I’ve been completely open about my bisexuality since I was in my mid-twenties. For the most part, my choice to be transparent about that particular aspect of my life has been something wholly positive, and I certainly have no regrets. It’s enabled me to live my truth both on and offstage, to write freely about my experiences, and to use my imagination as an artist in a much more liberated, empowered way. Also, it’s enabled me to reach out to others in the LGBTQ community who may be struggling and to offer understanding and solidarity through my music. For over 20 years now, I’ve performed regularly at Pride Fests, LGBTQ community centers, and fundraisers, gratefully exercising my privilege as someone whose community in NYC has only ever embraced me for being exactly who I am.
Things weren’t always quite so easy for me, though, in terms of my self-confidence. In my late teens and early twenties, I remember being overwhelmed and perpetually worried about what my parents would think if they knew I was interested in women. Eventually, when I had a girlfriend, I had this constant, sickening feeling that I would be rejected and misunderstood once my family found out, to the point where it pretty much destroyed that relationship. I also vividly recall when I first began writing romantic songs about both men and women and how natural it felt for me to do so while also making me anxious career-wise. There were people I trusted who advised me not to do so and suggested that I would be “pigeon-holed” or that it would only be a distraction; this caused me unnecessary inner-conflict because I became more worried about the opinions of others than about my own well-being. Thankfully, I knew in my heart from a very young age that love is love is love…and there could never be anything wrong about it. In addition, I had the fortunate opportunity to tour with Ani DiFranco – who has always been so unapologetically herself – exactly when I was struggling the most with these issues; her unbridled self-assurance was like a shot of courage-adrenaline for me. Nowadays, when people at my gigs come up to me and tell me that one of my songs has helped them to feel a little bit less alone or to find the strength to be themselves more fully, that is the best kind of response for which I could ever hope as an artist.
I find that the older I get, the less absorbed I am with others’ opinions about me across the board. I know who I am, and I embrace my mistakes as opportunities for growth as much as I possibly can. As a young person, however, it’s almost impossible to imagine just how much strength one may actually possess. Our LGBTQ youth are so vulnerable, and being a sensitive person with a big heart can often make one a target for cruelty. I believe that being a member of the LGBTQ community has enabled me to be more empathetic as a songwriter because I know what it feels like to not quite fit in and to be afraid of how others will unfairly judge what they fear. Having performed widely throughout the U.S. and Europe, I know there is still so much more work to be done to bridge understanding, and I always return to NYC humbled by its relative diversity and acceptance.
If I were writing a letter to my younger self struggling with her identity and self-confidence, this is what I would say:
You are a beautiful, colorful, eccentric peacock and your creativity knows no bounds. Relish inspiration and seek love wherever you may find it. Don’t worry so much about what other people think, especially if you know they already love you. People don’t have to understand you perfectly to know you are a worthy person and to respect you. What’s much more important than being understood and approved of by everyone you know is being understood and appreciated by a few wonderful people from whom you can learn and grow. Quality over quantity and substance over surface…
It may seem now like life looms especially long because you are young, overwhelmed and ambitious, and you seek both personal and professional approval from way too many people. But in reality, you blink, and it has all nearly gone by. Enjoy your life, love freely and openly, be generous with your gifts, and above all, be yourself as fully and expressively as possible. Your life is yours alone, and negativity from others who merely want to exert their superiority or create shame serves no purpose whatsoever, so avoid it as much as you can. Taking care of your health also includes your mental health, so surround yourself with positive, encouraging people!
You are a beautiful, colorful, eccentric peacock and you belong to a larger community of like-minded human beings. You will be more than okay because you are strong, kind, and blessed with a great sense of humor. You just don’t know it yet!
Contributed by Free2Luv Advocate, musician, artist, activist, producer & label owner, Rachael Sage rachael_sage