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Cover Guy: Jason Mraz

A note to our readers: No, you didn’t inadvertently pick up one of those other gay magazines that routinely put the straight celeb of the moment on their cover. This isInstinct—a magazine that for nearly 15 years has stood behind the pledge to put openly gay and bisexual men of our community on its cover. But this month there is, in fact, a straight man on our cover!        

Why feature superstar musician Jason Mraz in this, Instinct’s Love & Equality Issue, you ask? While Mraz is known for his passionate songwriting, what is less known is his equally passionate support for equality. And after years of his quiet support for numerous LGBTQ organizations and charities—from the Trevor Project and True Colors Fund to the American Foundation For Equal Rights and many others in between—we thought it was time for this unsung ally to get a little respect.

“My weakness is seeing someone sad or seeing someone suffer. Seeing someone not have the same opportunities and privileges that I have. Whenever I see people not being given the opportunity to play, be free and love, that’s when I feel this is my problem to deal with, too. That’s something I have to figure out how to get over or channel, or I’ll spend a lot of time worrying about others,” Mraz says with a laugh.

Lucky for us, he has figured out a way to channel some of that anguish. There is, of course, his art, which Mraz describes as “conscious music” that he hopes contributes to people’s lives. But there’s also the Jason Mraz Foundation, an ambitious philanthropic endeavor that aims to support what Mraz calls his four pillars of service: environment preservation, arts education, recovery assistance and equality.

It was the equality leg that began gaining personal importance years before Mraz would even dream of creating a foundation. “One of my best friends in high school came out when I was a senior, and I thought that was one of the bravest things in the world,” he recalls of his earliest connection to the gay community. “Where we came from, it just wasn’t the popular thing to do or be. It made me more of a risk taker in my own life because I saw the example of the way he was living in just being himself.

“Then, when I moved to California, I moved to San Diego, and I was immediately embraced—mostly by the gay community first. My manager and his partner, lots of people from that community took me in, gave me a home and basically championed my career. So that always felt like my community,” he adds. “I was able to be my free self thanks to the free expression that all my gay friends seemed to live.”

To hear Jason Mraz speak about the LGBTQ community, his friends and fans within it or his commitment to supporting their equality, you’re immediately caught off guard by his candidness and genuine concern. There are no canned, publicist-approved responses, no marketing spin or attempts to “play to the gay dollar.”

And he’ll be the first to tell you that Jason Mraz, the gay rights activist, was first and foremost born out of frustration over seeing those he cared about being treated unfairly and unequally.

Read more about Jason in the April Issue of Instinct—out now!