Christian Singer Jennifer Knapp Comes Out




Knapp no longer feels like being gay and being Christian are in opposition, even if others do. “I’m quite comfortable to live with parts of myself that don’t make sense to you,” she says. She acknowledges that such peace is hard-won in her community. “I keep running across people living closeted, who have literally chosen one or the other,” Knapp marvels. And she knows she risks losing some of her biggest fans when word of her sexuality goes public. “I think it’s going to be shocking and feel like a betrayal to some people who live their spiritual lives through the music they listen to,” says Knapp. That’s part of why she’s decided to come out in advance of the record — she doesn’t want people to love her music and then discover that their own values won’t let them sing along full-throated.

Ultimately, though, the risk is worth it. For Knapp, coming out means the chance to live honestly, to be “wholly myself.” She’s uncomfortable with the idea that she might be a political figure or a flash point for debates in the Christian music community. Then she recounts some of the e-mail she’s received from fans during her shadowed absence from the stage. Some have been full of righteous anger at the thought that she might be a lesbian. Others have urged her to “unfurl the banner,” as she says, to come out and lead a revolution among gay Christians. But then there’s the e-mail Knapp receives from a young fan asking, if she is a lesbian, to please come out: “That would help me feel less alone.” Over the free-ranging hour we’ve spent together, it’s the first time Knapp’s voice cracks. No matter how personal her transformation might be, telling the world is inescapably, publicly important.

Later that night Knapp plays a set to a full house at Manhattan’s City Winery. She follows old friend Derek Webb, a straight and happily married Christian artist, who plays “What Matters More,” a track off his recent album that is explicitly critical of antigay Christians. Knapp is less blunt, playing a mix of her Christian favorites and new songs that hew to themes of love and loss. She does include “Inside,” the song that broadcasts the fears and frustrations that lick around the edges of what is otherwise an exciting and joyful return to what Knapp does best. But as she closes the set, graciously telling the applauding crowd that the night’s schedule doesn’t allow an encore, it’s clear that no matter what happens next, Jennifer Knapp will be playing music.

And that, in the end, is all she can hope to come home to.