Singer Rufus Wainwright urges Americans to fight global LGBT+ threats

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 15:26 GMT

Rufus Wainswright poses for an undated photo. . Handout courtesy of Rufus Wainswright / Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Gay American-Canadian singer-songwriter says pushback on LGBT+ rights in conservative U.S. states is ‘troublesome’ but bigger threats persist elsewhere

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK, May 18 (Openly) - As conservative states seek to limit transgender rights in the United States, double Grammy Award-nominated singer Rufus Wainwright said Americans should not forget the hardships faced by LGBT+ people in other parts of the world.

"It's really important that gay people in North America should fight for what we need here, but always keep an eye on the devastation that's occurring around the planet," the gay American-Canadian singer-songwriter said in an interview.

Wainwright said that while the introduction of more than 250 LGBT+ rights-related bills by U.S. state legislatures this year was "troublesome", gay, bisexual and transgender people faced bigger threats in places such as Russia and the Middle East.

Wainwright spoke as he prepares to kick off his worldwide tour in July with his first in-person concert since March 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns halted tours and live events worldwide.

With live shows impossible, Wainwright worked on a virtual tour, "Rufus-Retro-Wainwright-Spective", an at-home concert showcasing his entire studio album catalogue, including nine recorded soundtracks.

The idea started when he began sharing daily videos of himself playing the piano in his bathrobe on Instagram.

"It very quickly became both a saving grace and kind of a point of focus for both me and others who were following me," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But while the pandemic disrupted his professional life, Wainwright, 47, said it had given him more time at home with his "uber-homebody" husband and manager Jorn Weisbrodt, and their 10-year-old daughter.

Wainwright, who struggled with drug addiction in the early 2000s and has credited singer Elton John for helping him overcome it, said being a parent presented its own set of challenges.

He reluctantly banned his daughter from listening to gay double Grammy Award-winner Lil Nas X's recent song Montero (Call Me By Your Name) because of its references to cocaine use.

"I wish I can play that song for my daughter, but I can't," he said.

Rufus Wainswright performing the famed Paramour Mansion in Los Angeles in July of 2020. Handout courtesy of Rufus Wainswright / Thomson Reuters Foundation


Born in Rhinebeck, New York, two hours north of New York City, Wainwright grew up in a musical family, the son of renowned folk singers, Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. His sister is folk-rock singer Martha Wainwright.

After becoming a regular on the Montreal club circuit, Wainwright was signed by DreamWorks Records in 1996 and released his self-titled debut studio album two years later.

But he is perhaps best known his 2006 tribute to U.S. actress and gay icon Judy Garland, "Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall", the album for which he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Garland's works served as an escape in the weeks and months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Wainwright said, and they remain an inspiration for him today.

"Judy is ever-present whenever I go to get a carton of milk," he said, the passion audible in his voice.

"I still have these glimpses of old Hollywood and it's very much one of the reasons (I live in Los Angeles)."

For the tour's upcoming grand virtual finale, Wainwright will return once more to Garland, performing songs from "Rufus Does Judy".

"This show is a positive injection into the world," said Wainwright. "Let's hope that, like a vaccine, it helps bring back everyone's holistic health."

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(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes; Editing by Helen Popper and Hugo Greenhalgh; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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