I only watched one season of American Idol, and it was several years after Adam Lambert was on the show. So I would need to Google it to tell you whether he won or to watch any of his performances for the first time.
What I can tell you is that his name because pretty common, and many of the people speaking it were hung up on his sexuality and wanted to know what others thought. For a while, I was simply annoyed. I didn’t understand why a reality/game show made anyone relevant. Since then, I’ve become a fan of Lambert’s music (although, my mom is a much bigger fan and probably loved him first) and other artists, including Kelly Clarkson. I mean, I was angry and tended to belittle things I didn’t like or understand. It, wrongly, made me feel powerful.
I apologize for that, but that is not what this post is about. This post and included apology to a pop superstar (whom I will soon see perform!) is about another error on my part. You see, I wasn’t just dismissive about him as a celebrity. I was dismissive about whether his sexuality mattered at all. Can’t we, I asked, just listen to his subpar pop music rather than focus on his sexuality? Why does it matter that he’s gay?
But it does and it did, perhaps even more so at the time. For other members of the LGBTQ+ community to see Adam Lambert, an openly gay performer, competing and excelling on a show (and going on to see more success), it must have mattered a lot. There haven’t always been representing faces in that crowd. I just read an interview with Darren Hayes who discussed how his being outed led first to internal memos that attempted to keep his sexuality hidden, then to ridiculous requests that he not move in certain ways to suggest he was gay and, finally, to a complete lack of support from his record labels when he put out new music. His label wouldn’t even let him put on live shows because he was gay, so the freedom that Adam had to be gay was hard won (albeit with a lot of progress to be made at the time and still much to be made now).
I understand now when I post about violence done to members of certain communities and someone (there is always someone) has to argue that it doesn’t matter if this person is gay/brown/a woman. Because people are people and we shouldn’t see color or gender or sexuality. But, I argue (and didn’t understand then), that those characteristics color a person’s experience and may be directly tied to why those people have been victimized.
Intersections of those characteristics make for vastly different (read: worse) experiences. Trans people of color experience violence in different ways than those who are white, for example. To ignore this is not only erroneous; it’s enabling.
It’s more than that, however. Those experiences often contribute to a person’s self-expression, and there may be
So when I dismissed Adam Lambert’s sexuality, I wasn’t thinking about other aspiring musicians who might have felt inspired by his existence. I didn’t consider how brave it was for him to be out or how hurtful it was for me to think that maybe he just shouldn’t parade his sexuality around despite straight people having the right to do that always. I didn’t stop to think how his experiences would influence his art or how his sense of style might have evolved (just a guess) from the LGBTQ+ community.
I didn’t stop to consider how easy it was for me, at the time a married-to-a-man white woman, to say those things because I had never shared precisely those struggles.
I am sorry, Adam. Because I now not only realize that, yes, you are talented, but that your stairway to success was most assuredly a haphazardous one as you dodged obstacles that were a direct response to you being a gay man. Were that not the case, perhaps we could know for sure that when anyone dismisses you, it’s onlyÂ because of an objective to your musical stylings and not an objection to the people you choose to love and fuck (even if the people voicing those objections, like myself, are ignorant to their own