Jake Shears: I Love the Term ‘Queer.’ It Focuses on What Connects Us, No Matter Your Gender or Orientation
The singer on Stonewall 50: ‘It’s a fascinating trajectory of light-speed advancement and devastation. It’s hard to wrap your head around the nuclear impact AIDS had on equality.’
In this special series, LGBT celebrities and public figures talk to Tim Teeman about the Stonewall Riots and their legacy—see more here.
Jake Shears is a singer, songwriter, and lead singer of Scissor Sisters.
When/how did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of them? What is their significance for you?
When I was about 16, I went to the Seattle International Film Festival and saw Stonewall (1995), which was a fictionalized account of the riots shot on a shoestring budget. I have no recollection if the movie was any good or not, but I do remember suddenly realizing that the personal dilemmas that I was experiencing were part of a bigger story.
People had been weaving this rug for a long time, and their triumphs and struggles had made it possible for me, in high school in the ’90s, to make the step to be out. I realized there was a fabric that I was a part of now.
How far have LGBT people come since 1969?
It’s a fascinating trajectory, a mixture of light-speed advancement and devastation. It’s hard to wrap your head around the nuclear impact AIDS had on equality. It wasn’t that long ago, but it is a history that shouldn’t be forgotten.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
To me, what I love about the term “queer” is that it conveys a common mindset of personal freedom and empathy, regardless of a specific identity. It focuses on what connects us, no matter your gender or orientation. To me it’s about standing for each other.
In certain ways, in this moment, I think we’re often using our differences to cannibalize ourselves. I would love for everyone to realize that each individual has infinite spectrums, and that is where our commonality resides and what makes us human.