Jennifer Knapp, many know this name from contemporary Christian music of the ’90s; it was as her career was at her strongest in this genre that she came out as a lesbian. The journey since then has been a wondrous maze of life charted through her music and outreach into the community.
From continuing in the Christian community; she has proven to numerous people that a person of the GLBT community can be one of faith as well. “When I came out two years ago I thought I would only have enemies in the church, but the opposite is true. There is a real push from many of our faith communities to openly embrace all sexual orientation and gender identities,” Knapp said. “Let’s be clear, the church can still be a dangerous place to come out, but there’s growing support across the board. Just about every denomination has some kind of organized affirmative group effecting change. Not all those groups are directly funded or recognized by the head of their denomination, but one thing is clear: more and more bodies of faith prefer to be known by their diversity rather than their discrimination.”
When asked about her bond to music and if her messaged has changed with coming out she commented, “I don’t know that my bond with music is any stronger, but I am grateful for it. Music has been a part of my life for so long, I feel utterly inhuman without it. For years I was fearful to perform because I didn’t know how to publicly address my sexual orientation. I didn’t stop being musician because I was gay. I stopped being a musician because I wasn’t singing, writing or playing. At the end of the day music helped me realize the person I am is the person I am. Music is a part of me. It’s beautiful, it’s meaningful. It is one of the ways I tell my story. So too is my sexual orientation part of my story. It’s beautiful and it’s meaningful.
“As for messages in music? I’m not a huge fan of premeditating what any one listener is supposed to walk away with. The longer I do this, the more I think what I do is simply try and create a space where it is safe to be honest with ourselves. It seems like everybody’s always watching, that there’s always an opinion on offer to criticize who we are as people. It’s difficult enough in that environment to keep up hope that maybe, just maybe, we are exactly who we were meant to be?” One way she has done this is with her out reach program Inside Out Faith.
Inside Out Faith is a mix of discussions, performances by Knapp and group participation with the audience allowing them to ask her questions. Generally the events are hosted by GLBT groups, churches, colleges or other social organizations but are inclusive for everyone in the local communities who wish to join for an evening of entertainment with a message. She uses a creative volunteer group to get the message of an Inside Out Faith event out to the masses, the group is called Kstreet.
The volunteers go about placing flyers, contacting radio stations to request her music or other media and social outlets to help promote awareness of Knapp’s message. When asked about Kstreet, she said, “I don’t have too much to do with this until the volunteers tell me what they want from me. It’s humbling really, because the folks involved are fans that want to give back. Often, they know their local area better than we do, so they help us get to word out. Plus, we can count on getting to know each other a little better.”
Using her program and music, Knapp has brought a message of individual faith and personal struggle to the culmination of one human being making a difference in the world. She travels often and enjoys the time of meeting with fans. “I positively adore small venues crammed full of people. I love old rooms too. Flaming hot par cans, dressing room graffiti, local brews on tap, and everyone up close and personal so we can all see and talk to each other,” Knapp said.
This is furthered as the year draws to a close and the holiday season approaches, this year Jennifer will be touring with Margaret Becker. The schedules for future events and concerts will be posted soon to Ms. Knapp’s website. If you would like more information on Inside Out Faith, Knapp or her work, visit
www.jenniferknapp.com and Inside Out Faith at www.jenniferknapp.com/insideoutfaith.