The Struggle Of Coming Out In Country Music #NOH8

The Struggle Of Coming Out In Country Music #noh8

I have been a country music fan for years. I even earned my living from it for 8 years of my life as an on air radio personality while I worked my way through college. It was the job I had right before I became a full time blogger, so it hasn’t been that long ago. Though most country fans I would consider pretty cool, it pains me to say there are many that can be quit unforgiving and intolerant.

The Struggle Of Having An Opinion In Country Music

This week, country singers Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman both came out as gay.

In most musical genres, this isn’t really that big of a deal, but it can be a death sentence to your career in country music. Really, anything that is seen as different from traditional conservative values can be. Ask Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. One comment about her disapproval of the president and the country fans went berzerk. And it ended their career in country music. People started burning albums. Radio stations refused to play their music. And one of the best selling groups in the history of country music was taken down with one remark. A genre of music that prides itself on loyalty and a religion based in forgiveness and love found no remorse for one comment from the Dixie Chicks.

And if you think time heals all wounds, read some of the recent comments below this video. Hell hath no fury like a country fan scorned.

Coming Out In Country Music: Chely Wright

A few years ago country singer, Chely Wright, came out as gay. She shared her story on Oprah, Ellen and in a book, Like Me, {which is pretty good, by the way}. She was obviously scared to come out and you could see the terror in her face. I really felt for her. As a heterosexual female, I don’t personally know the terror of coming out but even I could see how scared she was.

She talked about almost killing herself. No one should feel like that is their only choice. Ever.

Coming Out In Country Music: Ty Herndon And Billy Gilman

This week two other country stars came out: Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman. I think that Ty Herndon may have just felt it was time to come out as he is in a serious relationship. If that is the case, then that is wonderful. But, I think that Billy Gilman was forced to come out or have someone else do it for him and I hate that.

Of all of the artists mentioned, I have only ever met Ty Herndon. I have also interviewed him live on the air. Imagine how terrified you would be if you were being interviewed and scared that someone might “out” you. That is exactly what Billy Gilman faced and that played a big part in his decision to come out. A reporter caught him in public and snapped a photo. So Gilman made the decision to come out first on his own terms.

I have no idea what the reporter’s intentions were but if Gilman felt he had to come out, then he probably felt they were bad. Shame on that reporter. I have interviewed quite a few people in my career and never pulled something like that. And I have no intentions of starting. We interview people about what they want to talk about as we believe their private lives are theirs. Yes, we may never get 100,000 million views a month because of that, but I can sleep well at night. And that is just fine by me. ๐Ÿ™‚

My Thoughts

In a genre of music that is accepting of people riding lawn mowers drunk to the store to pick up more alcohol, of standing by their man even when their man is abusing them, and now of “bro country” that some argue boxes women into “little cut off jeans shorts, crop tops and passenger seat boxes,” we sure aren’t very “accepting” of things that don’t really require our acceptance anyway.

The Struggle Of Coming Out In Country Music #noh8

Ty Herndon And Myself: Many Moons Ago.

I am not sure how we have gotten so entitled that we feel that we need to “accept” or “condone” everything. I also think that people should be able to come out as gay only if they want to, but in no way should they feel like they have to or be outed by someone else. They also shouldn’t feel that it is our business or right to know. It’s only my business to know anything personal about you if you want me to know. I feel horrible about the way Billy Gilman came out.

I also feel terrible for Chely Wright feeling the need to hide all these years and I hope that she found peace in coming out. No one should be so scared to let people know that they are gay or that they wrestle with the idea of suicide as an alternative. No one should ever feel that alone. No one deserves to be deprived of love.

How is this different than picking on teens until they commit suicide? We call those people bullies.

What consenting adults do in their homes is not my entitlement to know, whether they are straight or gay or whatever. This shouldn’t be a conversation at all because it shouldn’t matter. Just like my hair is red. It’s different. And that’s okay. We are all equal. And until people stop judging other people based on sexual orientation, color, socioeconomic status, or whatever, there will always be people who feel entitled to judge others.

I think that coming out seems to have been mostly supportive for Ty Herndon, at least. So maybe country fans have made greater strides than I am giving them credit for. And for that I am proud.

About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.


  1. Well said Dawn!
    It’s insane to think that in the year 2014, people are *still* judging others based on skin color, sexuality, etc., Some people aren’t happy unless they’re making others miserable.
    To those who bully and spew hatred—they are the ones with the problem, not the people like Ty who are living authentic lives. Let people be who they are–plain and simple.

