They say the genre isn’t always welcoming to gay country singers. Despite major changes in LGBTQ rights around the world, country music remains to be one of the most challenging genres for an out artist to work in.
Some even say that fans of country music – which has by tradition been home to songs about partying hard, loving hard, working hard, and praying hard – aren’t as accepting of those in the community as fans of other genres.
Fortunately, a handful of gay musicians have found the courage to live proudly as their authentic selves regardless of the age-old machismo – and you can see the struggle and victory keeps shining through their music.
With the change that is already happening, it is high time for us to feature the stars who have been trailblazers in the country music LGBTQ community.
1. Lil Nas X
The artist “planned to die with the secret,” but before 2019’s Pride month ended, Lil Nas posted a series of tweets intending to let his followers know that he identifies as gay. The Georgia native revealed that becoming Lil Nas X made him more courageous and confident.
“If for me, the ‘cool dude with the song on top of everything,’ to say this at any other time, I’m doing this for attention in my eyes. But if you’re doing this while you’re at the top, you know it’s for real,” he said. “It’s showing it doesn’t really matter, I guess.”
2. Cody Alan
Cody Alan publicly came out as gay in 2017. “I wanted to be honest with myself and my country music family,” he said. “I think being anything but honest falls short of a true and happy, open life. For me [coming out] was really just about, ‘Let me be as honest as I can.'”
Alan has also expressed his gratitude that despite existing perceptions, he received support from his fans and the country’s biggest stars. “Country music is very warm and welcoming. The people are very real and so kind,” he added.
3. Ty Herndon
In 2014, Ty Herndon came out as gay and re-released his hit song “What Mattered Most” with updated lyrics that will fit his true identity. He actually changed all previously female pronouns in the song into male pronouns.
Two years later, he revealed much more about his lifelong struggle for acceptance by releasing another album, “House on Fire.” It features gender-neutral love songs and a moving title track about feeling humiliated inside the church.
4. Brandi Carlile
The three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter has publicly identified as a lesbian for more than 17 years.
During the 2019 Grammy Awards – where she was the most nominated female artist, having a total of six nominations – she said she attended the event to represent the LGBTQ community as a whole, at the same time acknowledge the other queer artists who’d come before her, like Elton John, and Freddie Mercury.
“I’m stunned, speechless at the opportunity to be a representation for some other kid in some other small town,” she said.
5. Shane McAnally
Today, Shane McAnally is a mainstay in Nashville’s songwriting community, with 40 No. 1 hits to his name. But long before that, he was struggling with his sexuality, hesitant if the country music industry would accept him if he came out as gay.
Despite the tensions about how the industry might react, McAnally started to publicly identify as gay. And much to his surprise, the genre has embraced him with open arms – it is evident to his commercial success.
“My career really took off when I came out,” McAnally said. “When I stopped hiding who I am, I started writing hits.”
6. Brandy Clark
The country star has found success as her real self, and she feels fortunate not to have her sexuality held against her while garnering praise with her honest songwriting.
“I feel lucky that by the time I got the chance to be an artist on a major label, I was already out of the closet,” Clark said. “I didn’t have to go back in, and I wouldn’t want to. I hope that just being who I am helped that.”
7. Billy Gilman
Gilman came out as gay in a video posted in 2014. He uploaded the video titled “My Story by Billy Gilman” on a YouTube page just a few hours after Ty Herndon had come out. Gilman revealed in the video that Herndon’s public confession motivated him to do the same.
8. Chely Wright
In 2010, the Nashville pedigree let her secret out that she’s hidden for her entire career, though she didn’t think country music could handle her homosexuality.
“Country music is not cool with an openly gay country music artist,” she said. “I read liner notes as if they were bedtime stories; nowhere in there did I read anything about a homosexual.”
But when she started getting lonely, she realized the truth was the only way.
9. Shelly Fairchild
Shelly Fairchild revealed that she “fought hard to live the truth of who I am as a gay woman,” she said. “Because of my truth, I’ve lost record deals, friends, and family members. I’ve been heartbroken, and I’ve broken a few, I’ve lied, I’ve cheated.”
These days, Fairchild is an active songwriter and studio musician. She married her wife, Deborah DeLoach, in 2017.
We are so proud of these gay country singers.