Re: "I get so annoyed with my lesbian peers who advertise their shows with other lesbians using lesbian in the title "My Lesbian folk/rock show with Lesbian comedienne opener ..."! Seriously!?! Why do I care who the !@#%^ you sleep with, make a life with... whatever!!! I just want to know if you can sing/write/play and if your opener is FUNNY!!! Damn! I need a coconut water and a chill pill." — listening to Kate Reid Fan Page with Kate Reid
The above statement was posted by musician Carolyna Lovely (CL) to my personal Facebook page, along with the tagging of my name, this past Friday which consequently elicited a long and difficult discussion for those who participated. Here is my response to the incident.
Some people have gently advised me to not respond to the comments that CL posted saying that it is not worth my time and energy, and I thank those of you for your concern and care. However, when someone posts homophobic comments on my public Facebook page, and tags me in it, it is my duty and desire as a queer/dyke/cis-lesbian artist and person to name that homophobia, and provide a clear, thoughtful response, not only to speak back against homophobic rhetoric, but also to acknowledge and commend so many of you who weighed in with your own responses. As many of you know, this is not the first time I’ve experienced this kind of direct challenge to the content of my music and my identity (refer to the songs: Uncharted Territory, Ain’t No Drama Queen). Some may argue that CL’s comment on my page (and subsequent comments from her, which got decidedly more hurtful and hateful as the night went on) were not coming from a place of homophobia and heterosexual privilege to which I would counter, if not these things, then what?
When someone says, in response to my naming of my sexual identity, that they don’t announce their “straightness” every time they give a performance (this occurs in the same vein as statements from folks who ask, “Why don’t we have Straight Pride?”), this is indicative of a complete lack of understanding of one’s straight (and often white, middle-class) positionality and privilege in the world. When someone challenges my work by asking me, “Why do you sing about being a lesbian?” my favourite response is, “Because you just asked me that question.” If CL really doesn’t “care who the !@#%^ [I] sleep with, make a life with….whatever…..”, she wouldn’t have made that statement in the first place. Imagine saying to a straight-identified musician, “I don’t care if you sleep with the opposite sex, I want to know if you can sing/write/play….” Preposterous, right? The very idea that it bothers CL when I sometimes name my sexuality in my songs, at my shows and in my newsletters, points to the fact that homophobia is still rampant in our society, and that we are not yet done with this business of equity and inclusion (which is also a problematic word). It follows then, that we need to continue to intervene in heterosexist and heteronormative thinking, behaviour, ideals and norms: by writing songs, creating art, authoring stories and poems, painting paintings, sculpting sculptures, taking photographs, writing screenplays and scripts, organizing events, theorizing, talking, sharing, marching, protesting, and working on policy change….all in support of making this world a safer space for non-dominant bodies. When I began writing, I wrote to make sense of my life and my experiences: I wrote to learn something that I didn’t yet know, and I wrote to work through the messy and complicated feelings of what it means to be aware and alive in this world. In short, I wrote and sang myself into existence, and I continue to do that today and will for the rest of my life. Yes, of course, we need to move beyond a place where we don’t need to label ourselves but until that day happens, we must name ourselves so that we are heard, seen and acknowledged in the face of dominant (and domineering) voices and identities. Clearly, I (and my work as a queer/dyke/cis-lesbian musician) was simply a trigger for CL, and before really thinking through why she might be triggered, she targeted me. This is often how these things get played out. These acts of homophobia (and racism, sexism, misogyny, classism etc.) are not random: they are reflections of the society we live in, a society that has been and continues to be oppressive and exclusive.
For me, living and loving in this world, and acknowledging our diverse identities and positionalities is a political act. Identifying myself as I do is a political statement. It is an attempt to create space for “the other”, and it opens up possibilities for our voices to be heard, voices which are otherwise silenced, ignored, dismissed and abused. It is my work in this life to continue to claim and voice my identity in my art. Trust me, I have thought (and felt) long and hard about writing songs that are more palatable to a wider audience and in the end, I always return to the same question: if my current songs (and by extension, my identity) is not palatable, then that speaks to a major societal problem, rather than problem with my artistic practices. Therefore, I must forge on. I invite CL and others who share her beliefs to go into our schools and have conversations with queer youth, or to volunteer their time at queer youth camps like Camp fYrefly (Alberta and Saskatchewan) and Camp Out (BC), to get a real picture of what is actually going on in queer lives, beyond the misguided belief that we are “post-gay”, “post-queer”, and that it doesn’t matter who we make our lives with here in Canada simply because we have legalized same-sex marriage (note: the problematics of these notions “legalized”, and the “right” to marry based on a country-wide vote!). To be clear, many teachers, parents, activists and administrators are working very hard to make schools safer for our children (Thanks, Vancouver School Board, and other school districts across Canada!).
Curiously, this past Sunday morning I ventured over to CL's page to find out if she had de-friended me after she removed her eloquent post along with the stream, and found this status update, verbatim, at the top of her page:
It's Sunday. Today my love mended fences and installed a new electric fence creating two extra paddocks for the new foals coming in a few months. Then he and the boys rode the horses for a few hrs, rode their bicycles to Maleny, then moved cattle! I baked cookies and edited video and audio today. That is why Im soft and my man is a rock hard god of a man.”
If that isn’t advertising one’s sexuality, I don’t know what is.
Last but certainly not least, I want to acknowledge and thank each of you, from the bottom of my heart, regardless of how you identify, who weighed in and shared very heartfelt, personal, insightful and impassioned responses to this discussion. While I regret that I did not have the pleasure of reading every one of your posts before CL removed the stream, I did manage to read a few, and I acknowledge and celebrate each and every one of you, and I am beyond moved that you have chosen my music to accompany you in your lives. I acknowledge and hear that all of you write and speak from places of lived experience, both painful and joyful, and I understand that as we move through the world, we often come up against, and attempt to heal from, the fear, confusion and shame we’ve internalized as a result of living in a society that regularly dismisses, denigrates and/or abhors queer (and “othered) bodies. I cannot describe to you what it means to me to share in your journeys through my work as a musician because I, too, have found the work of many politicized artists to be life-changing, indeed life-saving, and am grateful for the opportunity to be able to pay it forward by writing and performing my own songs for all of you. It is these shared experiences and stories that bind us together, and, to paraphrase the late Jose E. Munoz, give us hope for a different world, one that is full of possibility.
Thank-you so much for taking the time to read my words.
With gratitude…yours in music,