Feature writing

Stonewall 50

Jake Shears: I Love the Term ‘Queer.’ It Focuses on What Connects Us, No Matter Your Gender or Orientation

Website:
The Daily Beast

Date:
June 27, 2019

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.’

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.