Before we get any further, I want to remind you that I will be selling copies of Rainbow Rodeo in person at Flamecon in NYC this weekend! I have a single copy of issue 1 left and 30 copies of issue 2, which are likely to sell out. If you want one, now is the time to order!
I was privy to an interesting conversation on a queer art Discord server this morning -- in fact, it's run by Danny, the brilliant artist who illustrated the Rainbow Rodeo #2 cover. Anyway! At 34 I am one of the oldest people on that server, so that's a thing. But a number of the people on the server wrote about how much it bothers them to be referred to as "queer" or their art as "queer art." For the most part, the people who expressed this opinion have experienced trauma around the word being used against them as a slur.
Of course, the term "queer" (as an ADJECTIVE) fell into common usage in the 2010s because we needed a word to encompass the seeming explosion of identities -- and the political unification of gay, lesbian, and trans activists that was made necessary during and because of the AIDS epidemic. As that movement coalesced into a broader civil rights movement in the late '90s and 2000s. And, of course, people were searching for words that encompassed identifiers more expansive than binary gender identities allowed for. (I distinctly remember proto-Brooklyn hipsters using the label pomosexual, which is an orientation that is beyond labels. But is itself a label. Anyway, this is why I dunk on Brooklyn all the time.)
All that is to say, everything old is new again, and just as we did not have all of the words we needed in the '90s, maybe we still don't. It makes me wonder if "queer country" really is the best term for All Of This. After all, a large wing of the genre -- especially in 2022 -- is coming to terms with the stigma they face from their conservative communities now and when they were growing up. I imagine for many of the LGBTQ+ artists in Americana and country, the word "queer" does have baggage attached to it.
It also makes me wonder if queer COUNTRY is the right name for it, too. One of the drums I will keep beating, any chance I get, is that there is a huge difference between the scrappy punk-inspired circles of journeymen artists coalescing around the network of Brooklyn country/Americana artists (BTW -- a lot of them are throwing a huge show at Americanafest in just a few weeks!) and the people who are successfully breaking through in Nashville. To hear it from Will Groff's excellent interview of Brooke Eden on Holler, it's almost like they don't know there's a long-standing queer country scene:
Do you feel like country music has become more accepting of LGBTQ people in the last few years?
Brooke: Five years ago, it was unheard of to have a queer artist in country music who was going to be accepted. But then I came out and T.J. [Osborne] came out, and there’s a few of us now. The problem with country music and queerness for so long was just that people are afraid of things that they don't know about. For so long, we were closeted and put in corners, and people didn't have that representation
I'm not sure if it's anybody's fault, and Brooke certainly didn't mean any harm -- we don't know what we don't know, and next issue I'm going to throw out some speculation about the roots of the trans liberation movement and queer country/Americana and probably show my entire ass while doing it.
But I do think Brooke and the comments I've heard from other artists in that Nashville inner circle present an interesting linguistic disjoint: when we talk about country music, are we talking about country music? Or are we talking about Nashville?
How do we bridge these circles of musicians who have so much in common and could be even stronger together? Do we even want to? And if we do, what do we call them?
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!