigger than just avoiding writers block. Suddenly, being a “lesbian singer-songwriter” just FELT right; it felt like the thing to do. It might not feel right for you, and that’s okay.
I can’t pretend that coming out publicly will have zero effect on what kind of audience you attract, though I definitely believe that the world is constantly changing and improving for the LGBTQ peeps in this country. If you eventually decide that being visible is what you want to do, I think you might be pleasantly surprised by some very welcoming arms.
Good luck in your music! I hope everything works out for the best!
P.S. Tegan and Sara’s episode of the Nerdist podcast was really awesome to listen to. They talk a lot about what being visible in the music industry is like. They’re also funny and adorable and always worth listening to regardless. I also recommend reading Chely Wright’s book, Like Me and/or watching her documentary Wish Me Away on Netflix. She had a hard time staying closeted within the extremely conservative country music industry, but I find her story so incredible.
Click through to read more about Cassidy and our other Second Opinions Panelists!
"What is an appropriate way to out myself in a job interview if they don’t ask the diversity question? Last time, all I could think of was ‘As a gay person, I believe in equality in the workplace and beyond’ but that seemed unprompted and awkward in hindsight."
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Schmidt-Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Great question! I think there are a few different ways a person can out themselves in an interview that won’t come off awkward or unprompted.
First, please check and make sure you live in a state that has protective laws in place for LGBT people in the workplace. Unfortunately, the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act hasn’t passed Congress yet, so there is no nation-wide law in place. However, some states, like where I live in Minnesota, have passed laws that protect workers from being discriminated against or fired for identifying as LGBT. If there is no law in your state, it could be detrimental to your potential employment.
When you are applying for jobs, there are ways to hint at your sexual orientation in your resume and/or cover letter. Include on your resume time you’ve spent volunteering with LGBT organizations, leadership roles or internships with LGBT organizations while in college, and clearly spe it out in a Special Skills section if you have one. For instance, using terms like “Cultural Diversity,” “Multicultural Sensitivity,” “LGBT Issues,” or other similar terms can signal to those interviewing you of your orientation, or at least your social justice mind-set. You can also include those terms or out yourself in your summary on your LinkedIn profile if you have one.
In the actual interview, you can answer questions in ways that out yourself, such as you stated above. As long as you practice answering questions this way and are confident in your answer, it won’t come off as awkward. Use examples. Mention any work you’ve done with LGBT organizations, anything you learned in college, or any other life experiences that would be relevant. You can always research common interview questions on the internet, or even ask the company for a copy of the questions they ask so that you can prepare.
Speaking of preparing, that’s another great thing to do before your interview. Research the company you’re applying for a job with and check to see if they have a policy about sexual orientation/gender identity. Come prepared with that information and any other information about the company. You can also ask your interviewer during the “do you have any questions for us” section at the end of the interview what their company’s policy is on sexual orientation/gender identity, or about same-sex marriage benefits, anything like that.
You can always out yourself during the “tell us a little about yourself” section, too. You may want to practice that a few times if you choose to out yourself in that way. Rehearse what you’re going to say, and make sure it sounds good to you. The more prep you can do for an interview, the better!
Plan for it. Rehearse what you want to say. Go into the interview confident that you are prepared, that you are qualified for the position, and gosh darn it, that you deserve a job! Now go rock that interview!
Click through to read more about Sara and our other Second Opinions panelists!
"I am starting a new job that I’m really excited about! But I’m also terrified of beginning at a new place!!!!!! What do you guys do to calm your nerves? Hep meh!"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
If you watch COSMOS, you’ll realize that we are all pointless and no one will remember us and you’ll feel a lot better. OH, or you’ll have an existential crisis and stay home because nothing matters. GOOD LUCK.
Here is the real deal with me – I feel the exact same way. I spent so much time standing against walls reminding myself to breathe deeply. More recently I’ve started feeling a little more comfortable (still not totally there) and I’ve come up with lists of questions in my head to ask new people. The fact that I have this list is like mY SAVING GRACE. Find that for yourself, find the one thing you can hang onto in your brain that will help you feel some stability in this new and scary situation.
