Folk singer Michelle Shocked is in hot water for a homophobic rant she made on stage at Yoshi’s in San Francisco Sunday night. Coverage by the Guardian and the gay-oriented online news magazine Queerty both point to Shocked's appalling anti-gay speech causing fans to exit her concert in droves. So far, her scheduled Evanston show has already been canceled as a result of her remarks.
Why is the story of an alt-folk singer who was semi-popular in the 1980s and 1990s making headlines? According to the Guardian article, Shocked stated, “When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back.” She also reportedly said, “You are going to leave here and tell people, 'Michelle Shocked said God hates faggots.” This combination of religious rhetoric and anti-gay hate speech has reached far beyond her small fan base, hitting a cultural nerve.
For those unfamiliar with her work, Michelle Shocked is perhaps best known for her nomination as Best Female Video in 1990 for "On the Greener Side" and she has been labeled an “honorary lesbian” by some fans. She was arrested protesting with Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and supported the movement stating in a video, “We’re mad, make the banks pay, stop letting the corporation buy and sell our democracy from under us… The people have the power." Understandably the fan base Shocked has built is not taking kindly to her anti-gay hate speech.
Michelle Shocked is a former Mormon who now identifies as a born-again Christian. In a 2008 interview and a 2011 interview, Shocked discussed her views of homosexuality explaining homosexuality is a sin akin to being a fornicator. During the 2008 interview Shocked also said, "There are some inconvenient truths that I’m now a born again, sanctified, saved-in-the-blood Christian. So much of what’s said and done in the name of that Christianity is appalling." While her religious view points even then didn't support homosexuality this is the first time she appears to have ranted aggressively at her audience about the topic.
Will Shocked's audience have sympathy should they learn the out-burst was due to an untreated mental illness? Some readers of various blogs including Queerty and Joe My God have suggested Michelle Shocked may be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia but these claims remain unverified.
From the backlash Shocked is receiving it's clear the distaste for this type of hate-speech extends far beyond the LGBTQ community. Such anti-gay and hateful language was certainly personally offensive and hurtful to many fan during the concert in San Francisco who left in a hurry tweeting about her bigotry. Whether there is anywhere for Michelle Shocked to go with her fan base from here does not look hopeful.