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Shocked's change; Carly widens her net
2008-05-07

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In an interview with the LGBT newspaper Dallas Voice, singer Michelle Shocked—who had a huge lesbian following in the late '80s and early '90s—said that she has become an evangelical gospel singer. But more interesting ( or surprising ) , she also labelled same-sex love immoral.

According to Daniel A. Kusner's article, which was published April 17, Shocked's 'extreme liberalism might be why [ she ] was inappropriately identified as lesbian.' When questioned about her sexual orientation, Shocked requested that Kusner look up a 1990 interview with Outlines ( which merged with Windy City Times in 2000 ) that has often been cited as the singer's 'coming out.'

In that article, conducted by Christie Nordhielm, Shocked said in part, 'I was with my first woman lover about a year and a half ago. To be honest, the real fear of coming out of the closet, not fear, but the real pressures of coming out of the closet had been if you had certain problems identifying yourself one way or the other.' However, in the Dallas Voice interview, Shocked said that she would be 'honored' to be called an honorary lesbian.

In the Dallas Voice interview, Shocked also confirms her religious metamorphosis, stating, 'I am a believer. I am a devout practicing Christian.' However, she has also spoken out against the Iraq War, which she said has cost her some fans.

Meanwhile, Carly Simon seems to be widening her net. In an interview published in the LGBT publication Bay Area Reporter, Simon was asked if Cyndi Lauper had contacted her about being on the True Colors tour. Simon's response was, 'Well, the part that I could be involved in is the gay and lesbian part. The part that would be hard for me is to commit to a tour because I'm not very comfortable being onstage. ... I don't consider myself to be not gay.'

To read the full Dallas Voice article, see www.dallasvoice.com/artman/publish/article_8677.php.

To read the full Outlines article, see below. ( The original source is www.dallasvoice.com/instant-tea/2008/04/25/michelle-shocked-said-what-1990-outlines-interview-surfaces/ ) .

Shocking' Revelations from Singer Michelle Shocked

OUTLINES. MAY, 1990

By Christie Nordhielm

Photography by Julie A. Kreiner

Michelle Shocked was in Chicago on April 22, taking the main stage with Nina Gerber at the Earth Day '90 Event. Singing before a crowd that had almost grown numb with hours of political rhetoric, Shocked sang songs from her own experiences — experiences that are often given the description 'political.'

The difference is, when Shocked sang about anything political, the audience listened.

At a concert at the Vic Theater April 20, ACT UP wanted their weekend demonstrations announced. Shocked, before reading the announcement, said that 'if you want to support an organiutlon that drags people out of the closet' and stopped her comments there. ACT UP members were angry at the implication and tone of her remarks.

Wishing to clear up these questions, Michelle Shocked, with the assistance of her friend and 'proetctor' Bart Bull, offered this exclusive interview to Christie Nordhielim of Outlines. Though very exhausted from her concert schedule, Michelle devoted a lot of energy and time to this interview. In this conversation, as in her performances, Michelle Shocked had something to say, and she said it …

What would you do about setting up role models for gays and lesbians?

That's real important. For my part, I've tried to just be subversive. There's always been a very strong part of gay culture that's kind of 'Is she or isn't she?' you know? I felt like I was put in a position where I was damned if I did come out' and I was damned if I didn't. There would be a lot of straight media that would really like to know that I was not gay as much as there would be a lot of gay press that would like to know that I was gay.

So they wanted you to come out one way or another …

Yeah. And I think, if this is in any sense a 'coming out' on my part, it's that I would like a much broader definition for myself. Not everybody is that way, but for me I've never really been able to fit into square holes or round holes. So for my part, I just leave the question open.

But I've heard this ridiculous argument that I was choosing this [ definition ] because I was, selling feminism! You know, since when the hell does feminism sell a product? ( laughs ) Feminism forms so much of my political perspective, but the idea of using feminism to sell myself is ironic to me that it just speaks of a strong naiveté.

I don't come from the gay community point of view as much as I do the radical activist viewpoint. But you still have all these very naive assumptions about the system; what it forces you to do and what you do willingly.

