Etheridge first appeared on the cover of The Advocate
more than a year after coming out at President
Clinton’s first inaugural celebration, she was
33 years old. She’d already released four platinum
albums, won a Grammy, gone on tour with the Eagles, and
performed at Woodstock ’94.
In fairness to
Melissa, she wasn’t thrilled with the “Great
Dyke Hope” tag. For this gracious young woman
from Kansas, the label must have felt a bit rude. Even
as recently as 1994, “dyke” was a rougher word
than it is now. But for us it was the highest of
rock-and-roll compliments. And it still rings true.
years and eight more Advocate covers. There’s
still no one quite like Etheridge, because what makes her a
superstar isn’t just that throaty swagger in
her voice. It’s the way she makes her life as a
gay musician seem, well, easy.
Case in point: In
her acceptance speech for best original vocal at the
79th Academy Awards last month, Etheridge said without
hesitation, “I have to thank my incredible
wife, Tammy, and our four children…” And just
like that, she dismissed the 40 states that invalidate
same-sex unions and swept aside all the Focus on the
Family babble against gay parenting—without
breaking a sweat.
Of course, we saw
it coming. In her joint interview with then-girlfriend
and filmmaker Julie Cypher back in 1994, Etheridge talked
about the importance of accepting who you are.
“On a spiritual level I believe that
confronting the fear of coming out loosened up and freed all
other aspects in my life. I just think that when you
do that for yourself, when you stand up and say,
‘This is what I am,’ then good things come to
that amounts to her marriage to actress Tammy Lynn
Michaels, four children, beating breast cancer, electrifying
America with her bald and beautiful comeback
performance at the 2005 Grammy Awards, and of course,
more acclaimed albums and sold-out stadium shows.
it’s all a matter of evolution, quips Etheridge:
“A lesbian is the highest form of life. I heard
that in the hierarchy of reincarnation, the lowest
form is a heterosexual man.”