"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.