Whether Michelle Shocked is indeed as homophobic as she seemed to be to everyone present at Yoshi's San Francisco on Sunday, or whether she was just trying to be provocative in an albeit fundamentalist Christian way in a misguided bid for attention, is a bit unclear. However what is clear is that Shocked, who isn't exactly the most relevant performer in 2013, pulled a stunt that either backfired horribly, or succeeded in getting her name repeated and retweeted enough that she's arguably relevant again, if only for another fifteen minutes.
Allow us to examine what little Twitter evidence there is.
As of today, Shocked has not directly commented on Sunday's outburst, even as venues across the country are canceling dates in what was a mini-comeback tour, itself fueled by nostalgic fans on Twitter. (Her booking agent hasn't worked with her for four years.) She has, however, retweeted an assortment of things in the last 24 hours, both negative and positive, including the call by one fan to "Get back on your meds girl!" And here she is responding to one fan who asked her what was going on. She replies, "Just my usual troublemaking, at the expense of dear friends who trust me, even when I appear to be gay-bashing." So, perhaps she feels as some fundamentalists do, that she only hates the sin and not the sinner, and it's just Prop 8 (California's same-sex marriage ban) that she's really fighting for.
To confuse things further, she retweeted this comment from a fan just minutes ago: "Praying for you. Never fun to get chased by a mob with no sense of irony or nuance."
And here we have a self-proclaimed "friend" of Shocked's writing a terrible poem that seems to want to blame her statements on "childhood trauma" and calling for "compassionate love." Shocked retweeted this poem too.
But as the Daily Beast notes today, Shocked reportedly said on stage, "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." That may not be gay bashing, but it certainly is gay marriage-bashing. And not a lot of nuance there. [Update: In response to some further tweeting about the "nuance" comment, Shocked replies, "When it comes to parsing parsley, I ain't persnickety~" ALSO, it seems that Shocked has promised an interview to a radio host friend, Nicole Sandler, on the web radio station radioornot. It's airing Thursday at 8 a.m. Pacific Time.]
Shocked has a reputation as a bit of a petulant provacateur and chameleon, having transitioned from being a "skateboard punk rocker" and implied-lesbian alt-folk artist who got arrested protesting in San Francisco in the 80s and spray-painted an anarchy symbol in a video, to being a heterosexually married woman and admitted alcoholic, to being a Pentacostal Christian who donated a house boat to her church, likes to tout her born-again-ness in the press, and now rails against the evils of gay marriage.
She's a person for whom her own identity, it seems, has always been a source of confusion and torment, and her trajectory calls to mind this piece from the NYT about ex-gay Michael Glatze, who went from being a radical young queer activist in San Francisco to being a Bible student in Wyoming who's now trying to date women. Both are characters for whom homosexuality seems to be a source of psychological weight, and for whom only the extreme poles of identity make sense.
The same year she married her ex-husband, Bart Bull, in 1990, she gave an interview to Chicago's OutLines indicating that she'd recently had her first lesbian affair, and in accepting an Album of the Year prize at the 1989 New Music Awards, in a category up against (now out) lesbians Tracy Chapman and the Indigo Girls, she joked that the category should be renamed "They Might Be Lesbians."
But all that changed over the course of 20 years. She gave up drinking in the last decade, got a divorce, and devoted herself fully to her church. She has previously said, in 2008, that homosexuality was "no more or less a sin than fornication," but she has also referred to herself as "the world’s greatest homophobe." So which is it? Given all the shifts, we'd have to say she probably isn't that sure herself, but she's erring on the side of fundamentalist caution.
Oh, did we mention she also got arrested again in 2011 during an Occupy L.A. protest? Here she is performing with some fellow occupiers in Macarthur Park just last spring.
Hell, even the bio page on her website offers seven different "bio choices," suggesting she herself doesn't even know how to represent herself.
We doubt the Supreme Court is listening as far as her beliefs about gay marriage are concerned. But more of the world has certainly heard them, Michelle! Maybe her pastor put her up to it, and she's just impressionable and loyal enough to have been his mouthpiece. We look forward to her at least setting things straight, but we're guessing that any official statements she makes aren't going to make a ton of sense either, except perhaps to her fellow parishioners who've never listened to "Come a Long Way."
Speaking of, here's the only fuzzy video of her biggest hit that exists on the internet, via Shocked's Myspace page. Note the lyric in the second verse about the "gay boys" posing in the plaza "wearing no clothes," and how she waves happily to them like she's their friend, circa 1992. (We also note with renewed confusion the religious references in the first 40 seconds of the video, including a Virgin Mary image, and an "I ♥ Allah" bumper sticker.)
UPDATE: For what it's worth, and ahead of her Thursday a.m. interview, Shocked has now issued a formal apology in which she states, "I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that." Though we have a hard time believing so many people in the audience could have misunderstood what she said, she now denies that her direct message was to condemn gay marriage in the name of her faith. It was, apparently, about what other people believe, and she was trying to express her "human sympathy" for the people who hold such beliefs. Anyway, as we expected, it doesn't make a ton of sense. She does say, and we believe this part: "I’d like to say this was a publicity stunt, but I’m really not that clever, and I’m definitely not that cynical." [EW]
UPDATE 2: The Guardian managed to get the ACTUAL AUDIO of what Shocked said on Sunday, and this should clarify things outside of her official apology. She begins, "These are sincerely the two things I'm most passionate about, y'all. I love me some Jesus. And I love liberation. And I did not know how I was going to come to San Francisco and authentically represent both ... "
Then she goes on to discuss her belief in the "invisible man" known as God:
It's not too late. You can jump into this Jesus gang anytime you want. But, um, I was in a prayer meeting yesterday and you gotta appreciate how scared, how scared, folks on that side of the equation are. I mean, from their vantage point, and I really shouldn't say ‘their,' ‘cause it's mine, too, we are nearly at the end of time and from our vantage point, we're gonna be, uh, I think maybe Chinese water torture is gonna be the means, the method, once Prop 8 gets instated and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the homosexuals, I'm pretty sure that that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back. You said you wanted reality. If someone would be so gracious as to please tweet out that Michelle Shocked just said from stage, ‘God hates faggots.' Would you do it now?
... I ain't scared. I ain't scared. This is not a tribunal. This is one woman's opinion, and it's fun. It's a lot of fun. I am so committed to loving each and every soul in this room tonight that I could not come here and ignore you. I could not come here and pretend that I was above the conversation and I could not pretend that I was beneath it, either. I had to join it. Thank you for that one hand clap.
Yep. She's pretty confused herself about what she believes. Several people in the audience then begin shouting at her and she goes off mic to say two somewhat contradictory things. "I am sick of Christians filled with hypocrisy hiding behind the symbol of the cross...I believe that the word of God is just what it says it is: the truth."
And, eventually, Yoshi's shut the whole thing down.
Listen for yourself: