It's the most rainbow-ful time of year...for better or worse! And since this is a newsletter I'm writing, we're going to focus a little on the worse part.
But first, the good: there are some really exciting things happening in the world of queer country music! Namely, CMA Fest featured the first official festival showcase of queer country music in American history. (The inimitable Will Groff wrote a hilarious takedown of some country "fans'" homophobic comments, which country singer Chris Houseman lampooned on his TikTok. What a time to be alive.)
First of all, if you were at the showcase, would you like to write about it for cold hard cash for Rainbow Rodeo? Let me know.
Second of all, the big news here is that the showcase happened at all. Americana as a genre likes to pride itself (pun intended) on being more liberal than commercial country music, but the Americana Music Association was once again beaten to the punch when it comes to diversity. Last year's Americanafest featured an official panel about queer country music as part of its poorly-communicated DEI efforts but there has not yet been an official showcase of queer country musicians, which is what the public and broke-ass freelance journalists like me can attend. There have been showcases in Nashville at the same time as Americanafest, let's say, but that's not the same as having the official stamp. Based on the lineup that's been announced so far, I am seeing very few family members on the lineup at all, and in fact the lineup is much less diverse than it was last year.
That's not to say that the CMA doesn't have its own issues: it is largely viewed as the more conservative of the two major country music associations, though so far they haven't handed Morgan Wallen a career achievement award the way the ACM just did. This in spite of banning him from their awards ceremony last year and making a very public commitment to diversity. Womp womp!
But queer organizations are not immune from this -- let's call it clout chasing. As Mya Byrne has been arguing rather persuasively on Twitter the past few weeks, it's a little absurd that there are pride festivals all over the nation right now and very few queer musicians (especially country musicians) have been invited to play them. I happened to be in Nashville for a wedding back in 2016 during their Pride weekend (also the weekend the Ogberfell decision was announced -- what I wouldn't have given to be at Stonewall that night) and they had imported a truly God-awful rapper from New York to perform on the main stage. Surely there were some queer country artists (and other musicians) who fit the bill? Or in New York, where Heritage of Pride regularly books big-name straight artists who cater to queer audiences and pay local queer musicians in exposure. Why aren't we fiscally supporting our community when we are celebrating our community?
And speaking of straight artists who cater to queer fans, I'm over it. Unless you're backing up your words with actual money or exhortation to political action, miss me. I am very proud to be one of the voices on Sirius XM's Country Pride channel and thoroughly perplexed as to why I keep hearing Miranda, Kasey, and Little Big Town. Miranda may have written that cute little song for Queer Eye, but her whole brand is that she's from Texas and she has yet to publicly comment on the vile and genocidal anti-trans legislation there. (So much for being "part of the change".)
Meanwhile, there's Kasey Musgraves, who said she would "jump in front of a train" for the LGBTQ+ community. This recent GLAAD article outlines Kasey's "allyship" over the years, though that seems limited to social media posts and featuring queer artists. Love that. And...where's the political advocacy? To be sure, Kasey's entire career is shaped by "Follow Your Arrow," and it's probably cost her opportunities within country music proper. But I, personally, feel like true ally-ship is really putting yourself on the line and following through on your desire for change through political action. Not just social media posts and selling bottles of wine (if you know, you know.)
Shut Up and Take My Money!!!
Lots of queer country artists are selling queer country merch for Pride. Here are some examples, and please send more my way!
- write for the [Bible Belt Queers]((https://www.instagram.com/p/CeXAdnoOxVH/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=) zine
- You can get almost 50% off the book Queer Country using this code: F21UIP
- This thread gives advice on self-managed transition in Alabama and other states that restrict our bodily autonomy
- A niche Bruce Springsteen quiz I know you'll love
- More accolades for Allison Russell
Rainbow Rodeo Playlist
Updated every two weeks!