New jobs in general are terrifying. You feel like the new kid at school. No one knows you, they all have inside jokes already, everyone knows when and where to sit at lunch and IT’S SO DIFFICULT TO FEEL COMFORTABLE. BUUUUt the cool thing is, people are expecting you. People are stoked that you’re starting this job, they expect to meet someone new, they’re preparing small talk, AND ON TOP OF ALL OF THIS, they want to help you. People LOVE to help out the new kid, it makes them feel cool and smart. So ask for help, ask where the bathroom is, ask where everyone gets lunch, ask how long they’ve been working with your company, ask ask ask. People love to talk about things that they inherently know the answers to (i.e. we love to talk about OURSELVES).
You can totally do this, you’re gonna do great. They are already stoked to have you on board.
CONGRATS THIS IS SO EXCITING!
New jobs kind of make me feel like the first day of school — all of a sudden you get to sharpen your pencils and take out your new Trapper Keeper (IM OLD) and be like HELLO MY NAME IS KRISTIN AND TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE.
I am probably going to sharpen some pencils after answering you to see if I can at least get a contact high.
Annnnnyywaaayyyy. My approach is kind of similar, but also markedly different from Dannielle’s. Even though I can be a very talkative human in many situations, starting a new job or a new anything in a new place usually makes me get a little quiet… and I think that’s totally okay. My MO has been much more to say hello and be friendly, and then keep to myself and let the new friendships and relationships evolve over time.
Also by “keep to myself” I don’t mean stand in the corner and not look up. I just mean that if I go into the shared work kitchen and someone else is in there, I’d say ‘Good Morning!’ and then let them take the lead. If they say, ‘Good Morning, how are you today?’ then voila, you can reply with however you’re feeling… and be honest! ‘I’m good, a little nervous about all the new things, but super excited!’ If they just reply with ‘Good Morning,’ then I think it’s totally ok (and great) to get your coffee and return to your desk (or wherever you work, I DON’T KNOW YOU).
Remember that you are (most likely) going to be at this job for awhile. There’s no race to gather up all the work-friends and no race to let them know that you are f*cking awesome (which you are). You just be you – and if that means you’re a little quiet at first, that is NOT a turn-off.
Breathe, and be patient as things evolve. Don’t get discouraged if the first week passes and you still feel a little off-balance — it takes time to get in your groove in a new environment.
YOU TOTALLY GOT THIS.
Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!
"I am gay and about to graduate. My teacher is gay and recently divorced. We spend a lot of time outside of school together and she regularly talks about visiting me in college and how she’s gonna miss me so much. I can’t tell what her feelings are, but I know I am in love with her. Should I just ignore my feelings and see if it goes away once I leave?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Schmidt-Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Thanks for your question! This is such a tough subject, with many separate issues to consider.
First, I think it’s important to understand that teacher/student relationships are very tricky to navigate from both sides. An essential part of a teacher’s job is to build relationships with their students, to be a mentor and support them as best they can. But when that relationship crosses the line from professional mentoring into something more, things can get tricky. I think you are walking a very fine line here, one that has the potential to get both you and your teacher in trouble personally and professionally. Given the sentence about not knowing how your teacher feels, I’m going to assume nothing inappropriate has happened between you both yet. Do everything you can to keep that from happening. Careers and lives can be ruined by crossing that line from student/teacher to something more romantic.
Full disclosure, I had a teacher in high school who was caught allegedly texting inappropriate things and soliciting sex from one of my classmates. This has influenced my opinion on teacher/student relationships.
There are power dynamics in a teacher/student relationship that must be considered as well. A teacher is in a position of power and influence over impressionable children and teenagers, and as such, teachers must be cautious when developing close relationships with their students. In the “mainstream” society, the fear about LGBT teachers “influencing” children still exists, and I believe LGBT teachers (and all teachers for that matter) need to be cautious in their actions, if only to protect themselves from untrue accusations. I recognize this is probably an extreme point of view, however I think it’s the reality of the world we live in. Obviously students are bound to get crushes on young teachers, but I think teachers should discourage that from happening as much as possible. Especially as a lesbian, I am very aware of the boundaries I set up with my students because of a potential situation like this arising. While working with my students, I make sure that my interactions with them are always appropriate and professional.
