Monday, February 23, 2009

R&B Singer Rahsaan Patterson...On Being Gay

R&B music is having a banner year for more reasons than one. Of course there were the much anticipated releases from Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Eric Roberson, and now Alicia Keys. But along with the good music came the admission from R&B singer Donnie just days after the release of his sophomore album The Daily News (Soulthought Records) this year, that he was gay. And maybe it’s because I’ve been soooo busy these past few weeks, but I missed the long awaited coming out of R&B’s Rahsaan Patterson. Now Rahsaan being gay is not news to me, but him coming out publicly is.

On October 7, 2007, just several days after the release of his latest album Wine & Spirits, in an exclusive interview with’s John Murph, Rahsaan followed fellow R&B singer Donnie’s lead and broke his silence about not only his sexuality but his thoughts on homophobia. Congrats Rahsaan!

Here's an excerpt:

BET J: Are you dealing with your sexuality?

Patterson: Exactly. When your body is fringed upon and you had no say so in the matter, the years that follow have nothing to do with who you initially could have been or would be.

Personally, I believe when that happens to you – a spirit attaches itself to you then you reside in a world where you have this stigma on you. When you’re a child, you don’t know what the hell is going on. Then you grow up with all these issues and with all these people who put these issues on you; and block you mentally from obtaining who you really could be. It’s an issue as Black people that we really don’t like to deal with; it’s an issue that a lot of gay people don’t want to break down.

Some people believe that they were born that way. But I’m not the person who feels like they have to justify myself or my beliefs to have people applaud me or buy my records. I’m very well aware of people’s opinions about me. Some people are right; some people are wrong. But that does not define who I am. That is not all of who I am. It’s really redundant and tired at this point.

BET J: Do you think that the R&B is as homophobic as the press makes it out to be? Or is it the press and record companies that are actually the more homophobic?

Patterson: When you come out as openly gay in the music world, you become, “Oh that’s they gay artist.” What is that about? It’s a cheap shot. Personally, I feel that it’s degrading and disrespectful, because it lessens the power of who an individual is. It’s unfortunate that we need labels – you got to be Jewish or you got to be whatever the label is.

BET J: So you don’t think identifying oneself as openly gay gives a sense of empowerment?

Patterson: It does. I remember talking to Meshell Ndegeocello and she told me that her record label took it upon itself to market her as the “bi-sexual R&B artist.” It wasn’t about her denying it or hiding it; her sexuality was what it was. Someone’s sexuality doesn’t have to be a selling point.

I realize that people need a leader who stands for something they believe in. I get that. I just don’t choose to be that leader. If I’m going to lead anything, I’m going to lead in way that’s going to bring us to a higher place of existence and really acknowledge how powerful we really are, and how limiting those labels can be. I’m just tired of people having issues with my sexuality.

My struggle has been to come to a point of clarification in which I can sit and articulate it and fully be conscious of how I feel about it as opposed to someone trying to catch me off guard and asking me.

BET J: Do you feel that a lot of people want you to be the gay poster child for R&B.

Some do. And to be honest, I’m the poster child already for a whole lot of people and for a whole lot of sh*t. I want to be the poster child for freedom and for someone who is cool with themselves and who doesn’t need someone else to agree or applaud. I think it shows in my music.

Particularly in the Black community, hang-ups on sexuality is retarded to me, like when you have one-on-one conversations with some people and everything is cool, but when you add four more people in the mix, sh*t changes. People start retreating, fronting, and changing their swagger, lowering their voices. I ain’t got time for that.


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