  2. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    I had no idea that it was tougher for people to come out if they’re country music artists. That is kind of a shame because I think this day in age, everyone should be able to be themselves. Good for those guys for coming out and I hope they have long, successful careers!

  3. I think coming out is difficult for many people. Sad but true. It is 2014 ~ you would think that all people not just country music lovers would accept people ~ but that is not so.
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  4. Unfortunately, this is the society we live in and people will hate those who are not like them or who don’t follow their beliefs. I sound like a broken record at times, but I am constantly preaching to my children to be nice to everyone. One day my children will realize that THEY are the happy ones for spreading the happiness.
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  5. It’s sad that in 2014 people still have to hide whom they love. I hope one day, maybe it will take a generational change, out with the old so to speak for there to be no reason to hide. Live and let love. Great post Dawn.
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  6. I don’t think it makes a difference who people love if they make great music. It is sad that some think it does

  7. I agree with Shauna,
    When I pick up an album I want to know if the music is good.
    I couldn’t give a rip about their personal life.
    They don’t care about mine either ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. It’s sad to see that this is still a huge issue in the world. It would be nice if people just accepted others for who they are without judging.
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  9. I love Natalie Maines – she is so talented! It bums me out that people are so judgemental sometimes.

  10. It makes absolutely no difference to me if an artist is gay, straight, black, purple, or green. The only thing I care about is whether or not I like the music.

    Now that said, I do believe there are things that celebrities could do that would turn me off forever… like molesting children or torturing animals. I couldn’t support anyone who would do that sort of thing. But anyone who would stop enjoying the music of someone simply because of their sexual orientation wasn’t much of a fan to begin with.
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      Well said. I agree with what you said wholeheartedly. It’s crazy that in many ways artists who come out often get villified {sp?} as if they had done something horrific, though.

  11. Amy Desrosiers says

    I dont think it is a big deal. It is their own business to do what they want.

  12. I cannot believe we are still worrying about this in 2014. Can’t we all move past our bias and let people love who they want?
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  13. I think it’s wonderful that they came out. I know that in their industry, it has got to be so much more difficult. However, I think it’s important that country music stars do come out publicly (If they CHOOSE to, and not because they were forced) because there are so many people (adults, teens and kids) who listen to their music, and may be struggling–and knowing that a celebrity they admire is gay, may help them.
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  14. I’ll never understand the kind of judgment that can rip someone’s life apart. I couldn’t care less about which direction they lean. It has no bearing on my life, so why would it even matter?
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      That’s what I think. I have no idea why people feel so entitled to know so much about others and be apart of the decision making of how a stranger should live their lives. Their are a lot of people in this world who put too much into the value of their own opinion.

  15. I remember that whole Natalie Maines fiasco – ridiculous. Anyone should be able to express their opinion or who they are without the fear of chastise.
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      What’s really funny is people say stuff like that all the time. I have no idea why it bothered people so much when she did. I remember Martin Sheen saying something like he would defect to Canada if such and such person won an election. I can’t recall who it was but I know they won, yet Sheen is still here. No one seems to care, lol.

  16. Helene Cohen Bludman says

    I look forward to the day when people are valued for their differences, whatever they may be. There is no room for hate, anytime, anywhere.

  17. I can’t imagine coming out if you’re older than high schoolers (within the past 5-8yrs or so) – which seems to be a natural thing for the kids these days. They even have a club at many schools for them – and all the kids accept those who are gay. For older generations – they’ve had instilled in them that being gay is just not normal.
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  18. People are too quick to pass judgement of those that are different than themselves. Race, gender, sexual orientation…. those are a part of you, just like the color of your hair, or whether you are left or right-handed. They don’t define you. And I can guarantee before they made the courageous step of coming out, those sample people who are now condemning them liked their music.

    • Dawn McAlexander

      Especially with the case of the Dixie Chicks – I was so shocked to see how many people turned on them who claimed to have loved them before. Granted, they didn’t come out as gay, they just made a comment about President Bush, but wow! Love turned to hate real fast there. It made me ashamed to know some people who were part of it.

  19. I had no idea there was that connection with country music fans…. probably because I’m not one ๐Ÿ˜› but I can’t believe there is still that judgement today. We are all equal and to see any bullying breaks me heart, I don’t tolerate it. Thanks for the post!
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  20. Love is love and I look forward to the day when we can accept everyone and stop worrying about who loves who. Great post!
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  21. I guess it would be because the south is so much more conservative and most southerns like country?
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      Yes, I would say that is a lot to do with it. Being from the south {but independent}, I think a lot of southerners are just stuck in ways and ideals that have been ingrained into this part of the country. And some of those ways of thinking definitely need to be adjusted.

