Five queer artists who changed the country music scene

To recognise the growing diversity in country music, we look at some of the trailblazers who led the way for queer artists in this traditionally conservative genre.

A split screen of three men and two women, all country singers

Giddy-up partners because 2021 is officially the year of the barn-dancing bisexuals, lassoing lesbians and honky-tonk homos! Between lyrics about loving who you want to artists embracing their LGBTQ+ identities, the last decade has seen a growing acceptance of queerness in country music. Read on to discover some of the trailblazing queer artists who have led the way for a more inclusive and diverse future in country music. Yeehaw!

Chely Wright

A true trailblazer, Chely Wright was one of the first to embrace her queer identity in country music when she came out as a lesbian in 2010. At the time Wright poignantly remarked, “I won’t be a whisper. I’m too proud of who I am”. Despite an outpouring of support from other artists such as Faith Hill and Mary Chapin Carpenter, Wright’s fan base sharply dropped and her record sales cut by half. Such setbacks, however, did not stop this cowgirl. Wright remains a country icon and continued on to become an avid LGBTQ+ activist, establishing her own charity which provides support to LGBTQ+ youth. When she’s not plucking away on her guitar, Wright is the mother of two children with her wife, Lauren.

Shane McAnally

A Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer, McAnally is a country superstar. McAnally, however, has experienced his fair share of struggle. McAnally expressed his past concerns that being an openly gay man would damage his career in country music. However, after meeting the country boy of his dreams, Michael, it became apparent there was only one option. McAnally subsequently embraced his LGBTQ+ identity and noted how he “never got anything but open arms from the professional community”. Now a banjo pickin’ papa, McAnally and his husband became father to a little girl in 2012.

Lil Nas X

With his Cowboy hats in every colour of the rainbow, Lil Nas X skyrocketed to international stardom with his smash hit ‘Old Town Road’. The remix which featured country icon Billy Ray Cyrus stayed at Number 1 for weeks on end and brought the little-known genre of “country-rap” to light. Not long after Lil Nas X came out during Pride Month, soon after exclaiming “deadass though I made it obvious”.

Brandi Carlile

Award-winning singer-songwriter and producer Brandi Carlile was the most nominated woman at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Carlile has also been an active member of several activism campaigns from raising awareness of LGBTQ+ health issues to empowering women. Much of Carlile’s music deals with queer issues such as internalised homophobia and LGBTQ+ bullying. Still a queer icon today, Carlile lives with her wife Catherine and two children.

Ty Herndon

Famous for his hit, ‘Living in the Moment’, Ty Herndon made it from the local Honky-Tonk to the Grand Ole Opry! Herndon came out to People Magazine in November 2014 stating, “I’m an out, proud and happy gay man”. Ty Herndon expressed how coming out has improved his songwriting, allowing him to change the pronouns in future songs to his preference.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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