The country music genre has experienced a positive shift in the last few years, and has become a safer space for the LGBTQ+ community. Notable names within the country landscape such as Chely Wright, Ty Herndon, Brooke Eden, T. J. Osborne, CMT’s very own Cody Alan, and more have used their voices to advocate for queer musicians and fans.
Allies have used their platforms and the power of music to push for unity and acceptance alongside LGBTQ+ friends as well.
In honor of pride month, CMT is looking back at pivotal moments that have furthered knowledge and acceptance of queer artists in country music over the last few years.
Country Proud, presented by the Nash News and RNBW Queer Music Collective in partnership with CMA and CMT, made history this month as the first LGBTQ+ event officially presented as part of CMA Fest.
Country music’s queer community filled Assembly Food Hall on Nashville’s Lower Broad for hours as members of the genre’s LGBTQ+ community entertained hundreds of fans.
Singer Steff Mahan recounted that she was preparing to leave Nashville when she felt shunned because of her sexuality. A friend encouraged her to stay, saying, “Baby girl, God doesn’t give a bird wings if he doesn’t want it to fly.”
“I’m not rich,” she explained. “I’m not famous. But I get to do what I love, and I get to do it with great people, and that’s what matters.”
The night’s lineup included Sonia Leigh, Gina Venier, Jessica Rose, Chris Housman, Charlie Worsham, Kristen Merlin, Harper Grae, Kentucky Gentlemen, Zoe Cummins, Adam Mac, Breann Young, Maia Sharp, Shelly Fairchild and Lila McCann.
Seeing the support that country music fans poured into the queer country community at an official CMA Fest event warmed Hunter Kelly’s heart. Kelly is the host of Proud Radio on Apple Music Country.
“It’s a huge milestone for this gay kid who grew up going to Fan Fair in the ‘90s but never seeing myself reflected on stage before now,” he said. “The talent coming out of this scene along with the communities like Black Opry is giving country music the creative shot in the arm it needs.”
Miranda Lambert Pens “Y’all Means All” for “Queer Eye”
Miranda Lambert took a bold step when she celebrated Texas and the LGBTQ community with her song “Y’all Means All,” which she recorded for the new “Queer Eye” season at the end of last year.
The show filmed in Lambert’s home state of Texas, and Lambert has long supported the LGBT community. Her brother Luke is gay, and she told Pride Source in 2019 that she supports him “100 percent in whatever he does.”
“He is a brilliant individual, the most amazing person, and just so genuine,” she said.
She shared a picture on her socials of herself and her husband Brendan McLoughlin and Luke and his husband at New York City’s Pride Parade and said she cried “because it was such a big moment.”
“I see now, talking about it, why it’s a big moment for other people: because it was a big moment for us, too,” she told Pride. “So I’m just glad that he was OK with that, and we could share that moment and be supportive of each other no matter what we’re doing or who we are.”
Lily Rose Receives GLADD Award
CMT’S Next Women of Country member, Lily Rose was recognized at the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards. Rose became the first-ever country musician to accept the title of Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist. The prestigious award honors Rose’s critically acclaimed debut collection ‘Stronger Than I Am,” and her work within the LGBTQ+ community.
“It was a dream come true and a really big bucket list thing,” Rose told CMT. “I got to accept my Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist award, and I am just humbled. It was a big win for country music getting to do that,” she added with gratitude.
Rose has proved to be a country mainstay with her contagious sound, but she has also become a trailblazer within the genre for fearlessly being herself and a passionate pride advocate. She continued to voice her primary goal and credits notable names who have knocked down barriers before her.
“Ellen, Shane McAnally, and people like that across entertainment have really walked, so people like me can run,” expressed Rose. “My goal is that kids can just sprint and have all the exact opportunities and just get treated with kindness.When I meet fans, especially kids navigating coming out, I can feel it [ the difference she’s making.] Kids should not have to come out and should be able to be exactly who they are. It’s really cool that they might have somebody to look up to,” she added.
Trisha Yearwood And Brooke Eden Deliver "She's In Love With The Girl" At The Grand Ole Opry
In May 2021, Brooke Eden and partner Hilary Hoover made the decision to take a step forward in their romantic relationship and get engaged. Nearly a month after, Eden received a phone call from an LGBTQ+ ally and friend Trisha Yearwood with a fearless idea. Yearwood told Eden that members of the LGBTQ+ community tend to change the lyrics to her 1991 classic, "She's In Love With the Boy" to fit their sexual preferences. Therefore, the hitmaker wanted to do the same and alter the chart-topping track for their June 25 performance at the Grand Ole Opry.
The rendition that was personalized to fit Eden's fairytale story with her fiancé went down in Opry history, as love and a sense of unity filled the sacred venue. The openly-gay artist took the lead on "She's In Love With The Girl," until the legend joined in on the second verse. The powerful performance did not only touch fans sitting in the church-like pews, but ones watching from home. The collaboration served as a positive shift in the right direction for the country music genre and assured the queer musicians that they would always be welcomed on the Opry stage.
"You just got engaged to a good friend of mine, Hilary, who's here somewhere," Yearwood said before breaking out in son. "Love is love. You can't just say it. You gotta mean it. So I think we should [sing] this song for you guys tonight, because she's in love with the girl. I'm in love with the boy. Let's just sing it for everybody."
T.J. Osborne Calls For Inclusivity At CMA Awards And Performs “Younger Me”
In February of 2021, T.J. Osborne confidently came out of the closet and made history as the first openly-gay country artist signed to a major label. Since revealing his authentic self, the lead vocalist has become a trailblazer and has used the power of music to encourage inclusivity within the genre.
The multi-platinum musician made waves at the 55th Annual CMA Awards, when he performed his vulnerable track “Younger Me” and reminded members of the LGBTQ+ community that they have place within country music.
“Being up here on this stage, there were so many things that were so many hurdles for me. And I always felt, truthfully felt, like it would never be possible because of my sexuality to be here. And I just wish, I wish my young me could see me now,” he said before delivering the letter-like track.
The uplifting anthem followed the release of Brother Osbornes critically acclaimed 2020 album, “Skeletons.” Throughout the wisdom-infused ballad, Osborne conveys the battles he faced while discovering his sexuality as a child.
Osborne scored his first GRAMMY Award with “Younger Me,” alongside his brother and with his partner Abi Ventura in attendance.