Now, in 2015, actor, writer and musician Carrie Brownstein has legions of queer fans. Not only is the performer out herself, but she also features in new movie Carol (which stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in a May-December relationship), and is also set to star in Transparent season two (as Ali Pfefferman’s best friend, Syd).
But Brownstein didn’t exactly have the easiest path to being out as although other big names such as Ellen Page, Amber Heard, and Evan Rachel Wood all came out of their own accord, the performer was actually outed.
In 1996, just as her band Sleater-Kinney was becoming more famous, the band was featured in an issue of Spin magazine. While this would be exciting for any up and coming musician, not long after the issue was published, Brownstein got a phone call from her father saying that the publication had revealed that Brownstein and bandmate Corin Tucker had dated.
Speaking to SheWired about the debacle, Brownstein explains that neither her nor Tucker had told their parents or families and that the outing left her feeling “splintered and smashed”. Moreover:
I didn’t think or know if I was gay; dating Corin was just something that had happened. I had not yet figured out who I was, and now I was robbed of the opportunity to publicly do so; to be in flux.
From that point on, any denial or rescinding would seem like backpedaling or shame to a group of people whom I didn’t want to alienate. Yet I felt it was unfair to be labeled when I had yet to find a label for myself, and when binary, fixed identities held no meaning or safety for me.”
Brownstein also tells the publication that although she sees the importance in visibility and feels that it’s “corrosive to be hidden”, she doesn’t think that “anybody ‘owes’ anything.”. This sort of terminology is “dangerous” says Brownstein, and “we need to change the conversation from ‘Do you owe me this?’ to ‘Are you living your best self?’”
Moreover, Brownstein is outspoken about the way that the media discusses out celebrities as well.
She is “unashamed of the identifier ‘queer,'” but, Brownstein asks, “I don’t know if that is the best description of Portlandia or the best description of Sleater-Kinney or the best description of [Brownstein’s new book ‘Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl’]”.
Rather, she challenges the media to come up with “more sophisticated, nuanced of ways of writing and critiquing” her work.