It’s been a long walk. I was raised Christian. I should note here that not every Christian is a homophobe. There was a Christian family outside the Presbyterian church, in fact, handing out water to the marchers and rocking a fantastic sign that read, “God thinks you’re fierce.”
But I certainly was raised to believe homosexuality was, as they say, unnatural. In fact, when Ellen came out in 1997, and the gospel duo Angie and Debbie Winans released the track “Not Natural” in response, a twelve-year-old me bought the album after reading about it inCCM Magazine.
I definitely wish I hadn’t, and not just because, contrary to a spokesperson for the Winans, who said, insanely, “no one’s trying to judge anyone’s love life; we just want to put it out there”, the song is as homophobic a slow jam as you’re going to hear.
Homophobia aside, it was just a terrible song on a terrible, terrible album. “The Lord inspired this song,” Debbie Winans told Jet, and if that’s true, I think The Lord should stick to books. If it’s a Grammy you’re after, The Lord, you can still win one for the audiobook, and I’ve heard your voice is pretty powerful. On the other hand, the first book of Kings says it’s still and small, so maybe you should leave the reading to Heston and avoid the recording arts entirely.
The second collision of music and my youthful homophobia came in college, when I discovered the music of Rufus Wainwright. I fell in love with it instantly, but after downloading a bunch of his music on Kazaa (it was 2003, remember), then telling a friend I was seriously into his stuff, I heard four words that shook me to my very core: “He’s gay, you know.”
Shot to the heart. And homosexuality was to blame. How could I possibly listen to the music of… a gay man? I couldn’t, I told myself. Unless I could, but it wouldn’t be right, because being gay isn’t right, right?
I spoke to people about this. I sought counsel. I thought about it, I heard arguments, I fretted. And at some point, it occurred to me what a silly crisis it was, that I liked his music, and I couldn’t care less who he chooses to love. If I ever meet Rufus Wainwright, I want to tell him that his music was so good it forced me to confront and overcome a lot of prejudice a decade ago.