by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
On Sunday, March 17, alternative folksinger Michelle Shocked (née Karen Michelle Johnston) made an impromptu speech against same-sex marriage during a performance at Yoshi's Nightclub in San Francisco. Johnston reportedly used homophobic slurs while she spoke, angering concertgoers to the point where they tweeted her words en masse and the concert shut down. While Johnston hasn't been shy to the press about being a 'born-again Christian' in the past, her fans in the Bay Area weren't prepared for just how shocked they'd be.
'I live in fear,' Shocked reportedly said, 'that the world will be destroyed if Gays are allowed to marry.'
'You can go on Twitter and say Michelle Shocked said 'God hates fags,' she reportedly continued.
As Johnston spoke, many patrons left the club in protest. Yoshi's quickly cut her microphone and closed early for the night, but not before banning Johnston for life.
'I don't want to discuss MS's rant. It's clear she's had a breakdown. Her career is over, so she's gotten what is deserved,' said patron Lisa Hubbert.
SHOCKED ISSUES APOLOGY
On Wednesday, March 20, Johnston apologized, claiming her comments had been misinterpreted - that she was not speaking to her own views, but rather those of 'some' Christians. Those who were there don't buy it.
One concertgoer, Matt Penfield, described her words as 'hateful,' 'totally sincere,' and 'super anti-Gay.'
In regard to politics, Johnston is a complicated figure. The longtime anti-corporate activist, who's been a vocal critic of the recording industry since before her first record deal, was arrested in 2011 at an Occupy Los Angeles protest.
At the peak of her career, in the early '90s, the singer had a large Lesbian fan base and reportedly said she was more than happy to be considered an 'honorary Lesbian.' Johnston didn't shy away from LGBT themes in the lyrics of some of her earlier songs either. One of her best-known songs, 'Come a Long Way,' fondly describes the sight of naked Gay men. At times, she was ambiguous about her own sexuality:
'I resent like hell that I was maybe 18 years old before I even heard the 'L' word. I mean, that's understood, growing up sheltered in a Mormon environment. But it would have made all the difference for me had I grown up knowing that the reason I didn't fit in, was because they hadn't told me there were more categories to fit into,' Johnston told Outlines, a now-defunct Chicago LGBT newspaper in April, 1990.
Sometime in the mid-2000s, the singer-songwriter became a born-again Christian and has since made multiple statements to the press against homosexuality, at one point proudly self-identifying as a homophobe.
MEANDER'S BACKS OUT
In just a matter of days, all 10 remaining shows in her current North American tour were canceled, including one in Seattle.
'As many of you know by now, Meander's Kitchen was scheduled to host Michelle Shocked on April 26th, and have cancelled that show,' the venue posted on its Facebook page Tuesday.
'Instead, we have rescheduled a Queer Burlesque and Cabaret for that night as a benefit for local Queer youth. By supporting our youth and helping to create a sense of place, community, and self, we help to short-circuit the cultural influences that so often leave us feeling alone, out of place, and living with self-hatred and denial. This is only one aspect of fighting bigotry, but it is one that is key to it getting better, and one that fills me personally with hope,' the post continued.
Tweeted Yoshi's: 'We at Yoshi's SF do not [and] will not ever tolerate the type of bigotry [and] hatred exhibited last night by [Michelle Shocked]; she will never be back.'
The fallout that has hit Johnston begs the question, has the LGBT movement reached a point where some things are just no longer OK for people in the limelight to say? It certainly looks that way. Johnston will interview with Nicole Sandler of Radio or Not (http://radioornot.com) on Friday, March 22, at 3 p.m. PST. The singer-songwriter is still maintaining that her words were misinterpreted.
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