Dance

Techno Legend DJ Minx On The Homophobia She Experienced in Detroit & Coming Out As Gay: 'I Was Stressed The Hell Out'

DJ Minx
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DJ Minx

27 days ago, DJ Minx changed her life with an Instagram post.

The Detroit techno legend -- who's been active in the scene since the early '90s -- had been thinking of what to write in her caption for months. Ultimately, on June 2, 2021, she got a big message through in an economical nine sentences, which most crucially included: "People suffer from emotional anxiety at the mere thought of 'coming out,' but the stress of not doing so is taking up WAY too much of my space and is shaking my energy to the core. So here I am. Minx, DJ, producer, Momma, partner, lesbian, friend."

With the press of a "share" button, the artist born Jennifer Witcher revealed her true self to the world, using Pride 2021 as the impetus and receiving a flood of support from friends, fans and fellow artists in the process.

This big life moment continued a few days later, when Minx was featured as part of a national Spotify Pride campaign also including Hayley Kiyoko, Big Freedia, MUNA and more. For the campaign each artist curated a Spotify playlist featuring LGBTQ+ artists and allies from their hometown and were also featured in a mural in that same city. Via a mural by the Philadelphia-based artist ggggrimes, Minx's face now graces the side of Detroit's Ruth Ellis Center, which creates community and provides trauma-informed services for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color.

To put an exclamation point on a banner month, today (June 29) Minx is releasing her latest track, "Purse First." A spare, bouncy song whose title was inspired by Bob The Drag Queen, the season eight winner of RuPaul's Drag Race. "He always spoke about always being elegant in any situation, and you should always enter a room 'purse first,'" Minx says of this homage. "I'm all about being classy, so thought the title was fitting." All proceeds from the track benefit the Ruth Ellis Center.

On the tail end of her massive Pride month, DJ Minx here talks about summoning the courage to come out, why the homophobia she experienced in Detroit kept her from doing so, and the overwhelming support she's received in the wake of her IG post.

I'm intrigued by you saying that the pressure of not coming out was taking up too much of your space. Had this always been the case, or had the anxiety of being closeted become more acute more recently?

The mere thought of coming out was stressful for me, because for years, "Don't ever tell anyone, because it'll ruin your career" played over and over in my head. During the pandemic, I got to know myself better. I did yoga every day, got heavily into my veganism, meditated, and constantly thought of ways to be a better me. I had support from people all over the world. They knew me as a DJ and the gift of music that I'd shared with them, but they had no idea about the secret that I'd kept inside for so many years.

The LGBTQ lifestyle is accepted more [now], and I felt like I wanted to share my truth one day. I was nervous, so it took a while for me to say anything. I found myself thinking of it on a daily basis, and realized that my level of stress wouldn't go away unless I changed it! I was tired of hiding. I wanted to move and live freely, and holding in my happiness became unacceptable. It became imperative that I come out -- I just did not yet know how or when to do it.

Obviously the culture around acceptance, and celebration, of the LBGTQ+ community is different now on a mainstream level than it was when you began your career. Did you have experiences in the dance scene that made you nervous in regards to coming out? 

Not really, but I did see some violence against people in the LGBTQ+ community, and I just wasn't ready to say anything to anyone. I wasn't ready to face any of it. Period.

Of course it's a vibrant music scene, but the Midwest is still often more conservative than places like New York, L.A. Did the culture of Detroit, particularly when you were first coming up in the scene, have anything to do with you not coming out for so long?

Yes, indeed it did. My experience has been that it's homophobic! I was born and raised in Detroit and have been here all my life. Each time I heard mention of a gay person, it pushed me further back into my shell -- because, for the most part, it was not-so-nice things [that were said]. Also, people assumed that since I knew how to play music, that I was gay. There was a lot of negative chat out there, some from folks that were close to me, and I let it hold me back from speaking my truth.

When did you make the decision that you were going to come out publicly?

I made the decision to come out some time in March. Since I could not figure out how I should share publicly, I thought Pride 2021 was the perfect time to do it. I wrote out my "speech" and adjusted it almost every day until late May, hoping to receive the same support I had gotten over the years. It was successful, overwhelmingly so. The responses warmed my heart.

When you finally made the announcement via your socials, what happened to your anxiety level?

I was stressed the hell out! I didn't know what to expect, or when, and was a complete mess. I was too concerned about what anyone would think...people that may have wanted to date me, homophobia, what family members would say -- so much. My mind was all over the place.

You also didn't just come out, you came out via a huge national campaign that involved your face painted on the side of a building. What has exposure on that level been like?

Because of the timing of the request to be a part of the mural, I thought, "Go big or go home!" It felt like great timing, and I was really able to commit, scary as it was, especially as the mural was going up in my hometown and part of a larger Spotify campaign. But it was a great experience, and really I have received so much support! Thank you to everyone who has shown me love and appreciation.

Courtesy of Spotify
DJ Minx mural at the Ruth Ellis Center

Does coming out in any way affect how you do your work?

Yes, it does. Keeping my thoughts and feelings bottled up had certainly been a burden, but I can now freely work things out because my mind is clear -- finally! This "Purse First" track is part of that, just being able to release something fun that has a good message behind it. And playing some of these Pride events has been truly magical, so I guess this opens me up to a whole new crowd.

What was the most meaningful piece of feedback you got after posting your Instagram?

"This means so much to your fans (like me), so thank you for trusting us and painting an even brighter you for us to celebrate -- on and off the dance floor." That spoke to me. Deeply.