I wanted the kids of gay and lesbian parents to know there are other kids like them in the world.
Long-lived lesbian idols include all kinds of entertainers and educators.
From every lesbian’s crush k.d. lang to mainstream comic Ellen DeGeneres, we LLLs include musicians whose lyrics break our hearts and comedians who’ll help us get over it. But rarely does a lesbian performer successfully combine poetry, politics, and laughable humor. With song titles like “Everyone’s Fucked But Me,” “Closet Femme,” and “My Baby’s in the Beer Tent Again,” singer-songwriter, comic, and educator Kate Reid manages to make us LOL at the world even as we’re changing it. And furthermore, Reid’s rocked a cute, pink-topped hairstyle since before it was trendy.
Long-lived lesbian caveat: technically Kate Reid is a little young for this column.
Born in 1971, she says, “In some ways, I feel like I was born too late, that I was just a kid growing up at the height of second-wave feminism, but in the end, I found my way to it. I found my way into being a queer, lesbian woman through music.” With a pro-active, pro-age viewpoint like that, Reid’s a 44-year-old we LLLs can LLLove.
We want to know all about your music and your work as an educator. But first, let’s talk about your hair. Is there a story there?
(laughing). A story about my hair? No, I just like having great, interesting hair, and red and pink are my favorite colors. I have to admit, like many women of my generation I was influenced by Ani Difranco in the 1990s. I have dyed my hair for years; even when I was teaching in a conservative high school I had pink and purple hair. I started in the late 1990s with pinks and purples, and then I got into the pink and red just before my first album came out, mid-2000s.
So you’ve got neon hair in a sort of soft Mohawk, a nose ring, and a lot of piercings. Working with young kids or in conservative parts of Canada, do you find that your appearance can be a little intimidating?
It scores points with youth! That’s because it’s a little bit different, even though it’s not that different anymore. Now a lot of people have crazy hair, and piercings are even a little outdated, but I just keep them because I like them. But when I go to schools, especially elementary schools, the little kids will say, “I love your hair!”
I do a lot of work in Ontario, where I was born and grew up. I live in Vancouver now but the majority of my education work is in schools in Ontario, so I’m always flying back to work. Maybe because the people there like me, I guess they appreciate my appearance too.
For your most recent CD, Queer Across Canada, you interviewed 74 people about their lives. Tell us about it.
I first got the idea for the concept album when I was playing the Vancouver Folk Festival in 2009. While walking through the festival grounds with my partner, we ran into someone she’d known from many years ago in the lesbian community. This woman was pulling a wagon with two kids in it, and they looked alike, and my partner asked if they were her kids. The woman said that one of them was hers, and the other one is a friend’s child who she was taking care of, but they had the same donor dad!
I started thinking about all the different ways that queer people can make kids and create family. There are no shotgun weddings in the queer community, because we have to plan these things, right? A lot of money and thought go into having children; it is never an accident. That’s where the idea for the album came from.
I did a call-out to my listeners, saying I wanted to make this concept CD about growing up with gay and lesbian parents. I interviewed some parents but mostly focused on the kids — the youngest person I interviewed was five, and the oldest [child of queers] I spoke to was a 39-year-old woman who grew up with moms. It was really fascinating, and the songs came out of those conversations. My partner’s kids were interviewed too, and they sing on the album. There are a lot of queer youth, from a youth group run by Qmunity, singing on the CD. It was really fun, and I really enjoyed interviewing people because their stories are so interesting.