Colorado Springs, CO
Mom. Wife. Touring Singer Songwriter.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I had my first crush on a woman when I was a summer nanny in high school, and I just adored this woman whose kids I was taking care of. She was smart, and beautiful, and I was like, ‘Maybe I just admire her deeply…’ but then later on, when I had my first relationship with a woman I realized that something else was going on. I don’t think I had the language or understanding of it at the time. I guess I was 14 or15. I’m the classic, went to a women’s college, fell madly in love at 18 with a woman there. That’s when I really could name it, and I told my parents… which was scary, but also… when I was 11 years old, in 6th grade, my mother said to me… and I’ll never forget this… I remember being horrified and embarrassed, but I also was super grateful for it (I couldn’t tell her that) ...she said, ‘Honey, I just want you to know that whoever you love, whether it’s a man or a woman… I don’t care what race they are… I don’t care where they come from, if you are happy, that’s all that I care about.’ What a remarkable thing to say to an 11 year old! I don’t think she had any indication, necessarily, that I was going to be drawn to women. I’m just so grateful that she gave that to me, because I can pass it on to my kids. I realize now what a huge gift that was, It makes me really appreciate how ahead of the times my mom was at that time… and with one sentence, you can create a soft landing for your kid.
Of course, then when I was 18 and I actually had a girlfriend, it was a little jarring for her. I think she was sort of like, ‘What the hell is wrong with me… I told you these things, and I believed them…’ So, it took her a beat… and then she was amazing. My girlfriend came to visit over Christmas break, and my mom treated her with so much love and kindness… I was really grateful.
My parents were divorced, so I had two different households… my dad was a little more, ‘I think this is probably a phase you’re going through…’ That kind of pissed me off, but he was never mean, or not loving. Luckily both my parents are very progressive, open minded, and open hearted. I’m very grateful for that.... And they had several gay friends, which really helped. But I do think when it’s your own kid, it’s a lot harder.
So, I kind of had inklings in my early teens, but it wasn’t until I had my first real relationship that I was like, ‘WOAH… this is for real!’”
On her coming out experience…
“I was 18. I started my relationship with my girlfriend quite early my freshman year of college, and I told my family… they were pretty great, overall… they kind of just adjusted. I had had boyfriends in high school, so they had seen me in a relationship before.
As far as telling friends, it’s sort of hard to remember exactly how that went… I think I was protective, in some ways, about who I told. I do remember that one of my best friends from high school who I had always suspected was gay ended up being the only friend of mine from high school who couldn’t handle it. She totally cut off her relationship with me, and I was like, ‘Okay…. I don’t think you’re homophobic… I think this is touching on something that you can’t handle right now…’ It was really hurtful. She was the only person in my life… I mean, I’m sure there were people who were disapproving, but didn’t say as much… she just disappeared. She ended up getting married to man, had kids, finally came out in her 30’s… and she now has a really wonderful relationship with a woman.
So, overall I’d say it was pretty good…. I grew up in liberal, progressive Boston, so that made it a lot easier…”
Favorite part about the community?
