Next up in our Queer+ Voices series, we'll be featuring vocalist and songwriter Celeste Barbier, who proudly identifies as a lesbian woman.
Image description: Album artwork depicts a splitscreen with a pinkish purple moonscape on the left and a orageish yellow sunscape on the right. On the center line toward the bottom of the graphic is a photo of Celeste Barbier wearing bright orange eyeshadow, blue lipstick, and a fringed silver necklace. She has blonde hair on our left side and black hair on our right side, a moon-shaped earring on our left, a sun-shaped earring on our right. White text reads: "Celeste Barbier." Orange and blue text reads: "Two Worlds." Artwork by Rene Cosby. Photo Credit: Gunslinger Photography
Tell us a little bit about your coming out experience(s). How has life changed for you since being “out”?
CB: The first time I realized I was queer was my senior year in high school. I always thought something was different as I had no interest in boys, but at the time I was living in the Bible Belt in The Woodlands, TX, and I really was hesitant to come out. I ended up with a full vocal performance scholarship to Chapman University in Orange County, CA and came out right away when I moved to Cali. I immediately became an activist and vocal about being LGBTQ+ and got involved with campus organizations and volunteering as a celebrity escort for GLAAD.
At this time my family had stopped talking to me, but I called up my mom to tell her I had met celebrities like Liz Taylor and Shirley McClain. She asked how I met them. I said, “At the GLAAD Awards." She asked what is that? I replied, “The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation." She asked why I would be at that. I said, “Because I am in the LGBTQ+ group at campus and they asked us to volunteer." She said what kind of group is that. I told her. She asked why am I in this group. I told her, “Because I am a lesbian, Mom!" Her reply? “No you aren't. You are way too feminine to be gay and if you are it is just a cop out for trying to understand and love the opposite sex. It is the easy way out!"
I was shocked by her response, especially because my Mom was so butch, she was referred to as “Sir," and as a flight attendant she had many gay friends! We never really spoke again, but I have always been very out and proud of who I am and my marriage to my wife in all spaces and places.
LBP: How do other aspects of your identity intersect (or perhaps clash) with your sexuality?
CB: I was raised a Catholic, but I felt like I had no place in the church as a woman with no desire to be a mother or with a man or even a nun. I decided to make my great exit, and much to my mother's dismay, I dropped out of confirmation when I did not agree with the answers they gave me to my questions. First, I decided to explore Wicca, as Goddess worship of the feminine divine was so central to the beliefs, but it was still very much ritual-based, and I wanted to get away from that. I am very spiritual, and I do have a church I love called Agape Spiritual Center that embraces all people, which to me is paramount for any spiritual practice or community. Being gay was a large part of what made me seek a new relationship and experience with God.
Square graphic with yellow background and large white quotation mark at the top. At bottom of square, large black text reads: "queer+ voices." In the middle, in black text, is a quote from Celeste's interview. (The second to last sentence of her response to question 3). Under the quote, in bold black text reads: "~Celeste Barbier. Pronouns: She/Her/Hers"
LBP: Pride is a celebration of liberation but also an acknowledgement of struggle, resistance, and revolution. Where do you see yourself in that celebration? Where do you see yourself in that struggle?
CB: As a 39 year old woman when I became aligned with my queer identity in 1999, I realized how many rights were still being denied and how discrimination was allowed in housing (my first college dorm roommate asked to move out when she found out I was gay), work (I lost my first job because they found out I was gay), and military (when recruitment officers called I just told them I was gay and they hung up). I realized although some people generally accepted me, even pretended to be my friends, they would not support my obtaining equal rights to get married or adopt. They did not want me to have access to those rights! That was shocking and clarifying. I was finally able to celebrate a legally acknowledged marriage to my wife Rene in 2008. That will always be my biggest celebration for so many reasons.
I have always supported Civil Rights and want to support anyone and everyone to have equal rights regardless of their identity, and I get so fired up when I see new acts of prejudice and discrimination being created by politicians against LGBTQ+ people. I feel the need to acknowledge how far we have come and the changes made, but I think we really need to refocus on the work that needs to be done to protect the rights we have gained and continue the fight. In a way, I feel like having to cancel Pride celebrations this year in the midst of the pandemic and BLM protests, that we can and should take the time to refocus on who we are in this world and what we want to represent. For a long time, Pride became a queer party to show off our kinky fun side, but it still needs to be based on changing society perceptions and showing our diversity.
LBP: As an artist, how does your “queerness" or sexual orientation show up in your creative work?
CB: As an artist I am vocal in all my shows about my love for my wife. In fact my first album featuring my first original song is a dedication to her and our love. My next album, released on July 11, is a collaboration where I used her art on my album cover. She is an incredible artist, but unlike me, does not enjoy the spotlight, so I take every opportunity I can to share my spotlight with her. She is my muse and I am hers. Our lives are completely intertwined as are our creative outlets, but we both like to make our art and music accessible to all people so it can resonate with any audience. I would not call my music lesbian music or her art queer art, but to some it might be interpreted as such.
LBP: What queer-centered artists, shows, films, podcasts, authors, etc. are you into right now?
CB: I am very into the music of LP and I really enjoyed watching the series Pose and the historical relevancy. Between The Sheets is a great queer centered podcast with lesbian host, Gaye Anne Bruno. A lot of what I am into is centered around kindness and compassion and is queer inclusive but not specific to our community.
LBP: What are some of your favorite LGBTQ+ organizations or businesses you'd recommend our readers look into, buy from, donate to, volunteer for, etc.?
CB: I have always been a big supporter of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center which has had a huge impact in my community over the years. They do sensitivity training for the entire North County in schools, fire departments, police departments, city offices, and more. They do a lot to support trans youth and homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
LPB: Open mic - Is there anything else you'd like to mention in closing?
CB: We are one people with many faces, beliefs, and preferences. I hope to see the world celebrate diversity as we show there is nothing to fear. I want people to know love is love and compassion should always be the goal as well as using whatever talents we have to benefit whomever we can. We all have wounds and trauma to overcome, but none of us can survive without each other. Ultimately, no matter how many labels I wear, I am human and I am here to experience humanity, the dark and light, and to inspire and to live and to love. My only true desire in this life is to be a beacon of that light and to inspire the best in everyone I meet.
To find out more about Celeste Barbier, visit www.celestebarbier.com. Stay tuned throughout the month of July for more Queer+ Voices interviews!
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