09.05.19 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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Sheryl Crow has a special place in my heart. She found her way there when I was in high school and I heard her belting out “If It Makes You Happy” from the car radio for the first time.

She had a huge hit in “All I Wanna Do” two years prior but that song did not have the same punch the first single from her second album had on me.

I was living in Plant City, Florida at the time. I was a shy, overweight gay kid, living deep in the closet and afraid of the sound of my own voice. No matter how hard I fought who I was I felt that everyone knew I was gay and that the judgment of small-town living was bearing down on me. Then she started singing and that first line of “If It Makes You Happy” hooked me in.

“I belong, a long way from here.” Yeah I do. I dreamed of being in a big city, ironically at the time, not because I could be who I am but because it would be easier to hide in a city with millions of people too concerned with themselves to pay attention to me.

Then the chorus, “If it makes you happy / It can’t be that bad / If it makes you happy / Then why the hell are you so sad?” This chorus became my mantra. I repeated it over and over in my head, and not just on that car ride listening to it the first time. More than 20 years later, I still sing this chorus in my head when I doubt myself. It is forever ingrained in me as the way I live my life.

When I got home, I got out my boom box, a blank cassette tape and switched the radio on to Q105 and got ready at the record button. For those of you too young to have experienced this process, this is how we got the latest hit single onto a tape.

I was not in a financial situation where I could just run out to the music store and buy the CD. After a couple of hours of listening to the radio the DJ announced that the song was going to play and that it was from an artist named Sheryl Crow.

I got the song on tape but I needed more. Sheryl had to have other words of wisdom and lyrical life lessons for me to learn. Not long after recording “If It Makes You Happy” I found my way to more Sheryl Crow — Columbia House!

I don’t recall which magazine it was, one of Mama’s US Weeklys or Home & Gardens but I came across an ad for Columbia House offering eight CDs for a penny, and in the ad was a picture of Sheryl Crow’s album. I ordered both her two albums that were out at the time, along with albums by TLC, Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion and Melissa Etheridge.

When I got the package, I ripped it open and listened to Sheryl Crow on repeat and it felt like she was speaking to me. After listening to her two things became certain to me; first, it wasn’t about whether I would or wouldn’t come out, but how I would decide to do it. The other thing that was certain was that I was going to experience my first run in with a collection agency because in order to get eight CDs for a penny you had to agree to buy a bunch more at full price and that certainly wasn’t happening.

If it was her first two albums that brought me to her, it was her third album that solidified Sheryl Crow as my Dalai Lama. “The Globe Sessions” may be the most perfect album ever recorded and to this day it is still something I listen at least once a week in its entirety.

All this talk about Sheryl Crow popped up in my head recently because she released a new album —her eleventh and what she recently said would be her last. The events of my adult life have been filled with the sounds of Sheryl Crow and, while I have many musical loves, she is without a doubt the writer to the soundtrack of my coming out and for that I will forever be grateful.

In this issue, we look at 10 LGBTQ youth who are making a change in their communities, and I think we can agree a change would do us all good.

In A&E, we preview the Fabulous Independent Film Festival in Sarasota and check out Jorge Estevez’s new LGBTQ-themed podcast.

In Central Florida news, the Men’s Sauna Association is bringing its annual convention to Orlando, Orlando Mayor earns an LGBTQ endorsement and Hope & Help heads to a new home.

In Tampa Bay news, EPIC announces it is getting into the 5K run game and Tampa Bay-area lawmakers take the lead pushing for LGBTQ protections.

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