Hello out there, cowpokes. I'm running a little behind this week but also wanted to post today for pragmatic reasons discussed below. This week's post is going to look a little different.
The first two sections will focus on Leslie Jordan and Patrick Haggerty. It's been a tough two weeks for the queer country family.
The last section will be a follow-up on my post about Country Queer and a discussion of building safer queer (country) spaces online.
I did not know much about Leslie's acting career or, as a non-Christian, connect as much with his music. But it's been obvious from the responses I've seen that he will be dearly missed. Leslie releases his gospel album Company's Comin' in 2021 with a bevy of country music talent to great acclaim. Here's an excerpt of Pennie Merle's review in Rainbow Rodeo #2:
Is it possible to be sad when Leslie Jordan is around? No, honey. It is impossible. So much joy outta so little of a... well, you know.
You could call this a queer album but I really find Jesus in it. And in my belief, Jesus is all about His children no matter if they’re queer, gay, straight, crooked, trans, bi, questioning, whatever. Jesus loves EVERYBODY. 🏳️🌈 The star-studded lineup, is also “queer-studded,” with not only some of the most talented LGBTQ+ artists, but allies and gay icons. And I love that it’s a gospel album that gospel would never let happen.
And here are some obituaries from relevant music publications:
Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your love with us.
This one was tough for me. I knew Patrick personally and I interviewed him for my first feature-length article in 2016. It was about queer country music on Wide Open Country, the first of its kind on a mainstream country music publication.
I last saw Patrick perform with Paisley Fields, Austin Lucas, and Jett Holden at the last stop of their Roundup Tour. It was a beautiful and affirming concert experience for me, a linking together of all the work I've tried to do within the Americana sphere. After the concert, Patrick looked especially tired. I kind of knew it was the last time I would see him perform, but I figured I'd at least make it out west to Seattle to visit him, as he'd invited me to do.
I wrote a full obituary for Patrick on The Boot that I'll link to below. Later this week I'll post that 2016 interview to the podcast feed. What's interesting to me is how Patrick's attitude towards the mainstream country industry shifted in the 5 years between that interview, and my last one with him on the Country Queer podcast in 2021. By that point, Patrick was working with artists who had access to that world (Trixe Mattell, Orville Peck) and had a lot more sympathy towards the artists who felt pulled between conforming to their demands and wanting to be radical.
Patrick never made that compromise. Nor should we expect it of our queer country artists or the industries that are supposed to support them.
It's a particularly devastating loss to lose such a literal revolutionary figure right now, when things seem bleak. Patrick, Leslie, and other LGBTQ+ survivors of their generation blazed a path for the rest of us to follow. We need to draw from their courage to continue making the way for the young ones behind us.
The obit I wrote for The Boot
Devon Leger's piece for No Depression contextualizes Patrick's political and musical lives
Michael Reitmuller's piece for The Yakima Herald discusses Patrick's incredible radical politics
Two weeks ago, I explained why Country Queer's founding staff resigned in the fall of 2021. I had no idea that Dale was planning to launch a GoFundMe. According to the GoFundMe, the site needs $50k to keep things going. Ken Burns tweeted out the link, No Depression posted it on their Friday odds-and-ends roundup. In both our public resignation and in my post last week, I asked that artists and fans boycott Country Queer because Dale has not actually demonstrated his interest in apologizing to us, nor has he demonstrated a commitment to different behavior.
Instead, his lack of transparency continues. To read his GoFundMe summary, you'd think he got the site off the ground all by itself. No mention of the staff -- and, once again, no mention that he didn't even start Country Queer. Kevin Thornton created a podcast and site called Strange Fire that was meant to gather and promote queer country artists. Cindy Emchy and Ryan Cassata, artists in their own rights, took over the basketball but Dale pulled in staff and got it into the site you see now. I even reported on Strange Fire in 2018 but Dale has done so much to make the Country Queer "brand" revolve around him that I totally forgot until Jeremy Leroux brought it up.
If one were to do some cursory digging on the GoFundMe, you would find that a single family has donated $23k towards the goal. One of the donors, Avery Martin, whose grandfather donated $20k, publicly donated $3000. She was just featured on the front page of Country Queer as an up-and-coming country singer. To me, this does not smack of transparency or journalistic integrity!
Why do I keep harping on this publicly? Because, to my knowledge, I was the only original CQ staff member who already had been writing about queer country music. Dale wanted me on the site to help give it credibility. But now, when I and others have questioned his credibility again and again, the people who continue to support him say "but it's for the greater good. What's the alternative?"
So I'm throwing the gauntlet down right here and now. The alternative is Rainbow Rodeo.
This project is currently small and slow-moving because I am never, ever going to ask people to work for me for free -- and some have offered! In order to build the queer country community -- the lavender country -- that Patrick and Karen Pittelman and other artists have worked so tirelessly to build, we need something that is self-sustaining and celebrates all members' dignity, even in the form of financial compensation. There's a reason I've focused on crowdfunding and my cute little Patreon. I will always pay contributors before I pay myself. The only profit I make from this venture is physically traveling to bookstores and art fairs and selling one zine at a time. (PS, if two people sign up for $5 an issue, that'll make things into some nice round numbers.)
We can build this community together. Maybe I'll never be invited to an Americanafest panel or get a shoutout from Ken Burns, but at least I'd know I was a part of something collaborative, meaningful, and uplifting.
And if you want to help build a queer country space, I would be so thrilled to help you out in any way I can.
There are already some exciting alternative spaces!
Jeremy LeRoux built a directory of LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and disabled roots artists called Country Everywhere. Use it to discovery new favorites or start some collaborations! I always link to it in the regular newsletter.
I made a Discord server for Rainbow Rodeo. Discord basically works like Slack. In other words, it's a sophisticated group text/chatroom. If you want to join, reply to this e-mail and I'll send you the link.
I'm not really sure where the wind is blowing with Twitter so I made a Mastodon account. The instructions for joining the network, which is basically open-source Twitter, are confusing. Basically, you're picking a Facebook group to make an account with. Once you have that account, you can make friends with anyone on Mastodon whose information is public. Who knows -- if there's enough demand, maybe Jeremy and I can figure out how to make a queer country "group" or instance, as it's called. Anyway, here's how you can find me: @firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyway, since it's clear that we need reminders that queer country music has many homes, I'll be making this a weekly newsletter. I'll see you on Friday with more music, which is what we're all here for!
Be well, everybody!