The metal community tosses around the word "gay" more freely than anyone outside of the town of "South Park". So what's it like to actually be a homosexual and be into metal? Decibel (DecibelMagazine.com) recently talked with openly gay metal musicians and fans to get the not-so-straight story for the magazine's September 2006 issue, available on the newsstands now.Though singer Rob Halford rocked leather-daddy gear throughout most of JUDAS PRIEST's career, he didn't officially come out until he'd left PRIEST and was concentrating on his industrial project TWO. Still, he says, the timing had nothing to do with his distance from traditional metal. "It could just as easily have been [when I was in] FIGHT, which was very strong and hardcore; it could have easily happened on the back end of my time with PRIEST, before I went away and did my solo projects," he explains. "It was a very unplanned and unpremeditated moment — I just found the words coming out of my mouth. It was a wonderful moment for me, a very free moment. When the news broke, it flew around the world, and for some people it was quite a shock. For me, it was an important thing that I felt I needed to do. "As far as time is concerned, I absolutely think it would have been more difficult for me to have come out in the '70s or '80s," continues Halford, with the hindsight of a man who's been a part of heavy metal for almost as long as the genre has existed. "I was aware of the fallout and damage that could have occurred because of the reaction from some fans and labels and media, but most importantly to my bandmates. One of the biggest obstacles that gay men face is that we put everyone else first and ourselves second. We're always thinking, 'How is this going to damage my family? How is this going to damage my work mates? How is this going to damage everything else around me?' If I had been a stronger person back then… I'm much stronger now, but back then I would have said, 'Fuck everyone else. This is me. This is who I am. Accept me or reject me, I don't give a shit.' Again, all of that thinking has been brought on by all the bigotry and intolerance and hate for us that still exists." Halford's PRIEST bandmates knew of his orientation "right from the beginning. It was a non-issue," he says. I was fortunate because it could've been different. I think everyone knew that I was not going to go out there and start every performance with, 'Hi, I'm Rob Halford the metal god, and I'm a gay man,' because that was never the feeling for me at that point. There was never any need for it. I never suffered any band intolerance or friction or nasty comments or innuendos or that type of thing. I've certainly experienced it from some of the early tours with other bands and road crew. I heard it behind my back and saw it. It didn't affect me. I was like, 'Fuck you then.' "There are still stereotypes that all gay men are effeminate and weak and queeny," Halford notes. "Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, which is why I think it's unfortunate that that type of portrayal is still given to the straight general public. In my world, you couldn't have anything stronger or more masculine and intense. Without inflating myself, I still consider myself to be breaking ground to a level of people within the metal world. I still think we have a long way to go. It's part of the puritanical streak that exists in America in 2006. Over here in the U.K. and other parts of Europe, gays have assimilated into society because that really should be the main goal — not labeling people or orientations of people. We're just people; we're all part of the human race. That would be a wonderful achievement. I still think, in America, there is a tremendous way to go. One of the ways of chipping away at bigotry and chipping away at all that kind of intolerance is to have some profile, generally through celebrities. "I'm not one of these gay guys with a cause," Halford concludes. "I could and sometimes think I should get on my soapbox and start screaming and yelling, but that's just not part of my personality. I don't do things like that. Quite frankly, I'm not very efficient at it. I think there are more talented people than me in the gay community who have a stronger voice and a better way of explaining themselves. But we're still surrounded by a lot of problems." Decibel's entire five-page article, titled "A Rainbow in the Dark", focusing on gay musicians and fans in the metal community, can be found in the magazine's September 2006 issue. More information is available at DecibelMagazine.com.
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