I had the opportunity to talk to Melissa Etheridge by phone in early April 2010, days before the release of her album Fearless Love
and she announced her split from her partner of nine years, Tammy Lynn Michaels. It was early and I was already her second interview of the day. But Melissa seemed in good spirits, if low-key.
Lesbian Life: Good Morning Melissa. Are you a morning person?
Oh, yeah. The kids are on break and I’m already playing catch up.
So how is family life?
Family life is the best!
How old are your kids?
I have twins that are three. I have an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old. It’s all across the board. I’m dealing with everything.
There’s a lot of lesbian parents out there and I’m sure a lot of my readers are curious about how you’re raising your children as a lesbian couple. For example, did you ever come out to your kids?
(laughs) Because kids are beautiful. Kids are very clear about what love is and love is love. There are no categories. There’s no right or wrong in love, it’s just there. All you have to do is explain to them, let them know that in the world there are all different types of families. And ours is a wonderful and unique, and not so unique, also there are many others like us. If you have that communication with them, they also have the answers for their friends. It’s so easy. Mothers come up to me all the time and say their kids come home and say, “Why can’t I have two moms?” It’s just how you feel about it inside.
However, you’re not typical lesbian moms, there is the fame factor. So it must be hard to give your kids a normal upbringing, if there is such a thing as normal…
Yeah, is there such a thing as normal? I think normal is just a loving house. That’s the goal. Everything around it is then is, yeah, we got a crazy house. Yeah, we travel a lot. Strangers come up to us and they understand it’s because people like Mama’s music. You just explain it in a way that they can understand and it’s very clear.
You and Tammy did not get married during that nine month window in California when it was legal. How do you feel about that now?
It’s an ongoing process here in California and I’m okay with it and I know everybody here is stuck in limbo. And it will change. I don’t worry about it.
In the news this week Martina Navratilova has come out as having breast cancer. What do you to say to her or anyone else who gets that diagnosis?
Welcome to the other side and the rest of your life as a survivor. Also, what happens is you start to understand about cancer. I mean especially her, she is so health conscious. I’ve known her for a long, long time. I think it causes one to then examine their life and find all the things in their life that might have set the stage for the cancer. It can be a very spiritual process. That’s what I’m saying.
I know it was for you.
Did she call you?
No she didn’t. I haven’t spoken to her in a while. I was thinking of calling her.
I was doing my taxes the other day and it reminded me of something you said about not paying your taxes until same-sex couples are given equal rights.
I wrote a blog that said if you’re not going to give me my rights, maybe I won’t pay my taxes. That would only make sense. Why should I pay taxes if I don’t have all my rights? I wrote the blog to show the ridiculousness of Proposition 8, the whole thing. Never intending not to pay my taxes. I don’t want to go to jail and the IRS doesn’t care that I’m gay. So, yes, I pay my taxes every year.
I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t more of a movement within the queer community not to pay our taxes.
We’ve all got our lives and we’re in this machine chugging along and we’re all kind of asleep at the wheel and we will have to hit a wall to really wake up and go we’ve got to change this. Resisting taxes? Is that it? I don’t know? I think change it will have to come and it will have to come through us.
A lot of us did hit a wall when Prop 8 passed. Even that activism has slowed down a bit.
Yeah, we’re all in the capitalist machine and we’ve got to figure out what we want.
So you have a new album out
It will be out April 27th.
I think a lot of them are going to fall in love with the song “The Wanting of You.” [A song about a married woman struggling with her attraction to other women.] What was the inspiration for writing that song?
Well, the whole album is songs of love and fear. I was examining it inside myself, outside myself, all around. I wanted to examine that particular type of story. I think it is a love that hasn’t been spoken about. It’s a view that hasn’t been spoken about. It’s something that is alive in our community, that is a story that is often lived. I just wanted to get brave and write it.