HomoHop’s Melange Lavonne

This year, the first ever LGBT hip-hop tour, HomoRevolution, is hitting stages from California to Texas. One of the featured performers is 28-year-old California native Melange Lavonne, an outspoken, openly lesbian hip-hop artist whose song "Gay Bash" delves into the death of her best friend Kevin at the hands of gay bashers. The video for the song was shot earlier this month and is tentatively slated to be released in May.

Lavonne, who is working on a new album, brings all of herself — including her sexual orientation — to her music despite the fact that hip-hop is often experienced as misogynistic and homophobic. HomoRevolution, according to the tour's MySpace page, "is not just a revolution against those who oppress us sexually but also musically. Today's LGBT Community should know we exist."

"I'm trying to get a message across, trying to spread awareness … about what I've endured and what my friends have gone through," said Lavonne, who has been the victim of anti-gay discrimination herself, specifically through the loss of a collegiate athletic scholarship. "I had a basketball scholarship at Dillard University in New Orleans," she explained. "The 60-year-old female coach had suspicions that some of the players were playing around with each other, and she told us that she couldn't have dykes on the team, that it would not be tolerated. She pulled me aside specifically and said that I could either get psychiatric help or lose my scholarship."

She wasn't out to her parents at that time and didn't want to jeopardize who she was, so she left the school, telling her parents it was due to an injury. Later, she told her parents the truth.

That experience was a turning point for Lavonne in another way, too. While sitting in the airport terminal waiting for her flight back to California, a woman from a Christian revival group noticed her and told her, "Whatever you're going through, God still loves you for who you are." Lavonne recalled: "It felt like I was saved. I learned that you can be a lesbian and have Christ in your heart and in your life." She stayed in touch with this woman and her husband for several years.

Her parents took some time to adjust to Lavonne's sexual orientation: "It took my mom [who is predominantly white] some time to get used to it — she's really religious — but once she saw what the damage of her not accepting me did to me [such as suicidal depression], she stopped. I gave them a chance to be accepting. My stepdad and mom are more open now."

Her father is less accepting. "My real dad is a black Republican — he's accepting, but not really," she said. "He doesn't want me to come out publicly. He's still dealing with it. He's a psychologist, so I thought he'd understand …"

Lavonne has known she was gay since the age of 5. "My parents are Christian, and they told me that before you have sex, you'll have to get married, and then you'd have kids. I always assumed I would marry a woman."

She was out to her classmates and teammates at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.: "Everyone was very accepting. I dated a cheerleader."

The fact that she was healthy enough to play high school basketball and date was not a foregone conclusion, since Lavonne has been battling cancer since she was 12. "I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease around the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer," she said. "I had one and a half years of radiation therapy and was home-schooled. … To boost up my confidence, I took up sports." Her father, with whom she was living with at the time after her parents' divorce, was a former basketball coach and encouraged her to shoot hoops.