2014: The Year Gay Country Music Came Out

Country fans tend to be on the, er, more conservative end of the social and political spectrum, so you can see why it would be difficult for any country artist to reveal themselves as gay. And that’s the way it’s been for decades, which must have made for a very crowded closet.  In 2014, however, there were some breakthroughs.  From Salon:

In November, breakout star Kacey Musgraves had a big night. She won Song of the Year for “Follow Your Arrow” at the Country Music Association Awards—Nashville’s biggest night. Musgraves recorded and co-wrote the song, which features the gay-friendly lyrics “Kiss lots of boys/or kiss lots of girls/ if that’s something you’re into.” A CMA award is a hearty endorsement from the industry, and the fact that its voters weren’t put off by the lyrics—possibly because they were sung by a straight woman—might have helped ease Ty Herndon’s nerves. Just a couple of weeks later, Herndon became the first mainstream male country star to come out, as he told People magazine, as a “proud gay man.” The 52-year-old artist, who recently walked a red carpet with his partner of five years, inspired country singer and former child star Billy Gilman to post a video announcement of his own coming out the next day. One more and it would have been a trend.

 Country music hasn’t had this exciting of a year in LGBT news since 2010, when Chely Wright became the first mainstream Nashville star to come out. Wright’s coming out was a carefully-orchestrated media circus, complete with a tell-all memoir, chronicled extensively in the 2011 documentary “Wish Me Away.” As a trailblazer, Wright weathered criticism, death threats, and a quiet industry freeze-out after her announcement. So far, Herndon and Gilman haven’t faced the same scrutiny.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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