BY Lesley Goldberg
November 02 2009 4:30 PM ET
What was it like working with your childhood mentor, Elton John, on “Caroline?”
Oh, my God. I have only memories to draw from because I was so far from being in the moment — it was so unbelievable. It was incredible. It seemed like a really pivotal time in my life — finishing up Give Up the Ghost — it was the last thing we did on the record and it made it feel like it was finally done for me.
Did you discuss your coming-out with him at all?
I didn't actually. I've never discussed being gay with Elton, and I've talked to him a few times.
What prompted you to publicly come out now?
I feel like I've always publicly been out. I've always lived really honestly, I've never been calculated about using gender pronouns onstage or in songs or in interviews. I've always been really open and really honest. But I can tell you that no one has ever asked me any questions about my sexuality in any interviews. Ever.
Even though I've always been out, I've never really made a point to exploit or separate that part of my life from what I already do in my career day to day. I believe that as long as the information is available to those who need it and I answer any questions honestly and with consideration that I'm living proof of the strides that were made for my generation.
In Seattle we used to have our gay pride parade on Capitol Hill — the gay area in town — on Broadway. I used to love that it was up there because I knew all the great spots and me and my friends would play music and hang at our favorite restaurants and feel safe, etc.
So the LGBTQ community decides to move it — to Fourth Avenue downtown. I was really bummed because being in the gay area was more comfortable for me. Fourth Avenue is where Seattle has all its other parades: Torchlight, Seafair, etc. People bring their kids and it's really diverse. I understand now why we moved our gay pride parade to downtown Seattle. Attendance has quadrupled. It's finally one of the parades; you see tons of straight people, media, and kids. What you're seeing is the perfect combination of multiculturalism and assimilation: a real celebration of diversity where everyone is celebrating, not just the diverse.
I would like to see this happen everywhere the way-pavers — the Indigo Girls, Elton, k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge, etc. — have paved the way. Now we get to enjoy the privilege of living honestly and with opportunity and to demand nothing less. Some of the kindest work is done from the middle of the road.
When did you realize you were gay?
I was 15, and I came out when I was 15 as well.
How did your family respond?
Tentatively but supportively. I'd never met a gay person in my life when I came out to my parents, so I just continued living the way I always lived. I was out with everyone; I was out at school — I was the only out person in my high school.
What was that like?
They were tough times. I felt a lot of indifference, actually, from other students and teachers. I didn't really feel a lot of the hatred and discrimination that I think kids feel today in small towns. For some reason, it just didn't happen to me.
What has fan response to your coming-out been like?
Nobody has responded to me about talking about being gay in the L.A. Times. Most fans just assume that it's been a part of my life since I began.