Destiny Rogers is hanging out in a North Hollywood recording studio when, all of a sudden, Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” rings out from the back.
Rogers’ friends appear out of nowhere, armed with flowers and a cake with the words “Soy gay!” written on it in uneven frosting.
More than a celebration, the cake symbolizes a moment of relief for Rogers, the Lodi, California-raised, Mexican American R&B singer with “Philippians 4:13” tattooed on her arm. Earlier that January day, she finally came out as bisexual to her mom.
She had been putting it off for months. “The main fear was her disowning me,” Rogers shares about coming out to her mom. “But she said, ‘I would never disown you. I still love you.’ So that’s enough for me. … The biggest hurdle was telling my parents.”
With her Kehlani-reminiscent vocals and Justin Bieber swagger, Rogers’ music straddles the line between pop and R&B and always carries a NorCal hip-hop twang. She was signed to RCA in 2018 and released two EPs, including 2020’s Great Escape, a project that captured a confident young star hungry to break through. She’s written for K-pop artists such as Nayeon, Twice, and La Sserafim, and has worked with artists like Flo Milli, Coi Leray, and P-Lo. (Plus, Blackpink’s Lisa is a fan.) But today is monumental: Nine months after that freeing phone call, and on National Coming Out Day, Rogers is done hiding her truth. “Everything I’m going through, I’m writing about it,” she says. “Eventually, the world’s gonna know. And I’m so excited for that.”
“This shit is normal, but people don’t accept it!” Rogers exclaims over dinner. We’re eating carne asada that Rogers just made on a warm summer night on the Hawaiian island Maui. Since Rogers and I first met over brunch late last year to discuss how she wanted to come out publicly, the “Muskequeers” — as Rogers has nicknamed me, her manager Kat, and her friend Jenny, a publicist — have become some of her closest friends. (The trip to Hawaii was an impromptu “Virgo season” celebration for us.)
At the dinner table, the conversation is getting personal, with each of the Muskequeers talking a bit about our experiences as queer people: I came out as gay to my extremely Catholic parents during a ride home from the doctor; Jenny, who has yet to come out as bisexual, is worried about how her family might react; and Kat shares what it’s like being queer in front of her Filipino family.
By now, both of Rogers’ parents and her sister know she’s bisexual. Her mom declined to comment for this story; her father — a worship leader at his church for 30 years — tells Rolling Stone that her attraction to women is a “blatant sin,” but that he refrains from “casting judgment” on his daughter. “There are things I deal with that I must constantly seek the Lord’s help for,” he says. “We all have our struggles.”
“The Bible does not mince any words, and I don’t plan on mincing any words with you on that,” he adds. “That is not God’s plan.” Daryl says he’ll always love his daughter, and is “not going to abandon her while she goes through this struggle, even if I feel she’s making a bad choice.”
Rogers understands that her coming out isn’t going to be this big groundbreaking thing for her fans, many of whom have already made assumptions about her sexuality, but she wonders what her hometown — especially the tightknit church community she grew up in — will think.
Rogers spent much of her childhood in the Pentecostal church. Her dad says that as a baby she’d “crawl across the [preacher] platform” during rehearsals. She attended youth-group meetings and participated in the church’s band since she was 12. Church wasn’t just a Sunday thing; following Christ was a way of life. “Church was all I knew. God was all I knew. Jesus was all I knew,” she says.
The church taught her from an early age that not being straight was wrong. “I was so scared because I didn’t want to go to hell. So, I prayed and prayed to try to get healed,” she says. She asked her friends in the youth group for help, confessing, “I might like girls. Can you pray for me?”
Along with being a devout church girl, there was also the grittier, shaggy side of Rogers. She played softball and basketball with boys in her neighborhood; at the skate park, she was often the only girl, and “wore fucking baggy jeans and tennis shoes.”
“I’m really adventurous and not afraid to get my hands dirty or scrape a knee. I’m not a little bitch, you know?” she says with a laugh. “[That] wasn’t normal, at least where I came from.”
Her classmates (and some family members) would make comments about her appearance, even asking her directly if she was gay. The answer was always “Hell nah!” But deep down, she knew there was a side of her that was attracted to girls.
When she was about 16, she was friends with a lesbian classmate. “My mom said, ‘You are who you surround yourself with, so you must be gay,’” Rogers remembers. “I knew in my heart that I was, and I even said to her, ‘Mom, I like boys. But I do find girls attractive, too.’ She lost it. She was crying.”
Rogers avoided the topic altogether, burying her identity. “I was raised to think it was wrong. I was brainwashed,” she says. “But now, I know that’s not the case, because, bro, I’m happy that this is me. I am.”
