04/10/2013 05:21 EDT | Updated 06/10/2013 05:12 EDT

High School Revisited: How Things Have Changed for Queer Youth

toronto ontario canada july ...

A look through my past isn't usually what I expect to take on when I say yes to a gig. And the fact I've performed in Guelph a tonne since jetting 12 years ago for the bright lights and big city of Toronto is something to consider.

Today's gig was like none other I've ever done. What a rare thing.

It took place in at a church I hadn't attended for 20 years. It's around the corner from the high school I attended over 19 years ago -- "surreal" is a word that comes to mind.

The fact that a conference for queer youth is happening at all is pretty surreal when I think more about it. Less so because I have friends who work in this specific field, but now that I'm here witnessing the learning (or un-learning you might say), it's all taking on so much more significance.

I remember how my high school experience was hugely influenced by being best friends with the only out lesbian in the entire school of over a 1,000 kids. Now of course, I've come across many people I knew from that era who have come out -- myself included.

But at that time there really was just the one. At the time we were all just rebellious. The freaks and geeks. The artists. The ones in black with doc martens. But not queer. I don't think I ever really thought about or appreciated the courage and strength it must have taken for my friend to be out at 14.

Now I'm feeling the need to call her and thank her for being that rock that the rest of us hid behind -- whether we knew we were hiding or not.

Today I sang in front of several hundred queer students and their allies from high schools around the area. My lyrics suddenly took on new meaning. I felt some sort of responsibility I've never felt before. My male specific pronouns were pronounced.

Of course I've sang at dozens of Pride events over the years, but something about singing to youth who are just now discovering themselves, in this moment, felt more impactful in some way.

They weren't standing at the back of a dark bar drinking a beer talking over the music. They were listening. I can't stop thinking how this conference could have completely changed my youth.

This support. This open discussion. This acceptance. The gender-neutral washrooms!

It all makes so much sense -- you wonder how there couldn't even have been a hint of this kind of thing in my five-year plan.

I've never really thought about being a part of something like this. It never occurred to me that my music and sexuality could be helpful in this way. I have just always written what I write. But never as a political act.

Today was rejuvenating and so important. And I'm so glad they asked me to come sing for them.

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