Power of living your truth
It was 1993. Bill Clinton had just been inaugurated. And on a balcony overlooking a fervent crowd at the Triangle Ball in Washington D.C., musician Melissa Etheridge fearlessly shared her truth.
With a mic in hand and a radiating smile, Etheridge announced “I’m proud to say right now that I have been a lesbian all my life.”
Etheridge says the moment was not planned and was completely candid. She recalls with delight, “It just came out!”
Admired for the raw and honest lyrics of her music, the singer/songwriter began to feel hypocritical for the public ambiguity surrounding her personal life. “I have made the choice to not do maybe the comfortable thing, but stand in my truth and be transparent, be upfront about it and it has always led me exactly where I’m supposed to go, so I have no desire to stop now.”
But her openness was not received without backlash. The same year that Etheridge came out publicly, she released her fourth studio album, landing on the top of the charts with “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One.” Critics questioned her expeditious success, discrediting her music and accusing the star of exploiting her sexuality during the ‘lesbian chic’ movement for fame.
Contrary to the tabloid cries, Etheridge grew exhausted by reporters quarrying her personal life for lucrative headlines. Nonetheless, she felt a benevolent responsibility to keep sharing her story as an openly-gay public figure. She reflects, “I kept telling myself if this is helping normalize this otherwise mysterious thing, scary thing, in the world, if this helps anyone who might be going through it, who is closeted, then it’s worth it. And I will tell the story over and over and over.”
And 20 years later, Etheridge hasn’t stopped sharing her courage. Speaking to her leadership in the LGBT community she declares, “The most ‘activist’ thing you can do is just speak the truth, and just follow that trail.” Etheridge has been featured speaker and performer at international Pride Days and received GLAAD Media Awards Stephen F. Kolzak Award which recognizes which honors openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual or transgender media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equal rights.
Most recently, Etheridge co-founded Uprising of Love Coalition. The initiative that culminated in a benefit concert founded in 2014 aims to shine a light on the international discrimination and atrocities committed against the LGBT community. All proceeds aided the Russia Freedom Fund, which combats violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. With an optimistic and confident perspective, the activist says, “I live in a world that cares. I know there are people out there who want the same peace I do.”
The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio is honored to host Melissa Etheridge at our annual Keyholder event. Join us Wednesday, May 6th at the Ohio Theatre to witness her courageous spirit while celebrating community members creating social change for women and young girls.
Written by Sarah Hider, Women’s Fund Intern
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