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- Posted by Jessica Robertson
At what age did you begin questioning your sexuality?
Well, I never had any question about my sexuality. That was the funny part. I always sort of recognized that I was emotionally and physically attracted to other males. And, you know, there were points in my teen years where I realized that I was different from most everyone else. I think that difference between when I once, you know, once I got past puberty, most of the guys around me went past it because I think I had sort of sensed before then it might've just been more just hormonal thing or a confusing kind of thing. Once I got to the other side of what could arguably be experimentation for some people, I realized I was totally attached to the idea of being attracted to other males. That was when I started to go, "Oh, I guess I'm different than everybody else." There were a couple of instances where I tried to, you know, sort of play out a straight, not a straight existence but trying to be attracted to girls. It didn't work. It didn't work at all.
Tell me about your first significant relationship with a man.
It would've been my first partner, probably, with which I spent a long time with -- six-and-a-half years. I think I was twenty-two when we met, and, you know, that was when I learned what it meant to build a relationship -- a monogamous relationship. You know, an all-encompassed relationship -- living together, not only sharing emotions and physicality but sharing the practical matters of life.
What was your family's reaction to your sexuality? Did you discuss it with them?
I'm pretty sure my parents knew. It wasn't a conversation. Throughout my teen years, they knew what was going on. My father particularly didn't really want to talk about it much. He just wanted to pretend that it wasn't happening. Once I had a relationship going, my first partner met my family, I met his family, and then you just sort of have to deal with it. I would guess that my mother understood as much as anyone can in that generation. Again, my father was just sort of like, "They're just living together." I think that's a fairly common structure for a lot of people my age -- and even a little bit younger -- when people go home to see their parents with their partner. The partners sleep in different rooms, and everyone pretends that there's no sex going on.
Do you feel that it's easier for younger generations to come out today?
Yeah, definitely. The internet makes it so. Culturally, we've advanced. I'm a musician -- my world has completely been informed by music. I was a music fan at 5 or 6 years old. When David Bowie said he was bisexual and Elton John said he was bisexual, it was like, "Oh, my God." That was in the mid '70s -- that was gigantic. I used that as a cultural marker. Thirty years later, we're at this point, we don't define themselves in strict sexual terms like I did. They happen to have desires and preferences, but it doesn't form their lifestyles as much as maybe it did for me. The first time I went to San Francisco, I was like, "Holy cow!" It was really an eye opener. Now, I think it's much different coming out on MySpace at 10 years old. If that's the case, then is it as big an issue in one's life when they have a perceived public forum to make this proclamation, and to find other like-minded people and sort of start to build their second family. Things are really, really different now. It's an amazing step forward, and if there's going to be sort of a gay culture that starts in the early '70s and ends maybe a few years from now, it would be sort of a time capsule.
Tell me about coming out professionally.
That was in 1994. I had a new rock group at the time called Sugar, and it was going very well. I had an album coming out, and as part of the game you go to publications and try to secure press so that you can get promotion on a record. Well, Spin magazine decided they wanted the story about me being gay. It was almost a comedy of errors. They spent a writer to my house in Texas to spend a couple days with me and my then-partner. Everything seemed pretty good at the time, and then when the article came out, I realized there was only a handful of attributable quotes, and they were specifically about my perception of gay pride and really made me look way more self-hating than I knew myself to be. I was just like, "Oh, my God -- what have I done?" Years later, I laughed about it, but at the time it really upset me. I was like, "Wow, can't write a new album again, can I?" [laughs]
How did you find the support from your colleagues and fans after that experience?
[My sexuality] was an open secret. I didn't talk about it because I thought I professionally, I was presenting music. Most people were very understanding. Most people knew. The article only formalized that open secret, and people have always been supportive. There was a little bit of a professional hiccupping that went on, in '94 in the deeper South. DJs sort of backed off of the music once that article ran. I was like, "You know, this is a business. There's probably stations that are affected by their conservative concerns, and they don't want to associate themselves with my music." It makes sense to me.
Do you remember your first experience at a gay bar?
It might've been when I went to San Francisco when I was 20, and it really seemed very similar to the punk scene. It wasn't really a lot different -- it just seemed like a lot of people wearing bandannas for different reasons, and camouflage, leather and T-shirts, and looking sort of rough. I was like, "This really doesn't look that much different from the people coming to see my band." As time went on, I got exposed to more parts of the gay culture -- that was an eye opener. That really didn't happen the late '90s. I wasn't a big gay bar guy. I had two very long-term monogamous relationships, so it wasn't really part of my life.
California recently made gay marriage legal. Why do you think the notion of gay marriage was, and still is, threatening?
Maybe there's a part of it that runs contrary to the religious notion of marriage. But there's a part of me that goes, "I totally get why people are upset about this." I sort of go back and forth on the debate between same-sex marriage and civil union. I've been in Washington D.C. for six years, and I've become a lot more aware of politics and how difficult it is to get things to move forward because of the bureaucracy involved. We're all very anxious for what we call a "change," but the reality is things move incrementally. I'm not suggesting we should postpone it, but don't be surprised when compromise needs to be made. It's understanding the process.
Is marriage something you'd ever consider?
I would consider a civil union. Marriage -- is that what we're really looking for? Full validation in the eyes of the church? Or is it looking for full protection and equality under the existing laws? It's a church versus state kind of thing to me. As far as being able to go see a partner if they've been in an accident, the benefits that couples get with the IRS or being able to adopt children or have a family -- absolutely. Those things should be guaranteed under the law.
How do you feel about your sexuality today?
I feel a lot better than I did five years ago, a lot better than I did 15 years ago. It gets much better. You know, I'm getting up there and I'm planning a life where I try to just simplify. I try to make everything as simple as possible because that requires the least amount of worrying. I have no major complaints.