Tegan Quin (Tegan and Sara)
Our first independent release came out in 1999. Shortly after we signed a deal with Neil Young’s imprint Vapor Records. “LESBIAN TWINS SCORE RECORD DEAL” every headline and review screamed. 🙁 Article after article focused on anything but our music. But every single one mentioned our gender and sexuality.
“Beatle Maniacal Fans”, our “Oh so hip haircuts”, and our “elfin size”. Reviews of our live show rarely even mentioned the music. Just the lack of men in the audience, and their disbelief they could join in and enjoy a band fronted by two lesbians. They’d describe at length our lesbian fans and their obsessive loyalty to our band in what seemed like an attempt to diminish the experience. 🙁
If it wasn’t press it was male music fans coming to the merch booth to ask if someone else was writing our songs. Many meant it sincerely. They loved us but who was behind us? We were thrilled when The White Stripes covered our song “Walking With A Ghost”. But it only seemed to cause confusion for male journalists and radio Dj’s. Their mouths would say “You Wrote Walking With A Ghost”? Their eyes would say, “Prove it”.
With more success came more respect. Sort of. Rarely do we see anything quite so blatantly sexist as calling us “Tampon Rock” (Pitchfork) or disturbingly homophobic as “pretty good even if they do hate cock” (NME). But it happens from time to time in print, and everyday on social media. 🙁
Recently we were listed on RollingStone as one of the best live performances on the Oscars. 🙂 It read “Lesbian duo Tegan and Sara with Lonely Island”. 🙁 We tweeted “@rollingstone Lesbian Canadian Duo @teganandsara is honored to be included w/ heterosexual trio @lonleyisland”. They changed the copy immediately and tweeted back an apology. Progress?
As women in music it seems we HAVE to be categorized in the headline. Even now. Our gender, our sexuality, our looks, — all of it has to be defined, indexed, reduced, and brought to attention before the music is ever even mentioned. If it’s mentioned at all.
I’m left believing after 18 years in the music biz that the media is only interested in investigating our music if using the lens of gender and sexuality and how it applies. The music itself is not worthy of investigation otherwise. Why?