St. Vincent’s sly comments about “sexual fluidity” are important to indie rock

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It’s often the genres of hip-hop, country or Christian music that are seen as homophobic or generally unwelcoming to queer artists, at least in terms of mainstream success. But the world of indie rock is still male-driven, very white and very straight. The women musicians who are able to break through are often ten times more talented than their male counterparts, and once in a while they are given their due respect. One of those talents is St. Vincent, nee Annie Clark. A multi-instrumentalist with interesting approaches to songwriting and an insatiable voice, St. Vincent’s five albums (four solo, one with David Byrne) have been both critically hailed and adored by music fans of all creeds. Which is why it’s so important that Annie has touched upon her sexuality in a new interview with Rolling Stone:

I ask Clark if she identifies either as gay or straight. “I don’t think about those words” she replies. “I believe in gender fluidity and sexual fluidity. I don’t really identify as anything.” She points to her adopted home: “New York is where all the freaks from all the places converge. I’ve had wild nights out where you end up at the Box” — a downtown club that hosts highly sexualized, frequently nude performances by dancers of both genders. “I think you can fall in love with anybody,” Clark says. “I don’t have anything to hide,” adding, “but I’d rather the emphasis be on music.”

In the past, I’ve sent requests to interview Annie and was once told “she is not out.” As a fan of her music and also her work on Portlandia, I’ve selfishly hoped Annie would feel comfortable enough to give voice to her being LGBT-identified in some capacity and challenge the notions that successful rock musicians are most often straight (or perceived as such). Annie is someone who is outspoken about her ideas on other topics (including not wanting to be ghettoized and play women only festivals such as Lilith Fair), so it would only make sense that she would also share the imperativeness of queer-friendly spaces, venues and situations for fans. She may not want to be a poster child or steer conversation away from her music by discussing her personal life, but inevitably her being comfortable and open about her relationship or sexual identity is a positive affectation on the music community in which she thrives.

Annie recently performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction tribute to Nirvana with original members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear. Her most recent album, St. Vincent, peaked at number 12 on the Billboard charts and last year she was honored with the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Award. Her recorded work is inspiring but her live show is even more so, as Annie is a favorite for music festivals, several of which she’s playing this summer and fall.

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I don’t expect Annie to make her sexual identity a huge talking point going forward, but I do anticipate her acknowledgement to be encouraging to others in the indie rock realm. Three years ago, Spin reported on indie rock’s homophobia problems, and in 2014, it’s safe to say some things have changed for the better. But like in all other genres of music, or areas of mainstream culture, there’s still a lot of room for growth, and I’m happy to count Annie Clark among as a success story.

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