About a year ago today, the founding staff of Country Queer publicly resigned. A year later, Country Queer and Dale Geist in particular have not addressed any of the concerns in the letter.
I've been reluctant to talk much about my own experiences at Country Queer -- I don't want to seem petty, and I feel my own experiences should be corroborated by the rest of the staff. (Just saying -- if you're looking for an article to write.) Everything I say below reflects my opinions only. I have not consulted with the other signatories before writing this. I'm writing this to continue to hold Country Queer accountable and to remind artists that the soft boycott described in the letter is still important.
Overall, my experience writing at Country Queer was frustrating, demoralizing, and had me thinking about quitting writing. The whole project began in 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. I'm an educator in the South Bronx, so you can imagine that Spring 2020 was personally frightening for me and extremely intense for my students, almost all of whom were essential workers. The rest of the CQ staff worked in hospitality, music -- at that point, nobody knew when or how any of those things could come back -- or were essential workers or students themselves.
Suffice to say, none of us had a nice e-mail job where we could catch up on our reading or learn how to bake sourdough. We were not paid to write for CQ either. We joined the project out of a deep belief and commitment to building a queer country community that so many of us had been starving for.
Unfortunately, the community we wanted to build wasn't safe for us.
Nobody was throwing digital staplers at each other, but the culture wasn't great. For example, Dale would make disparaging remarks to me about people who were running behind on their assignments. He laughed it off when he misgendered writers. He made similar racial microaggressions. He expected us to attend staff meetings that were often over an hour long.
None of us were getting paid, and some of us didn't even have a regular income.
This was all painful to me. I felt bad that I felt resentful towards working on Country Queer. I wondered if I was jealous? I began Adobe & Teardrops 10 years ago to promote overlooked artists in country and Americana. My imagination was too small, or maybe I'd been doing it too long, to think that there were enough artists for a daily queer country blog. Thankfully, Country Queer proved me wrong. Unfortunately, it is not the safe haven queer country fans deserve.
After the letter went public, a number of artists and publicists chose not to send their releases directly to CQ (and some still don't.) Dale wrote a perfunctory apology, but that was only because somebody had told him we were about to publish the letter.
We felt there was nothing more to say to Dale -- we'd all contacted him privately, and repeatedly, for months about our concerns. It wasn't until a number of us had quit and compared our experiences described above that we realized so many of us had felt this way. We had just been suffering in silence instead.
Lili Lewis did step in as acting editor, but at no point did CQ announce when she had stepped away. Lili also wanted to meet with us, but we felt that the letter spoke for itself.
Then, well, life happened. Some people's careers took off in a huge way. Some people's chronic illnesses flared up. My grad school program intensified. But in all this time it's not clear to me what, if anything, has changed at Country Queer:
Our letter asked that Dale step down from day-to-day operations of Country Queer. It also asked that fans, artists, and publicists, avoid working with him. Because nothing has changed, my stance has not. Every time I see an artist or publicist give an exclusive to the site, it feels like a knife in the stomach. Please continue to seek out queer country artists and outlets elsewhere and no, this is not a ploy for more support of this source.
Country Queer has played an invaluable role in connecting thriving local queer country scenes into an international community. But it is not by itself the queer country community. And it could not do that without its dedicated staff. We deserve a representative that is committed to all of us and proves it over and over and over again.
Here are all of the queer country album releases this month! Let me know if I should add something to the list!
Updated every two weeks!
Thanks to Catie Pearl-Hartling for making a parallel list on Apple Music!