[INTERVIEW] "Something That Affected My Sexuality"<br />
Rahsaan Patterson Talks Child Sexual Abuse

With soulful statements like Love in Stereo, Wines & Spirits and last year’s stellar Bleuphoria, R&B crooner Rahsaan Patterson assumed a celebrated underground prominence, right when mainstream music industry fame got downgraded a notch. In the ’00s, artists’ maneuvers on the web—Patterson’s included—made radio airplay more irrelevant, and their fanbases flourished regardless: think Ledisi, Van Hunt and Amp Fiddler. In 2008, BET J awarded the singer Underground Artist of the Year.

The 38-year-old’s latest statement is more personal than ever. Patterson has never shied from admitting his sexual preference for men. But inspiration for his latest tune, “Don’t Touch Me,” stems from the sexual abuse he suffered as a 6-year-old, which he controversially blames for setting the course of his homosexuality. (Proceeds from the song benefit RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.) Below, EBONY: speaks with Rahsaan Patterson about the origins of his single.

EBONY: How did “Don’t Touch Me” come about?

Rahsaan Patterson: The idea to record a song for the organization RAINN was proposed to me, and I thought it was necessary to do. I felt it was important to bring further awareness to the issue. The fact that the song will raise money in addition to awareness was important to the organization.

EBONY: How did the sexual abuse of your past impact your sexuality?

RP: Mainly at six years old, the majority of us don’t have any idea of what sexuality is to begin with. And for me, the truth of it is that had that not happened, the truth and possibility of what my life may have been would’ve been very different. I don’t use it as an excuse or a reason for my sexuality, but as something that affected my sexuality. For me, that’s just the truth of the matter. I’m not implying that every person who is gay is… the result of that was because of having been sexually abused. I’m not saying that at all; it’s never as simple as that. In my case, I definitely believe it played a part in it. I believe there’s a lot of people that, had that not happened to them, they would potentially have lived a whole other lifestyle.

EBONY: In this reality TV era, public figures have become much more revealing than in the “mystique age” of the 1980s. Forgive me for asking, but do you feel like talking about exactly what happened with your abuse?

I believe there’s a lot of people that, had that not happened to them, they would potentially have lived a whole other lifestyle.

RP: Well, I don’t feel the details are necessary. Ultimately, my admission of having been abused sexually pretty much says it all. At this point in time, I don’t feel the need to go in detail about it. It happened, and it happened in church, and the effects that it has had on me have been quite traumatic and definitely helped shape who I am, in positive ways as well as negative ways. So the journey has been to be able to remain focused on staying positive in my mindset in terms of spirituality and not allowing what has happened to keep me disturbed. Music and art has helped me with that.

I agree with you 100 percent in terms of how, prior to reality TV and this new area of exposing every aspect of your life, that kind of takes away from the mystique. The artists thawe grew up listening to, we loved [that] about them. For the most part, there was always the understanding that something major had to have gone on in this person’s life to make them the way they are expressing themselves. One of the things I’m grateful for as an artist is that, even with being able to be honest and expose who I am as a person with such issues as having been sexually abused, I am grateful that my approach to art still possesses that area of mystique.

EBONY: It’s a balance that’s hard to navigate these days.

RP: It can be, but I think the difference between the great ones is that thing that allows them to communicate truthfully and still present a reality that might be harsh. There’s a way to shade it to where it’s palatable at the same time. And I believe, with a song like “Don’t Touch Me,” I can lyrically speak about what happened and still present the scene and environment—which is a little child’s voice in there, and the different elements of the choral voices that present the cinematic scope.

EBONY: In the early ’90s, Madonna was photographed kissing girlfriend Ingrid Casares and it didn’t affect her popularity. But when the public discovered George Michael was gay, his sales tanked. How do you feel about this double standard?

RP: Women have much more of a freedom of expressing their sexuality than men do, much more of an acceptance. We all individually can be as free as we wanna be, regardless of the consequence. But