Rogers launched her career online at age 16, posting covers of songs by Bieber, Ed Sheeran, and Khalid. Slowly, the views and subscribers started to trickle in. For her dad, it was a cover of a Demi Lovato song that made him realize his daughter had “a lot of potential.” Rogers busked in the streets and sang at fairs and wineries, while balancing school and a Starbucks barista gig that helped fund studio sessions with local producers. (In Lodi, she was a local celebrity.)
Among her most-watched covers was one where she mashed up Ne-Yo’s “Because of You” and Usher’s “U Got It Bad” in a parking lot. Soon after, production team the Stereotypes came across her videos and signed her to a deal in 2017, immersing the singer for the first time in the hubbub of a burgeoning artist. As she neared the end of high school, she began making trips between Lodi and L.A. to pursue music as a career.
Her time in L.A. — she finally moved there on her own in 2019 — allowed her to get closer to coming to terms with her sexuality. Rogers’ official debut came in February 2019, with “Tomboy,” a darker pop-R&B number that widened her reach and channeled her identity as a girl who “can hang with the dudes, get pretty with the girls.”
The song allowed her to connect with an audience of fellow tomboys, many of whom were in the LGBTQ+ community and identified with Rogers’ style and lyrics. But “Tomboy” also forced her to grapple even more with her identity as she started to receive questions from fans about her sexuality. “I was fighting it off like, ‘Why can’t I just be me? Why does being gay have to connect me with being a tomboy?’ I was not ready to be truthful,” she says.
Behind closed doors, Rogers was falling in love with a girl. By March 2019, as “Tomboy” took off, Rogers kept her first relationship mostly to herself. “Some fans were like, ‘She keeps her fingernails short for a reason.’ All that shit,” Rogers remembers. “I’m like, ‘Fuck you! What?’ But the whole time, I had a girlfriend. That was nuts.”
At the time, she vowed that she wouldn’t come out as gay until she was ready to propose to that girlfriend. “I told myself, ‘If I don’t marry her, then I’m not going to date another girl after her.’ I was just so heartbroken. I still didn’t want to come out,” Rogers says. “So when we broke up, it made me realize that I had to come to terms with it, because I was alone. ‘This is me.’”
It wasn’t until the breakup that Rogers accepted that, yes, she’s bisexual. Yes, she wants to date girls. And, no, she can no longer keep everything a secret. If she wanted to heal from the heartbreak, she had to write about it. And with that, to be honest with herself and those around her about her sexuality.
But writing about a girl wasn’t easy, and she had to get out of the mindset that she was still closeted. She forced herself to sit with some uncomfortable feelings in the studio.
The first song to come out of those introspective moments was “Still Your Girl,” a poignant ballad where she grapples with the potential repercussions of coming out. (She plans to release it early next year.) She sings to her parents about running away from her true feelings, and apologizes to her ex-girlfriend for having to hide their relationship: “Sorry if I didn’t give my all to you. I was working hard to hide the truth.”
Getting to this point, where she could be completely honest with her music, was “tough as fuck,” she says. “But then, as time went on, I got more and more comfortable. I got more and more accepting of myself, to where I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to say ‘her’ [in my love songs]. I’m going to say ‘she.’”
Though painful, the breakup became a turning point: Rogers was finally able to pen lyrics that were true to her experience. There’s “Makeup,” another to-be-released song, which she wrote the night after a final goodbye to her ex. “I’ve been thinking about last night, watching you cry right through your makeup,” she sings on the uptempo pop-R&B song. “You’re not thinking. You want to fight. But not tonight. I want to make up.”
Putting pen to paper provided clarity, and “it just made so much sense to me,” says Rogers. “I’m at this point where I don’t care.”
For Rogers, coming out “is the beginning of a new beginning.” She and I meet over brunch for one final interview about her decision. She’s trying to stay positive, but there have been a lot of changes in her life over the past few months.
Earlier this year, Rogers and RCA parted ways. Some of her management team have since stepped away, and she’s learning that she’s going to have to rebuild her career. It’s in her own hands now. “I literally was crying in bed, praying to God. ‘Give me a sign that I’m meant to be here. Give me a miracle. I need a miracle,’” Rogers recalls. “I want this so bad.”
She knows that God still loves her, her family loves her, and the only way forward in her career is by being honest with herself and the world. She’s ready for that to finally happen.
“I’m hella scared,” she says. “But I’m a huge believer that this is what I’m meant to do, and that God and the universe aren’t putting me through these hard times for me to just sit in this heaviness, you know what I mean?”
“There has to be good that comes out of this on the other side,” she adds. “This is my shot.”