There are still many places in this world, including parts of our own country, where being anything other than straight is seen as worthy of punishment and disdain. Queer life is effectively squashed down, and Baby Yors, the singer whose gay stylings bring to mind a one-man Queen cover band, knows exactly what that’s like.
Yors, now 27 and living in New York City, grew up in the small rural town of Jujuy in Argentina, a country known for vibrant music, Evita, and a penchant for machismo culture and blatant homophobia. “People in South America don’t take being queer lightly,” Yors tells Billboard. “They really get on you for it.”
A multi-talented creative force, Yors has found some success in music, hollowing out a niche for himself in the burgeoning LGBTQ+ scene. Yors blends alternative pop sensibilities with soaring vocals and a lilting falsetto, moving up and down scales like the classic rockers of the 70’s. Visually, Yors has always had a penchant for the gothic; deep reds, violets, blacks and stark whites.
Now, the singer is back with a beautiful, emotionally raw live performance of his newest single, “Mother,” filmed at the legendary Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. Accompanied by one electric guitar and a mic, surrounded by the historic space’s vintage upholstery and furnishings, Yors is bathed in a soft magenta glow as he sings, choir-like, about his love lost.
Billboard sat down with Yors to discuss “Mother,” growing up gay in Argentina, and his relationship with his family now that he’s engaged to a man.
What is “Mother” about?
“Mother” is about my mom not wanting to even have a conversation about my life. She didn’t talk to me for a long time after I came out to her. We talk now, but it’s the kind of thing where we don’t really speak about my life, because she doesn’t like to hear things about my queerness, or my partner, or anything like that.
What was it like growing up as a queer person in Argentina?
I always felt very different. I was a very theatrical, artistic kid. I wasn’t even sure of what I was, what I liked. But the way I expressed myself, I always came across as queer. People in South America don’t take that lightly. They really get on you for it. There’s a lot of Catholic people. It’s a certain kind of misogyny, a type of macho culture. It’s a very toxic masculinity-kind of an environment.
When I came here to the U.S. at 17, I decided to not label myself in any way. I started experimenting and sleeping around with a lot of different people. Actually, I fell in love with a girl at 19 and we dated for a long time, and then we got married. It was this weird moment where we felt like rock stars that needed to get married. But she eventually said that she wanted to be more settled and she wanted to start having kids, but I didn’t want to do that, so we split up.
What was your family’s reaction when you told them about your fiancé?
Last year, and only after I was sure it was more of a serious relationship, because before that I didn’t want to label myself. People would assume that I was gay, but I didn’t want to define anything. Having my family so far away in Argentina and seeing them only once a year, it didn’t make sense until I was in a relationship.
My dad took it well. He also struggles with it, but he’s vocal about that, and he’s been watching lots of queer TV shows and things like that to educate himself. I feel like he’s more open to being empathetic… But my mom freaked out. It became a whole thing with her. I’ve always had problems with my mom. It started when I was really little, with things like playing with Barbies. She would take them away and burn them in front of me… all this madness. Not allowing me to sing, or to do theater, or to dance, because that was just for girls and f-gs. We always had this tension between us, because I wanted to express my feminine side, separate from my sexuality. I don’t think they’re necessarily correlated, or linked. But, she wouldn’t want me to do that. So me telling her that I am with a guy, it was like her world dropped, she just really cares about what people think.
This must have been hard to film — what kind of emotions were you feeling while this was being recorded?
Desperation to get my message across to her. It’s kind of like talking to a rock. There’s no face to face interaction, so if I mentioned the name Kurt, or anything like “my boyfriend,” she would instantly hang up the phone. So the only way for me to talk to her is in my mind, through my song. This song is an attempt to talk to someone who’s not listening to you, putting things on the table for them. There are some parts of the video where you can see I’m about to lose it. I even start to speak Spanish because I feel like I can’t keep speaking in English to her. In certain situations, Spanish gets center stage.
When I sing, “sólo en la cama sin un techo que re es de lo que siento lo que quiero,” that means, I’m alone in bed under a roof of a home that doesn’t respect who I am, and what I want, and what I feel! But then I go back to calming myself down and being like, “Just look at the show, and try to enjoy the ride.” It’s a conversation I’m having with myself. “You know what, mom? I’m here for you if you ever want to talk.”