Holly Near Is Still Singing After All These Years

She was the first out lesbian in People magazine, an originator of the women's music movement, and a costar in several big-name TV series (like Mod Squad) and films (such as Dogfight, alongside River Phoenix). We talk with Holly Near about her huge new album and a life of devotion to LGBT rights.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

May 13 2013 6:00 AM ET


Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, Holly Near, and Pete Seeger

Do you think people are getting more understanding of sexual fluidity? I mean in the 1990s. I felt like you — and other lesbians that fell in love with a man. like JoAnn Loulan  — were crucified for loving a man.
I don't blame anyone for their confusion. I had plenty of my own. Women came out to my songs, they looked to me for leadership, and in the beginning you could count on one hand the number of nationally known out lesbian artists. Literally, one hand — and still have your thumb free! So if they thought one of those leaders was going to betray them, they got scared. But over time, they saw I had not betrayed. I still stood on the front lines. I still sang lesbian songs. I still advocated for lesbian rights and cultural support. I think we are fine now. Trust takes time.

Your songs are still often gender-neutral, though. Is that a commitment to LGBT listeners?
Yes. It gives room for all the different ways in which we love. If I use a gender, I tend to use she.

Tags: Music

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