#1: A Queer Country Manifesto
Well! What a week to kick off a newsletter championing marginalized voices within country music. Before we get into this week's news, I'm really excited to have you all here. My vision is that, eventually, this newsletter will offer articles from the best and the brightest of the country music world, and these thoughts will be collected into the Rainbow Rodeo zine. So subscribe now for as little as $1 a year to make my dreams come true!
The long story short, is that the Opry trotted out Morgan Wallen as a “surprise” guest last Saturday night. Wallen made headlines last year when TMZ posted a video of him shouting the n-word while he was on a drunken bender. Up until then – and all throughout 2021 – Wallen has been one of the top-selling country artists. Wallen has never issued more than a publicist-approved apology and his claims to donate large sums of money to local BIPOC non-profits are just that – the money never materialized. Wallen’s unrepentant attitude has made him something of a symbol for far-right chuds – and he’s done nothing to dissuade them.
Just to add fuel to the fire, the Opry had just hosted a ceremony commemorating pioneering Black country singer Charley Pride not 24 hours before.
It pained me to see so many Black artists I love and admire share their own frustration and grief online. Some people intimated that they were ready to hang up their guitars. Others said “fuck ‘em – we never needed them.” And, of course, all kinds of reactions in between. So what does this have to do with a queer country music publication? Well, the obvious is that white LGBTQ+ artists face many of the same barriers, as Chely Wright illustrated so beautifully. And, of course, there are queer BIPOC country artists because country music is for everyone.
This publication, like my blog Adobe & Teardrops strives to be anti-racist in all ways. (If you ever have any concerns, feel free to respond to this e-mail or drop anonymous-ish feedback at the link below.) And the white LGBTQ+ queer community is certainly not above ignorant dismissals of the BIPOC experience.
proudest moments. I know I’m not black- and I know the difference- but still gay/country has its own challenges. Maybe we can all quit screaming at each other and try to just make things better? Cue hate-mail..— Waylon Payne (@WaylonPayne) January 10, 2022
(I’ll admit it – I got into the mix there with some "hate-mail" of my own.)
As a community, of course, we embrace many facets and so it’s important to also highlight Sarah Shook coming correct about what white country artists can do:
And Adeem the Artist, as usual, encapsulates the world’s most complex ideas into a catchy three-chord song. (NSFW)
These are my unapologetic thoughts about Morgan Wallen & the way a private moment of his became weaponized to thrust him, somewhat accidentally, into being a symbol of racist hate & how what he did with the responsibility of that moment did real tangible harm to our community. pic.twitter.com/NbI6azjBdx— Adeem (the Artist) 🍳🌈 (@AdeemTheArtist) January 10, 2022
But all of This gets to an underlying question for all marginalized folks in country music (and, dare I say it, American society?): We belong here, but do we want to be a part of systems that are designed to keep us out? Or do we just do our own thing?
So it’s fitting that for our first Sweetheart of the Rodeo, we feature Karen Pittelman’s essay from the first issue of Rainbow Rodeo, a manifest for the queer country community.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Karen Pittelman is the Karen behind Karen and the Sorrows and the founder of The Gay Ole Opry, which has laid the foundations for our current queer country seen these past 10 years. In her manifesto, Karen argues for a queer country community that takes no bullshit from the mainstream.
There are plenty of reasons why it’s a good idea to organize together as queer people.
For starters, we can build community and take care of each other, especially when the rest of the world isn’t looking out for us. We can create spaces where people feel at home in ways they might never feel at home otherwise. Plus, everybody knows we throw better parties.
We can also build power. We can make demands together that would go unrecognized if we made them alone.
On the other hand, just because we share an identity doesn’t mean we share political beliefs.
It also doesn’t mean we understand how complicated identities can be, how both privilege and oppression can intersect. In other words, just because I built a space that feels like home to me doesn’t mean I built a space that feels like home to you, even if we are both queer.
And just because we become more visible doesn’t mean that anything is gonna change.
Of course I want people to hear my music. I work hard to put my songs out there. I’m not saying that in order to be true to our queer country roots, we have to stay underground. But it would be naive for us to confuse an industry slowly waking up to the fact that queer people want to spend money on country music with actual, institutional change.
I’m not interested in being queer or being country unless it means we’re willing to go to Fist City for what we believe in. I want us to be the menace, the outlaws, the perverts they have always been afraid we are. Since when was country music ever about fitting in? I want us to be queer as in fuck you—middle finger up, Johnny Cash style.
To that end, I offer my Homosexual Agenda for country music. Really, I just made some tweaks to country’s core beliefs.
I just found out about the Let’s Talk Country podcast. They describe it as “Country Music = just three chords and a complex relationship with gender, race, sex, and a ton of other stuff. Join us for the foot stompin’ and head shakin’.” The newest episode is about the country music that got the hosts’ friend, Eliot, through growing up queer in the South.
Trans folk singer-songwriter Eli Conley is Kickstarting his new album. He’s already hit his goal but why not kick in some funds for publicity and such?
Amy Martin is also raising money so she can travel to record her next album
Abby Lee Hood is launching a podcast about anti-trans legislation in Tennessee. Here’s their theme song for the podcast of the same title, “A-Goin’ Anywhere”
If my Spotify playlist (below) isn’t enough for you, Mercy Bell created a playlist of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC artists called The Altpry
Rainbow Rodeo Playlist
Click to enjoy!
Submit your music and events to The Q LGBTQ Creative Network