“...just the love and support that comes when so many of your friends maybe don’t have support from their family, you really create a chosen family. As much as that is born out of trauma… and loss… and frustration… and sadness… so many amazing connections come from that. I feel like those connections are remarkable… certainly it exists in the straight community, too. Many straight people, of course, have f*cked up families, too. But, that is what I’ve noticed… when you don’t have the mom and dad that are your grounding force, you create that in your friend group. I’ve been the beneficiary of that kind of love and community for years. The majority of my fan base tends to be gay women. I write a lot of commissioned love songs for people, for weddings… or from one person to their beloved… a birthday, or whatever it may be… I’ve done 40+ of them, and I’d say at least 35 of them are from a woman to another woman. I just love how supported that my family is in the community. I’m married to a man, and he’s treated just the same as their family. It’s an interesting sort of inversion…and I love that it’s a non-issue that I have a husband in my community… and I love how much the community loves Matt (husband)... we’re treated just like everybody else. That’s how it should be…”
“Something that I experienced early on as a musician was witnessing this sort of reverse discrimination within the queer community. In 1998, I had been nominated for this award - Best Folk Album at a queer music awards ceremony - and Ani Difranco was being given a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’... not exactly that, but more like a ‘Thank you for what you’ve done for our community’ Award. When she got up there to accept the award, there was this group of middle-aged gay men up in the balcony boo-ing her because she had married a man a year before that. Apparently they saw her as betraying the community. She stood up there with tears rolling down her face, and she was completely devastated. I can’t remember exactly how she worded it, but she said something like, ‘Just because I’m with a man it doesn’t change who I am… it doesn’t change the work… the love… and the passion I have for this community.’ It was just so traumatizing to have to watch her defend herself up there on stage, in a moment where she was supposed to be being lauded for everything that she had done to create a voice and visibility for the queer community. When I got married to my husband, I experienced that a little bit, too. A big part of my fan base is gay women who are my age… we’ve grown up together. I’ve had nothing but love and support in general, but there have been a few people who have known I’ve dated women - and you listen to my music, it’s in there - and they feel like there was some level of betrayal. You love who you love… your sexuality is not who you are. It’s a thread of who you are. I just found that kind of disheartening… ‘Okay so we want to create love and acceptance, but only if you’re exactly the way we want you to be, within the queer context…’”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“Advice to younger me… I’m sure there’s so many things I could’ve done differently, but I feel like I navigated it pretty well for being a young, clueless human. I think that is so much due to the fact that I was surrounded by really loving and understanding people. I think my advice to myself would be to be more trusting than I was. I think I was scared to tell people who ended up being wonderfully supportive. I think maybe be a little more brave. I was definitely more guarded in a lot of ways… I think being in your 30’s or 40’s, you just give way less of a sh*t about what people think.... And I think that my advice would be - it doesn’t really matter, whether they like you or they don’t, it’s your life and you’re the one who has to live it every day. Don’t worry so much about what people think…
To others… I would just say, there is such a rich community if you tap into it. It’s a good time to be alive in the world, there’s so many options available. You just have to reach out. You can feel isolated… you can feel alone… but there is someone else, probably very close to you, who maybe you don’t even realize is going through the same exact thing and you don’t even know. It’s amazing how often we suffer by ourselves when we’re the only one experiencing something, but the minute you give it a voice, a million people come out of the closet… or the woodwork… to love and support you. I went through years of infertility to have both of my kids, and I was so secretive about it because I felt so embarrassed. The minute I made the conscious choice to talk about it on stage, because I felt that there had to be other people who were going through this, it was such a gift! I can’t tell you how many people came out and loved me, and supported me... and sent me lidocaine patches for when I had to give myself shots in the butt. It was remarkable!
I think if you’re struggling with your identity… if you’re struggling with your sexuality… know that you are so not alone, and there are so many people you can be in community with. You just have to show up at the place where people are ready to receive you. There are so many places like that now. There are so many safe spaces out there. All you need to do is find a buddy, and then find another buddy. It just takes one person...”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“I think living authentically… I feel like I have done that. I was a kid who was afraid of everything… like, I never wanted to go to new places without my parents, never wanted to have sleepovers, was afraid of dogs… I was afraid of a million things. I feel proud that I slowly - you know never really totally figure out who you are - figured out that I had these feelings for this woman that were very really and huge and cathartic and wonderful… like nothing I had experienced before. And I didn’t shy away from it… that I didn’t try to hide for 12 years, you know? I’m grateful for that ...and I think because of that I felt supported being who I was authentically at that time. Then writing about it in music, and continuing to live authentically doing what I feel most passionate about. I think all of those things kind of go together… if you tell the truth in one part of your life, then it becomes contagious and leaks by osmosis into all the other parts of your life. Just try to be as real as possible with who you are...”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“I would change myself because I’m so mad about everything that’s happening right now… That doesn’t help anything. Yeah, it might make me want to get on an airplane and fly to the women’s march… and, yeah, it was an amazing experience… but it was one day. I think that I need to work on my ability to be understanding even if I don’t feel like I can understand initially. There is so much humanity in a person with whom I don’t agree. I have to work on that, but it’s really hard…”