Monday, December 31, 2007


Okay, if you know me, you know that I am pretty much obsessed with Tegan and Sara. In fact, I have written about them twice before -- back in July and again in August. Just at the end of last month, I finally -- after two long years of waiting -- got to see them in concert again. The first time I saw them perform, it was at a small venue in Madison when they were still really only widely known amongst the queer crowd. That same year, in 2005, they had been touring with The Killers and playing at music festivals such as Lollapalooza, so they were getting to be a bit more well known within the Hipster scene. And now here we are almost three years later and they were playing at a large, sold out auditorium in Minneapolis with a diverse group of fans rocking out to their music.

They were fabulous, as expected. I was glad to see that although the intimacy of a smaller venue has been lost due to their now increasing popularity, they have not abandoned their chatty and adorable way of interacting with the crowd. While my concert buddy Mira and I were chatting about the pros and cons of a favorite artist going "mainstream", we delved into a discussion about the twins' sexuality.

Tegan and Sara, both lesbians, have always been open about their sexual orientations, but they have never made it a defining part of their identity as musicians. As Sara said in an interview
“We’re a minority but we’re also a minority that is not necessarily always visible. It’s easy for us to project a heterosexual lifestyle. It’s important as a queer role model to be out, to be vocal about who you are … I think it’s important to break down the homophobic stereotypes … Even when we came into this industry there was a tendency for people to be like, ‘You don’t have to talk about it …’ Why was that such a big deal? I don’t need to talk for an hour about it. I just want to acknowledge that no, I don’t have a boyfriend and yes, I like girls.” Tegan notes, "Sara and I have seen points in our career when it's been extremely relevant for us to talk a lot about being gay, and then there's been other points where it hasn't seemed as relevant."

There was a time when a lot of people didn't even realize that they were gay. I used to watch clips of them on YouTube and there would be comments like, "Tegan and Sara aren't gay!" "Oh snap! I'd never guess they're gay!" and one that still seems to be circulating is that only one of them
is gay. The point is, they don't project a stereotypical image of lesbian musicians -- no folk rock, dreadlocks, nose piercings, or even gender-specific lyrics. As Tegan and Sara become more popular, they are accomplishing a number of things. They are some of the first of their kind -- openly gay female artists that are entering into the mainstream of "young people's music". Other queer artists like Ani DiFranco (who is openly bisexual), the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge may be wildly popular among certain subgroups of people, but it has been a challenge for lesbian musicians to find their way into mainstream youth culture. Tegan and Sara might just get there.

And the result would be something that is feared by conservative America and prayed for by us crazy progressives: basically, a normalization of homosexuality into mainstream culture. People hear their music and like it and they see them and think that they seem normal and cool. This isn't, as idiotic conservatives fear, going to make people run off and "become" gay. But it might make them wonder if gay people are really that strange. At any rate, the fact that Tegan and Sara are marketable to more than just a queer crowd means that there is increased visibility of lesbians in entertainment. And in my opinion, that can only be a good thing.