Crystal Bowersox Talks Coming Out, Touring, and Michfest

The singer-songwriter tells The Advocate she opposes Michfest's intention to exclude trans women but will still headline the event.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

May 21 2014 6:15 AM ET

Crystal Bowersox

When 28-year-old Crystal Bowersox appeared on Good Day L.A. in November to perform her single "Coming Out for Christmas," she was doing just that. On the show that day, the American Idol alum revealed publicly for the first time that she is bisexual. She was met with support and was even included among The Advocate's Person of the Year finalists as a symbol of the bisexual population's increasing visibility.

Since then, Bowersox has done what she does best: touring relentlessly and working on her next project. A year has passed since Bowersox's last full-length album, and fans can expect a new five-song EP in June.

That pivotal Christmas single "was really for the LGBT community," Bowersox says in an interview with The Advocate. She was inspired to write the song after looking back at her experiences as a teenager, struggling to relate to public figures.

"I had a hell of a rough time with it, growing up in rural Ohio," she says. "The more people in the public eye who are outspoken about it, the better it will be for young people."

Bowersox struggled with her identity throughout high school. Later, after reading statistics on homeless youth in the U.S., and around the world, she was shocked to find that at least 40 percent were LGBT youth kicked out of their homes for no reason other than their orientation.

"I don't think think anyone's sexuality needs to be a public issue, other than to give others the confidence to love themselves wholeheartedly, and to be their true, authentic self without any shame," she says.

This summer Bowersox is scheduled to perform at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, which has become a lightning rod for controversy over its exclusion of trans women. Michfest's organizers have been attempting to articulate the festival's long-standing "womyn born womyn" focus, claiming it isn't a ban on all trans women but merely a request that they not attend.

Though other performers have pulled out of the festival, Bowersox says it is possible to both push for a trans-inclusive atmosphere and perform at the event.

"I believe in equality for everyone, and I do hope that in the future the Womyn's Fest will choose to include transgender women," Bowersox says. "In your heart, in your mind, in your lifestyle, in your body — if you're a woman, you're a woman. That's that."

She adds, "I can also understand the festival's stance on wanting to include, I guess, 'natural born' women — that's such a strange term. It's a place where women can go to feel completely free, and I think it's a good thing to have a festival, but at the same time I think that maybe they should open their hearts and minds a little more."

The Indigo Girls and other performers stuck by the festival for years while simultaneously trying to pressure its organizers to evolve on including trans women but eventually dropped out when they showed no sign of relenting. Regarding others who have dropped out of the festival or declined invitation, Bowersox says, "I have a lot of respect for the Indigo Girls and all the other artists who have performed at the festival in the past and have decided to take that stance. I've never been to the festival. This will be the first time, and I'm a little torn on it. I'm going to go check it out, see what it's like. I definitely support the inclusion of all women."

Meanwhile, Michfest organizer Lisa Vogel has called on her supporters to rally behind Bowersox and other performers by buying their music, liking their Facebook pages, or through any other sign of appreciation. Some performers have backed away rather than get caught up in the debate. Lea DeLaria quit the festival lineup, saying "I do not wish to be a party to infighting."

For her part, Bowersox says she relates to the erasure and exclusion many trans people experience.

"I know that as a bisexual, sometimes people who are gay or lesbian look down upon the bisexual community as well and assume that people who are bisexual just don't know what they want or are just playing both sides of the fence, and that's not the case, either," she says. "I see a connection there as far as feeling like you're not feeling a part of it."

Still, she does joke about the number of interviews she's now done that are focused on her sexual orientation and her boyfriend's feelings on the matter.

"He's like, 'You do all of these interviews about your sexuality, and just tell them that you love me, OK?'"

For more on Crystal Bowersox, including upcoming tour dates, visit her website.

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