  22. I think it’s so sad that anyone feels like they have to hide who they are. Those days should already be long behind us.
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      From racism to sexism to hate speech, etc., it just shows that there is always something to hate. Just like Taylor says, “A hater’s gonna hate….”

  23. I honestly feel that someone’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with their music, who they are and if I like their music (or them) or not. I honestly don’t care if someone likes same sex, opposite sex or both, if they are not hurting anyone then I say just BE HAPPY ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for this post.
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  24. Excellent post and so important. The hypocrisy is astounding – I don’t think there’s any God who would tell people they can’t love whoever they want to. And to say you’re proud to be American when you really only support those Americans who share your religion, skin color and sexual orientation is the opposite of the beliefs this country was founded on.
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      Very well said. There are far too many people in this country and in this world who only love or support you when you are exactly who they want you to be.

  25. This was a eye opener for me. I had no idea its was still a issue. It saddens me that this is still a problem for anyone we are who we are. Live and let live.
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  26. It is sad to me that in today’s society people have to be afraid to come out as gay. It just shouldn’t be a problem or even discussion. You love who you love. End of discussion.
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  27. I am a country girl at have I not heard of this yet.. I for one believe in marriage between man and wife. But that does not mean that I would ever EVER dislike someone for who they are. I have always loved both singers and will continue to do so. No matter what! I have a few gay males and females in my family and I love them all the same.
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      I just found out about it by accident looking around on the internet I think. When Chely Wright came out it was a big thing {perhaps because she was one of the very first or perhaps the first}. I think Ty and Billy haven’t made as much news – I am hoping because people are more “accepting” and no longer really see this as news.

  28. I am not familiar with these singers or music. I personally do not listen to this music.
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  29. Thanks for the story. I loved Ty and had wondered what had happened with him. You have to admit we know this is a big issue in Nashville since it’s hit the story line in the ABC show.
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    • Dawn McAlexander

      That’s true. It’s interesting that perhaps the most prominent gay musician in Nashville was a fictional character in a TV show. I happen to love that show, by the way.

  30. Amanda Love says

    I’m so surprised that in this day and age when gay marriage is so widely accepted that people will still be afraid to tell other that they’re gay. Well at least they finally “came out” and let their fans know.

  31. Personally, I don’t agree with the lifestyle. I also don’t agree that it should affect your livelihood or that it should be a big deal if you come out. If that is who you are and what you do, who am I?
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  32. This is a great post. I love the insight I gained from it.
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  33. We live in a world where people do not yet understand that if you do not like how a person lives you don’t have to hate them, you can just live your life another way.
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  34. I applaud those that come out. I think every one has a right to love whoever they please , it shouldn’t matter what others do.
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  35. Whether I agree with their lifestyle or not… it is just that… Their life. Why do people have to be mean and threatening because someone is different.
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  36. I wish coming out wasn’t a thing. It’s not like we come out that we are straight. Who cares who anyone loves.
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  37. I’m so glad to see that artists are still coming out even though that acceptance isn’t what it should be. That’s the only way to get there, right?
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  38. This should not be an issue. I don’t understand why people have to judge. What people do in there private lives is up to them. If they can sing is all that matters.

  39. This whole era of social media has really helped to open our eyes to the amount of judgment that exists in the world. I hope we can all learn to move past this ego and negativity, and truly learn to accept everyone’s personal lifestyles and tastes. So long as they are not causing harm to another, it is no one else’s business.
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  40. This is an amazing post. I truly hope that at some point my kids will go up in a more accepting world!
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  41. It’s funny how country is so different than it used to be. Much more “pop” sounding. I like it.

  42. Oh how I love Ty…
    I’ve actually met Natalie, she is one of the most outspoken and intellectual women I’ve had the pleasure to meet quite honestly. Love is love. Why must that get so twisted and have to be defined by who and why? Shouldn’t the real focus be on important things… curing cancer, feeding the homeless, supporting wounded warriors… I can think of a million other things to shift the focus on that can actually make a positive change. But yet, here we are shining lights on everything that really has no bearing on the big picture.. it’s sad.

    • Dawn McAlexander

      Amen. If we spent more time focusing on things that really matter in this world instead of things that are really just our own personal issues that we try to make everyone else’s, imagine how great this work would be.

  43. Anyone, everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, or sexual orientation deserves love! Period.

  44. I hope time will come when coming out as gay will no longer be a big deal. Where it’s just an every day occurrence.
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