Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Lesbian Tape Player

So there we were, drinking a lot of alcohol and listening to music turned up far too loud. It was the late eighties and there was this song playing I had never heard before by an artist I had never heard before. Truly, I have no idea what hit me or why it hit me, but suddenly it hit me, and I said, “That woman is a lesbian.” And I was referring to the singer. Everyone just stopped and stared at me because no one had even thought about that sort of thing and it was one of those moment when someone says something really off the wall and it kinda catches everyone off guard.
“You’re crazy,” a friend of mine said, “where the hell did that come from?”
“That song was written by a woman to be sung to a woman.” I replied. And everyone turned to stare at the cassette player as if there was something about the device that might lend some credence to what I was saying.
“No way Mike,” someone else said, “look at her photo on this CD, she’s smokin’ hot!”
And that was the world in the 1980’s. I really and truly knew people who thought that how a woman looked, like the outward appearance of a cassette player, could be used to discern the sexual orientation of a singer. What most people I knew didn’t know is I had a really good friend who was still closeted. She was very attractive and she was as gay as she could possibly be. How she looked threw people off. A lot of my friends hit on her but she was adept at turning guys away without giving herself away. We invented a mythical boyfriend for her, who was a married man, and that was why no one ever saw them together. Gay marriage wasn’t even being talked about back then. Her parents didn’t know and 90% of the people who knew her didn’t know. But I knew, and I knew what her world looked like. It was an ugly, ugly, world, filled with mean people who said terrible things that she never had a chance to defend against because, after all, she had to stay hidden.

The woman singing was Melissa Etheridge, and the song was “Brave and Crazy”. She would come out in 1993 with her CD “Yes, I am” and I looked up my friend who thought I was nuts.
“So?” she snorted, “You had a fifty-fifty chance of being right.”

But I didn’t. I had a much better chance of being wrong and because at that time coming out was Brave and Crazy, if things would have stayed the same I might have never known, but I did know. If you really want to know what a song written by a woman to be sung to a woman sounds like then crank up Etheridge’s “I’m the only one” and have a few beers. You can feel it. Let your inhibitions against all forms of love go for a moment and realize you can hear that woman’s soul screaming.

Most people don’t think about who writes songs and why they write songs and who they’re singing those songs to at the time. Most people make songs their own and they attach those songs to their own heart break or love. That’s why love songs work so well and that’s why there are so many of them. Everyone has the same needs and same fears. Love feels the same for everyone or love songs wouldn’t work at all.

Let that last sentence sink in for a bit. Does it matter whose heart is breaking? Does it matter who just got burned again by the same person? Does it matter at all who that song was written for or to who? You never thought about it, did you? Right now, at this very moment, you realize that love is the same and you never acknowledged it before. Take a moment. All your life you’ve sung along with people whose love you never knew and never cared about because it became your love, your heart, your tears, your joy, and all the while, did you ever wonder?

My lesbian friend grew up, got married to a very nice woman, came out openly and they had kids through artificial insemination. Unfortunately, my friend wasn’t the partner who carried the children. When she and her wife split up she discovered that legally speaking, she was no longer a parent. She has zero rights to kids she has nurtured and cared for all their lives.

You have to admit to yourself that the music in your soul and the love it carries moves you, the same way it moves everyone else who loves music. Extent that love to the caring of children and suddenly, like me, you find yourself looking for justice, with a song in your heart.

Take Care,



  1. Every song has a meaning both direct and indirect where each word is carefully weighed in its meaning and impact. The beauty that lies within these words are the encrypted meanings of the writer. We will certainly never know what the writer intended by the song's creation be it a message of love or break up or just stay away. What we attach to the words and the song, itself, creates our own interpretation and makes it fully our own...if we choose to. Melissa's song reached out and touched you in the a place she may have wanted you to see, but maybe not all. That was reserved for the subject of her intentions.

    1. Perhaps in every piece of art, no matter what medium, David, there is some meaning that is revealed and some that is hidden. And perhaps, sometimes the artist reveals more than he or she wanted to, and there are those of us that can see it. I wonder if Melissa would agree with me?