Rufus Wainwright urges Americans to fight global LGBT+ threats

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Singer-songwriter, Rufus Wainswright: Handout courtesy of Rufus Wainswright / Thomson Reuters Foundation

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 US 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.


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 [for] his 2006 tribute to US 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 September 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.”

Reporting by Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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