US folk star Jenny Owen Youngs comes out as lesbian and is engaged

US folk musician Jenny Owen Youngs has revealed that she is in a committed lesbian relationship and plans to marry her partner in a letter to fans

US folk star Jenny Owen Youngs comes out as lesbian and is engaged
16 June 2013

Jenny Owen Youngs has revealed she is engaged to another woman in an open letter to fans.

In the letter, posted online on the website on June 12, Youngs writes about her plans to marry this summer and about her decision to come out.

‘I’m writing to tell you, among other things, that I am super gay,’ Youngs wrote.

‘This may or may not come as a surprise to you. If it does: Surprise! If it does not: You were right all along! Either way: Hooray!’

‘I didn’t want to come out. I don’t want coming out to be a thing that anyone has to do … I just wish that being gay (or transgender, or asexual, or fill-in-the-blank here) was as unremarkable to the masses as being left-handed or blonde.

‘In a perfect world, nobody would have to experience any of the negative side-effects of figuring out that you’re gay, which can include feeling confused, shameful, afraid, lost, or alone. In a perfect world, everyone could just like who they like, and get on with it.

Youngs wrote that she had personally had difficulty coming to terms with her sexuality because of her religious upbringing.

‘I began to realize that I was interested in girls in junior high. At first, it made me uncomfortable,’ she wrote.

‘I grew up in a fairly rural, conservative town. I knew exactly one kid who was out at school, and he was harassed on a daily basis. I had always sort of liked feeling different from most of the kids at school – you know, poetry over football and whatnot. But I didn’t want to be that different.

‘My feelings were further complicated by my religious upbringing. My family attended a born-again style church which taught (as many churches do) that homosexuality is a sin. The price of that sin, should you find yourself unable to turn away from it, was to burn in a pit of fiery torment for all eternity.’

Youngs wrote that she came to accept her sexuality but had not sought to advertise her sexuality as an artist to avoid being pigeonholed as a ‘gay musician.’

‘I decided that I didn’t want to publicly address my sexuality,’ she wrote.

‘I didn’t think it was a big deal, or relevant to my job in any way. I also worried that the first word people would associate with me was going to be “gay” instead of “musician.” I didn’t want a non-musical part of myself overshadowing the musical part. Plus I figured it wasn’t anybody’s business.’

However Youngs wrote that she had decided to come out publicly to send a message to young people who might be struggling with their own sexuality.

‘I don’t think anyone should have to feel an obligation to come out,’ she wrote.

‘I don’t think that outing people is cool …. However, I’ve come to realize in recent months that a big part of my desire to hide this aspect of myself was rooted in those dusty old feelings: that there is something wrong, something bad, something less-than about being gay.

‘It brings me no pleasure to admit to you that I have felt these feelings. I want to appear strong, because I feel strong now. But at the same time I know it is important – perhaps even the whole point of writing this thing – to make myself vulnerable. Because I know that there are human beings out in the world who understand these feelings but cannot give them a name. I want to tell you that it’s okay to feel messed up. Feeling messed up is a part of life, but it is not the only part. And the only way out of that feeling is through.

‘This summer I am going to marry my fiancé. Her name is Kristin Russo and she is one half of the team behind Having a firsthand view of the work that she and [project partner] Dannielle do has been inspiring, and has also made me think more critically about my decision. What kind of a message does it send to a teenager when I avoid a question about my sexuality? Whatever the answer, I’m confident that it is no longer a message I am comfortable sending.

‘I think it is damaging and isolating for young people to look out into the world and not see a representation of their experience. To encounter others who are like you is to know that you are not alone. Even if you never meet them in real life, these representatives help to contextualize you – they are proof that you are part of something. You are not an anomaly. You are not a mistake.

‘I am thankful that in recent years, it has become a bit more common for people from all walks of life to step forward and identify themselves as human beings who also happen to be gay. I am proud to offer my voice to that expanding chorus.’

Youngs, 31, has released three albums and three EPs, most recently 2012’s An Unwavering Band of Light



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