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Melissa Etheridge Speaks: 'What Are We Gonna Do About the Gay Thing'

22 March 2023 | 10:07 am | Staff Writer

Etheridge said that her record label told her, “As long as you don’t flag wave.”

(Source: Supplied)

Melissa Etheridge, a music legend and icon for the LGBTQIA+ community, has been featured in a new Spin and Fire interview. She recalled when an Island Records executive asked her, “What are we gonna do about the gay thing?”

The moment arrived as Etheridge was preparing to release her debut self-titled album in 1998. The label came to a compromise at the time–“I was like, ‘What do you mean?'” the Like The Way I Do singer asked. 

She told Spin what she said in that meeting, “‘I’m not gonna pretend I’m something else. I’m not going to go find a guy to take pictures with and pretend he’s my boyfriend. I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna be me.'”

How did the label respond? Etheridge said that they commented, “As long as you don’t flag wave.”

Etheridge didn’t come out until 1993, after spending years making “heterosexual music” and perfecting the art of “self-censorship”. As she sang on the Yes I Am classic, Come To My Window, “I don’t care what they think / I don’t care what they say / What do they know about this love, anyway?,” she was understandably exhausted.

Also in the interview with Ryan J Downey, she addressed Eminem’s past homophobic remarks. “Here’s a rapper; here’s this guy talking his trash about gay people,” she began, explaining when many within the LGBTQIA+ community wanted the popular rapper boycotted.

“I stepped away from all the gay organisations that were stepping down hard, and I said, ‘no, it works both ways. We want the freedom to be ourselves to say what we like, even though it offends some other people; I gotta let him be who he is and say what he likes even though it offends me, because that’s freedom,’” Etheridge said. 

Check out the rest of the interview here.

Melissa Etheridge last toured in Australia in 2018 alongside Sheryl Crow - she also performed at Bluesfest that year.

We said about her show, “Although the only guitarist on stage, Etheridge created a huge wall of sound with her 12-string guitar. Each song was lengthy and featured long instrumental sections and killer guitar solos - she joked that she could play a three-hour set with only five songs.”

Here’s hoping she returns soon.