This Delicate Thing He's Made

9.11.2008

By Bill Chenevert

You went from Columbia Records practically locking you in the closet, and being married to a woman, to headlining London Gay Pride at Trafalgar Square -- sounds like quite a trip.
I think there's a huge difference between coming out and being a celebrity who is out. To be frank, it's limiting. Whether or not my music is any different, the way I get reported about, the way I'm spoken about, everything from the moment you come out publicly onwards is always prefaced with the word gay. Gay is -- it's a broad spectrum, there are all shapes and sizes of gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people, it's not just this stamp. I think for me I kind of shied away from those kinds of events because I think in a way it kind of confirms those limitations. My sort of involvement in the gay community tends to be more in fundraising things like the Trevor Project, which is something I feel very passionately about. But in terms of being politically responsible, I just try to be very open about my life. My marriage is a huge political statement. Richard and I had a marriage ceremony before it was legal, because emotionally that was more important for us. But we got a civil partnership just because I felt it was important to represent somebody who wasn't 60 and completely unshaggable. Someone who still had some of his life ahead of him. I wasn't pushed out of the closet, I wasn't blackmailed, I didn't end up on Perez Hilton. I just got to a place in my life where I was really happy, happy as a person, and I just thought, Yeah, this might be a nice thing to admit. So how was it for me at Pride? Fine? I don't know. I love gay people -- I don't know if like gay politics. I think in general the idea is beautiful, but I think everybody should be able to perform at those events, not just gay artists. That's my thinking.

Are there gay artists that you admire?
Definitely. Michael Stipe. I think he's an extraordinary creature. I don't really think too much about what his sexuality is, I just love how liberated and undefined he is. I think he's really inspiring. There's a Broadway actor that I adore called Cheyenne Jackson who I adore -- I've seen him in Xanadu about a gazillion times, and he completely inspires me. I think he's part of a new breed of performer who just happens to be gay. I think that's extraordinary, and I think it's a very positive image to send. My main problem in myself in coming out, and the media -- it's not us. And I want to clarify my issue with Pride: it's not us, it's not gay men who do this, it's the media bubble. We have to compartmentalize everything and put things in categories for people to understand. I think growing up there were these two clich's, there were the overtly camp men who were ultimately dying of AIDS -- like Liberace -- or there was the hunk who had hidden his sexuality all his life, like Rock Hudson. Neither of those examples made me want to run screaming out of the closet. And then you have a situation in pop culture in the media where being gay and coming out is sort of a lynch mob mentality where there's this sort of 'Ha Ha! Got ya!' aspect to it which only reinforces the shame about sexuality. So I love these people who just kind of walk backwards out of the closet accidentally without thinking about it. Both of those people I mentioned did that, and I love that about them.

What's up next for you?
I'm just writing. I'm going to L.A. to work with a writer called Rick Knowles, who I adore. Rick's done all kind of records. My favorite thing that he's ever done is stuff that he's done for Madonna's Ray Of Light album. He had three or four songs on that record. I'm writing songs for other artists for most of this year and renovating a house. And that's it!

So I guess you'll just go wherever the wind takes you in 2008 and 2009.
Yeah, I'm kind of taking a pause. I was sort of on the run since 1996, and it sounds cheesy but I was really relieved last year when I visited America three or four times, just playing little gigs, and I was selling out. It made me feel like people remember you, and I don't really need to churn stuff out in order to have my career going. I want to make sure that I churn good things out. I want to wait, really, I want to wait to see where the music industry goes. I think everyone's so afraid at the moment, and I'm not at all.

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