The strongest naive experience I've had recently has a lot less to do with politics and issues than it does with the actual politics of the [ music ] industry. It was as if I could go on spouting whatever I wanted to about Reagan, Bush, leftwing, rightwing any of that … but when I started talking about independent promotion and payola that's becoming institutionalized in the music industry, I started getting slapped down. That was very revealing to me, but it's not going to have any effect on my singing. I've always taken the attitude that if something I say is going to sink my ship, just tell me what it is and Ill probably be the first one to light the match.

This [ performing ] was an opportunity that landed in my lap, and as long I can do it on my terms I will. But if I have to start hedging my bets so that I can keep on talking, forget it. And here I'm talking about my agenda and one of the problems I've faced is that a lot of people made the assumption that I'm addressing their agenda.

Well everybody wants you to. And just like other communities, the gay and lesbian community is looking for spokespeople. The funny thing is, there's a rumor flying around that 'Michelle has a boyfriend.' But that's not the funny part. The funny part was they said 'the management was trying to keep it down because they don't want to piss off the gay community. … '

Yeah, it's a real catch-22 situation. A real strong agenda for me, in being subversive, is that I resent like hell that I was maybe 18 years old before I even heard the 'L' word. I mean, that's understood, growing up sheltered in a Mormon environment. But it would have made all the difference for me had I grown up knowing that the reason I didn't fit in, was because they hadn't told me there were more categories to fit into.

Now, there are plenty of forms that if they [ young lesbians ] know about it, they know how to get more information. But you have to be tricky getting that first information out to them. The example I use, is when people say 'oh you listened to Bob Dylan when you grew up, right?' No. Bob Dylan's music was considered too radical! But Paul Simon got his foot in the door when Bob Dylan couldn't even get into in the house. I mean, Paul Simon might like a real schlock pop singer, but if nothing else he put the idea in my head about articulating your own stories.

That's where my real commitment is, subverting the whole message so that you have to believe, no matter what it looks like I'm saying, you're forced to believe that there's more than meets the eye And that just starts the whole process in motion 'cause it's there, once you know to look for it. But if you don't even know to look for it you'll be like I was.

I spent the first 18, 19 years of my life wondering why, in just depression, why I didn't fit in. I'm so amazed when I talk to a lot of younger fans who am so clear about their sexual orientation as a lesbian. I'm like 'how did they know?'

How did you know that it was finally ok? I mean did you just come out when you turned 18?

No. It's only been in the past three, four years with the security and confidence of being Michelle Shocked ( and expressing myself through my own music ) that I've been willing to take myself out of the prison I created. I just built barricades. You know I obviously didn't fit into society so my reaction was 'well, f*** you.' Just took this real outsider point of view.

It's sort of embarrassing that it had to be something that obvious, for me to have the confidence to say, 'I am what I am.' l think a lot of people have that experience of embarrassment.

Embarrassment?

You know, what is so obvious for some people, how some people make their own choice about who they are. I felt like I needed permission or approval. You never get it. I was with my first woman lover about a year and a half ago. To be honest, the real fear of coming out of the closet, not fear, but the real pressures of coming out of the closet had been if you had certain problems identifying yourself one way or the other. It's been difficult. A situation has been created now where you have to come out of the closet, whether you're straight or gay. That doesn't work for me.

Well you've been thrown from a position of wondering where you fit in, to where everybody else is trying to use you to fit themselves into their own position …

I'm doing my best to make it clear that this is my agenda. And the way my politics work, if we have a common agenda we'll move forward until there is a point where we can't work together. On the issue of supporting ACT UP, I'm afraid it's going to be on the issue of outing.

What made you decide to say what you did about ACT UP instead of not saying anything?

Because it kept being put in my face.

It's an interesting situation that was created you know cause there were all the ACT UP folks there on Friday night and I made a comment because I had grown a bit disenchanted. I felt like I was in a position to make a stand, react against reactionaries I guess, which might make me a reactionary too.

I know your statement about ACT UP came off to people in a lot of different ways, but it sounded more like a neutral statement to me, like you were making an announcement. Were you trying to make a point?

