Feature image of Kesha, who said on Instagram “I’m not gay. I’m not straight,” by Scott Legato/Getty Images
Three months after coming out to myself, I got on a plane to visit my parents. I pulled my remaining boy clothes from the back of my closet and removed my red nail polish — the faint stain reminding me of a new life I was starting to build. In that life, I was out to everyone but I wouldn’t be out on this trip. Not yet.
While I’d decided not to tell my parents for a few more months, I did use this time to come out to my old friends. Dressed in parent-approved drag, I left them confused. “I’m a girl” is a harder sell when you look like the same boy they’d always known.
I left one of those friend’s houses to make the long trek back from the city of LA to the suburb of who cares. It was after midnight. My phone told me that Kesha’s new album, Rainbow, had just been released and I clicked play.
“One, two, three, four,” Kesha said softly, opening her album like she was talking just to me.
I got too many people
I got left to prove wrong
All those motherfuckers
Been too mean for too long
And I’m so sick of crying, yeah
Darlin’, what’s it for?
I could fight forever, oh
But life’s too short
Don’t let the bastards get you down
Her next song urged me to “Let ‘Em Talk.” And by the time I got to the third track, “Woman” I was belting along as I sped up the 101. I’M A MOTHERFUCKING WOMAN! I sure was. And as I continued to solidify this womanhood, Rainbow became my soundtrack.
Even before this vulnerable album, Kesha always spoke to a queer audience. Whether it was her general irreverence or the otherness declared in songs like “Animal” and “We R Who We R,” it always felt like Kesha was speaking to us. It felt like Kesha was us. And she was.
Yesterday, Kesha wrote in an Instagram post, “I’m not gay. I’m not straight. I don’t know what I am.” This wasn’t a coming out. Back in 2019, she confirmed that she’s bisexual and non-monogamous. And in that piece, she mentions having already confirmed this long before: “I had a conversation with a gay magazine in the US and they just asked me, ‘Oh, are you bisexual?’ and I was like, ‘Obviously!'” I mean, how much clearer could she be than the lyrics of her song “Kinky,” an ode to queer polyamory.
But Kesha isn’t often included when we think of queer musicians (our own Abeni Jones being an exception) — just like Angelina Jolie isn’t often thought of as a queer actress, just like Lady Gaga still feels pressured to identity as an “ally” despite being out as bi since the beginning of her career. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. When I saw Kesha’s post yesterday, I felt the excitement of a coming out — and I pitched this piece as a coming out post.
Of course it’s biphobia. Our heteronormative society erases anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into a box. If Kesha announced that she had a girlfriend, the internet would be abuzz in a way that 2019 piece and yesterday’s post failed to incite. We feel entitled to every detail of people’s lives. We feel entitled to the simplistic narratives buried within us. It’s why I had to come out all over again to those old friends — this time with a few more signifiers of “woman” to have them take me seriously. We owe it to Kesha to listen when she tells us who she is. We owe it to ourselves to move beyond our boxes.
When I was in high school, Kesha was the only pop music I let myself listen to. Pop was girly and pop was gay and I avoided it in my attempt to be something else. But my crush loved Kesha and so I made an exception. My crush who was at the time out as bi, my crush who is now also out as non-binary. Kesha meant so much to me then, Kesha meant so much to me in my early transition years, and Kesha means so much to me now. Forgive my corny platitude, but Kesha gave me and so many other queer people the confidence to be ourselves. I hope she’s feeling that confidence herself this month.
“how weird and interesting and fun this life is, right?” Kesha wrote in her post. Thank you Kesha for making my life a little weirder, a little more interesting, and a lot more fun. Welcome to the party. You’ve always been here.