In this 2018 interview, British-Canadian singer/songwriter Carole Pope, whose music can be described as a provocative blend of hard-edged and new-wave rock “pushing gender norms and celebrating the female gaze,” talks being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, her music, and her journey so far.
—By Rebecca Kahn
What was your journey like to embrace your identity and being vocal about queer issues? Well, I don’t really have any examples. I just kind of did what I did and you know, people embraced. I talked about my sexuality, and how people come out, and that was definitely something that people could relate to.
How do you stand up for, inspire, and encourage others to embrace their identities and fight for what they believe in? Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Some people are judging you, but the majority of people don’t really care. People nowadays are more experimental sexuality. In a lot of ways, it’s a non-issue. It’s only an issue with people who are uptight or right-wing Christians, or whatever. I think lately people embrace it for the most part.
You seem to be a pillar or someone people look up to in the LGBTQ+ community – can you explain how that happened and what that means to you? I think that happened because there wasn’t really anyone else doing what we were doing as a band and as artists at that time – we started in the 70s and 80s, and you know, because we had a hit with “Highschool Confidential,” because I’m singing about a woman. A lot of people have told me that that song has helped them come out. It wasn’t anything conscious. It wasn’t a conscious thing. I was just like, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. I didn’t think of the ramifications, I just thought that I would be sexually open and people can interpret it however you want. It’s really my big issue that people are so sexually repressed in North America. I’m always going to push that envelope and I’m always going to point out, politically, how screwed up that is. So I’m just always going to do that, I’m doing that now.
How do you hope to see queer culture and politics evolve in the near future? As I said, people are getting more accepting generally now, and it should really be a non-issue. It’s just so crazy that people are obsessed with who someone sleeps with because when I meet somebody, I don’t care what you do sexually, I just care whether you’re a good person or not. That’s the last thing on my mind. I love it when people are really sexually fluid. I really think that that was more evident in the ‘80s when men wore makeup and people were androgynous. And now, in general, people are not into that and fashion is so bland.
How has the scene changed over time? In what other ways do you think it has changed? I think people are definitely pushing the gender boundaries and identifying as they/them and I love that … and I’ve always loved the two-spirit identity. I think that First Nations people are much more evolved to have that kind of sexuality, to appreciate that kind of sexuality and understanding of gender. When I was growing up, I was like, it just seems weird that there are just 2 sexes. You know, it just doesn’t seem natural. It’s certainly not natural in the animal kingdom. We have male and female and whatever else, and people are just so… uptight about that. Not everybody, but yeah.
And how do you see intersectionality playing a role in LBGTQIA+ rights? Like how does it connect to other humans rights issues or things like that? It’s an issue that should be embraced within the community. Part of being in the community is being sexually fluid, so anything should go… anything goes.
How do different generations interact in the community – in what ways do they already come together or need to come together to make a change? I just think everyone should be. The community is very political, which kind of makes me crazy. Everybody should be open to whatever. I just want more openness. That’s the only way I can answer that. I’m really not involved in all that. The only time I get involved in that is when, as an artist, and you know, I’m trying to play the Gay Pride and there’s a committee that has to decide.. why is there a committee? Just yes or no. Yeah, it just makes me crazy. It’s too political in that way. Being gay or lesbian, or whatever is all about sexual freedom. So, it should be all about freedom and openness and embracing people.
And how would you describe the culture overall in LGBTQIA+ spaces in NYC, for example, or other places you’ve lived, or just in general or across cities? Well, I’ve lived in LA and New York a lot, and it’s very welcoming and open and there’s a sense of community, especially in New York. I guess most of the people I know are gay or lesbian. I just feel like I’m with my people and it’s welcoming and it’s great and we can talk about things and make jokes about things that not all straight people are going to be into.
Switching gears a bit to your career, or it doesn’t have to be about your career, but what’s your proudest accomplishment in your life so far? Just making music, and the fact that people want to hear it still. I just want people to know that I’m still making music and still making videos. It’s just so much fun and so freeing to perform. I love the people I work with, and I’m collaborating with different people like Clara Venice, who… looks like a Japanese anime character, we did a video together and we’re doing another one. It’s fun to branch out more with other people.