Melissa Etheridge will never forget the first time she stepped into a gay bar.
She was 18 years old when she walked through the doors of a Boston nightclub called The Prelude in 1979. “It was frightening,” the music icon tells me. “But the second time I went in, I was like, ‘OK, my people. I’m home.’”
I talked to Etheridge on the carpet at the American Music Awards on Sunday afternoon. It’s not even 24 hours since we learned the horrific news that a gunman killed five people and injured at least 25 others during a late-night mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“My love goes out to all my brothers and sisters in Colorado Springs,” Etheridge said. “This problem we have in our society – the fear of others – is an epidemic and a disease. To say that people who are different are to be feared created this sort of event.”
Kim Petras said she first found acceptance at queer clubs. “I’m someone who has needed gay clubs since I was a child to feel like I belong anywhere and to hear the music that I wanted to hear and be around people the see me for who I am,” the “Unholy” hitmaker said. “That was my safe place as a trans girl, as a teenager, as someone who didn’t fit in.”
Petras, who grew up in Germany and is now based in Los Angeles, called for stricter gun control in the U.S. “The only place where I feel accepted and free is a gay club,” she said. “Something needs to be done.”
Dove Cameron, who identifies as queer, said she and her team had a group hug and moment to honor the Colorado Springs victims before hitting the AMAs. “It’s incredibly fucked up. It’s incredibly disheartening. It’s depressing,” she said. “If you’re in the public eye, even if you’re not queer, you need to be speaking up, you need say something because the public is susceptible to being swayed. There’s a lot going on right now that is anti-queer. We all need to be taking a stand and standing with our queer friends and doing the most that we can for our community.”
She added, “Queer visibility is more important than ever…it’s in a permanent state of importance because of how much our rights are up for grabs right now.”