Yeah I was, and it was because of the position that they had put me in. I have supported ACT UP in the past, I've done benefits, I've participated in actions … They came to the show without any discussion between myself or my tour manager and were throwing flyers up into the air. I mean it's ok but I started having a strong opinion on this issue. I'm aware that a lot of ACT UP activisti are involved in 'outing' and I can completely understand the logic behind it.

I'm just making such a strong effort at this point in my life to never stop looking at the contradictions of my position of being an activist and being a professional working inside the system. One result from that has become a real strong value on pragmatic politics, and militant politics don't really depend so much on pragmatism. It depends on fervor and commitment and entrenching yourselves against the enemy.

I'm very familiar with that as well. It's just not where I'm at right now. So that's where the position I'm taking is reflected.

Now I'm in a position to say I'm not going to be one of the collective that has to be pushed under the thumb of the will of the dominant. I now have a voice of my own, with which to speak out, when I feel like there's something going on that's not ethical, and outing is not ethical. And what's worse, it's so destructive. It's a cannibalism.

Yet I say all this and I perfectly understand the frustrations. And I'm sure it's much greater than frustration. When you're actually holding the hand of a partner who's dying of AIDS, the experience that that gives you is probably just as valid for why you would take the position of outing.

But all during the concert they were coming up up with the flyers and I could see the assumption behind it. I'm so angry about it anyway that it didn't take much provocation for me. [ One woman ] had drawn an eye in the palm of her hand and faced it towards me; which is fine, except that I'm becoming so jaded against that kind of Masonic radicalism. When I was involved in squatting and punk culture I had a mohawk and I could see very clearly why you would do that. It separated Us from Them.

So that started the show. Then I mentioned how I'm looking not towards preaching to the converted, but rather to entertaining the troops. That was a survival that I chose for myself because I was getting so much encouragement from people to 'just tell us what we want to hear.'

When I was in England in November I was almost getting punished by a very loud vocal minority that was saying 'you are not addressing our agenda and we are now going to disrupt your show.'

Which is really difficult for an entertainer because your rust commitment is, these people paid money. They want to be entertained. The have their jobs, they have their problems. You try to use the forum for your political agenda to the greatest you can, but again when there's that terrorist element …

When different people are pushing on you, how do you choose your groups that you want to support?

What seems to come through more than anything is loyalty to my past activist affliations. That's my decision, cause with my politics I'm trying to speak from myself. When you speak from your own experiences there's a truth to it that you're never going to accomplish from speaking from some ideology or an agenda point-of-view. That's where I round the most consistency.

I don't like being the gatekeeper of politics, but it's sort of the position I'm in. And the way I try to resolve that contradiction is to say 'Hey, it I can do this, You can do this.' I was thinking about my experiences and my point or view and it was three chords. What you need are articulate people who have something to say and you can identify with it. And if you can't find anbody, you might need to think about doing it yourself.

Any final words you would like to say concerning ACT UP? Any sort of letter you would write to young people …

Well, it's one thing to be in the middle of the storm and trying to figure out the way forward. That's the position I think that AIDS activists are in right now. It's like a maelstrom constantly swirling around them. I personally, at this time don't have any friends or lovers dying of AIDS. And it's a luxury of a sort, to be in a position where you have that kind of objectivity, but it's not really an objectivity worth having, to be honest.

I think the real change in society is going to be around the politics of disease. Around the politics of technology or the politics of labor relations. You know, that agenda hasn't really come home to people yet. It's going to be tragic if the crises proportions have to keep growing, but we only know how to deal with crises. So it's with a totally privileged point of view that

I suggest, reassess the situation in terms of AIDS activism and figure out within the crises how to took at the non-crises parts of it that's going to give you the courage to keep on struggling.

I don't have any right to say that. I'll be the first person to admit that. When you haven't been directly affected by it [ AIDS ] . It's a luxury to be able to speak this way.

And younger kids that are reading OUTLINES have already found the link that was missing for me. I would just like to say help others look for that link in places that aren't so obvious. Especially when you think that things have become very urban.

I come from a very rural background, and the message that it takes to got through to that would be, as I said before, the comparison between Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Think about how square Paul Simon is to Bob Dylan. Then realize that hip is not always going to get the job done.


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