Jack Antonoff, of .fun and Bleachers fame, is making some serious noise on behalf of the gay community. He has amassed an army of 142 artists, writers and creators, ranging from Kesha to Jennifer Lawrence to Amy Schumer, to help deliver a powerful message to legislators in Texas considering anti-LGBTQ laws: We’re watching.
Here, he talks with Billboard about the fight for equality against impending legislation in Texas that seeks to “criminalize and restrict the simple act of a transgender person using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity” and “force teachers to out LGBTQ students to their parents,” among other concerns, as the group writes in their letter addressed to “Texas Leaders.”
Today is Valentine’s Day. You helped draft and deliver today a special kind of love letter — on behalf of the LGBTQ community and all who support human rights. What inspired you to get your peers in the creative communities to sign on to this letter to Texas legislators?
It’s an issue happening in many areas, but we wanted to focus in specific places, and right now it’s what I would consider a crisis in Texas with Texas Senate Bill SB6 and House Bill HB1362, the so-called bathroom bills — they’re hate bills against the LGBTQ community. And after seeing what happened in North Carolina [with the HB2 “bathroom bill” signed into law last March], this is something that people really care about. It’s something that artists care about, artists who come through these areas and tour through them and local artists.
Our support means a lot. Our support is financial, it has to do with the economy, it’s artistic, it’s all of it. I wrote this letter because I want them to know that me and all of my friends — all of these wonderful artists and actors and writers and designers — are watching Texas and are not OK with this happening.
In what ways do the decisions of Texas legislators directly affect the creative community, in Texas and outside of Texas?
I’ve been touring through Texas since I was 15, on my first tour ever. I played in Austin, TX. I want to come and play in cities and states where transgender citizens are not discriminated against, where there’s no hateful bathroom bills at the shows where I’m going to be playing.
What was the reaction from your peers in the music and acting communities when you introduced the letter to them?
There’s no question with this issue. Anyone who is awake and aware knows that these quote-unquote bathroom bills or any legislation discriminating against LGBTQ citizens is horrible. Whether it was Ariana Grande, Gloria Steinem, Janelle Monae or Grizzly Bear, it was the most simple “Yes! Please add my name to this list.” That’s where we’re at right now, at a place where the government in place is trying to make life really hard for a lot of people out there. We all have to stand up, even if we’re not from Texas, or LGBTQ — we all have to say that this isn’t OK with us. And I hope the level of talent on this list opens people’s eyes, and particularly that local legislators will realize how important this is — to the people living in Texas and to the people coming in and bringing a lot of money to the economy.
What do you hope will be the outcome of this letter?
I hope it goes completely viral and that people will know about these bills, they’ll look at them, they understand how hateful they are, they tweet about it, they talk about it, they call their local legislators. On the landing page of txtogether.org, there are various ways they can get involved. As we’ve seen time and time again in the early days of the new administration, protest works. If you call, and you make noise about it, and people know that this will affect their pockets, all of a sudden we see change. If that’s what we have to do to make it so an oppressed group of people aren’t further oppressed, that’s what we’ll do.
What can people do to join the fight?
The best thing anyone can do is go to our landing page, which shows you where you can contact representatives. If you’re in Texas, the best thing to do is to share this and make this a big story. In North Carolina, that bill became a big story; it really got people talking and opened people’s eyes to the kinds of discrimination that’s going on. So I want this Texas bill that’s being quietly pushed through to be a big story. And if local government or national, whatever it is, want to create bills that are really hateful and un-American, then the least that we can do as artists and as press is to just shine a giant spotlight on it. We’re just putting this out there today. My gut is that we’re going to see an overwhelmingly supportive response
You’ve been rallying behind similar causes for the past four years, as a founding member of the Allied Coalition. What initially inspired you to stand up for the LGBTQ community?
Human rights, no matter whom they affect, are something that should matter to all of us. It’s always been a part of my life. My grandfather marched in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. I was raised by my parents and by him to care. I’m Jewish. I was raised to consider these things and to care even if it wasn’t me directly affected.