In addition, there are many ways teachers can mentor and support their students, but it sounds as though your teacher has been relying on you for support after her divorce. Please understand that a teacher’s work should be to support their students, not to receive support from them. Your teacher needs to find a more appropriate means of support for herself, so she can support you while you prepare for your transition into college.
Since you’re off to college soon, start looking ahead at all the excitement and adventure waiting for you. Maybe your college has an LGBT group you can join. Maybe your future college roommate has a friend from her hometown who would be perfect for you. Maybe there will be a wonderful, gorgeous stranger in one of your exciting college courses, and your eyes will meet from across the classroom and… Anyway, my point is, there are so many possibilities out there. Don’t hold yourself back because of your teacher. Jump in feet first to the college life of 10 A.M. classes, afternoon naps, midnight cram sessions, and house parties! Do everything you can to enjoy this part of your life. You’re only young and in college once.
Hopefully once you immerse yourself in college life, your feelings for your teacher will subside. If you’re so inclined, you can keep in contact with your teacher while you are in college. As a young adult, it can be helpful to have a mentor to guide you through the tricky parts of being a young adult and entering the work world. (Networking! Am I right?) But please, keep it cordial but not intimate. As you venture out into the world, it’s important for you to be able to distinguish a professional relationship, like those with a mentor, teacher, boss, or coworker, from a platonic friendship. This relationship should stay strictly professional.
Sara Schmidt-Kost is an out, queer Educator in Minneapolis, MN. Read more about her and her work on our Second Opinions page!
"I just got a crazy promotion at work. I’m super excited about it, but now I have to wear FANCY clothes. Everyone I work with is amazing, but we have clients from all over and I’m worried because I’m a lesbian and I prefer mens fancy clothes, I’ll make them uncomfortable… help?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Here’s the thing.
If you got promoted and all of a sudden had to start wearing a taco costume, you’d feel uncomfortable and you wouldn’t be able to do your job JUSTICE. This is basically the same thing. You should wear what makes you feel comfortable.
THIS IS THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT LIFE. The way you dress / the way you feel in the clothes you wear is so important. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, if you feel confident and comfortable you will BE CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE and people will respond to that.
Clients from all over will be like “That CHEESESTICK was so in the game! WE’LL TAKE IT!” (that was me assuming your name is CheeseStick and assuming you sell vending machines). There is no way they’ll say “Wow, cheesestick was so cool and knew exactly what was up but OH MAN DID YOU SEE THAT BUTTON UP.” …. that doesn’t even make sense. OH AND PS: Everyone you work with is down?!?!?! Come on!!! You got promoted because YOU (and that includes the YOU that wears men’s fancy clothes) YOUUUUU are the best human for the job.
Feel good about the clothes you put on your body and you won’t even have to think about how great you are at your job, it’ll just flow naturally.
F*ck to the YES.
I love love love love love the point Dannielle made about the fact that YOUR ASS GOT PROMOTED BY BEING THE HUMAN YOU ALREADY ARE. *fist pump**headbang**sprinkler dance*
You wear what you’ve always worn, which are the items that make you feel comfortable. If you put on clothing that makes you uncomfortable OR a taco suit, you are going to make everyone else uncomfortable as well bc you will not be able to be your badass self.
There’s a quote from olden times that I think will really resonate here:
“YOU DO YOU.”
I am so f*cking happy for you, and anyone out there who doesn’t buy your vending machines because of your button down can SUCK IT, because the rest of the world is going to hoist you up on their shoulders and be like THIS PERSON IS MY FAVORITE VENDING MACHINE SALESPERSON IN ALL THE LAND and your house will be covered in trophies and you’ll get a button down sponsorship from JCrew and the person who didn’t buy the vending machine will be super sad and apologize anyway.
This is awesome.
You are awesome.
Send us a picture of your first meeting as a promoted human so we can share with the universe.
PS: Have you guys heard of Kipper Clothiers? If you are in the market for fancypants/badass clothing, they make custom suits and are pretty awesome.