By Sydney Miller, Associate Editor
For all the diversity in the queer community, one of the most diverse range of experiences is our relationship with family. Some people are out and accepted by their families, some out and tolerated, and some out and shunned. Some are not out at all, for fear of being shunned.
Holidays bring out many confusing or conflicting feelings for us queer folks. But no matter what your relationship with your family looks like, you’re not alone. And I bet you there’s a queer country song that says exactly what you need to hear.
Figuring It Out
For younger queers such as myself, maybe you’re still figuring out your identity. Maybe you don’t have all the answers, and you don’t really know how to tell your family. Maybe you don’t even know what to tell yourself.
“Normal,” off of Katie Pruitt’s debut album Expectations, is a solemn ode to the complexities and confusion of finding out who you’re supposed to be. “If I could be normal / Then trust me, I would,” she sings. But it’s less about how Pruitt feels, and more about how she feels like she’s messing things up by not being normal.
In a similar vein, “Other Boys” by Paisley Fields is about being a little different than other boys because they wear “mom’s high heels” and “grandma’s earrings.” They’re aware of their “otherness,” but it’s hard, because otherness is what makes them feel like themself.
We see this as well in Namoli Brennet’s “Boy in a Dress.” “What I call hard / Seems so damn easy for everybody else,” she sings. The song is about how she’s always been a girl, but at the time the only way the world described her was as a “boy in a dress.”
The common theme here is that all these artists are only uncomfortable with their true selves because they can tell they’re making other people uncomfortable with their “otherness.”
I know it might be scary. Your parents may seem uncomfortable or confused by your otherness. But the only way you’re ever going to find comfort with who you are is by embracing how you feel, whether it’s who you love or what gender (if any) you want to present as.
Sadly, all too many coming out experiences end in mangled family relationships.
“If I told my mom / She would scream at the top of her lungs / Saying I don’t belong,” Katie Pruitt sings in “Georgia,” a mournful piano ballad about her fear and isolation in her hometown.
In “Sins of the Father,” Waylon Payne recounts his complicated relationship with his father that made him wary of having children of his own.
“Nobody deserves to feel unwanted / But surely you know that all of us did,” Catherine the Great chides her father in “Be Your Own Dad.”
Everyone longs for acceptance from their parents. In “Lost Angel,” Mya Byrne pleads that “Your tears will leave you when you let her in / Open up, with arms embracing / And you swear you’ve heard her voice before / Your lost angel’s at your door.”
But if your family won’t give you that acceptance, sometimes you just have to let them go. Sometimes, you just can’t be around people who don’t accept you.
Catherine the Great pulls no punches with this: “I sleep in on Father’s Day / And I don’t take your calls,” she declares.
Waylon Payne sheds the painful memories of his father and declares that the “Sins of the father are never gonna hang around me no more / It’s time for me to lay ‘em down and let them go.”
He sees the joy his friend experiences when he becomes a dad and “Watchin’ him give it all to raise that baby / Made me wanna be a better man.” Payne lets go of the hurt and pain his father has caused and refuses to let that dictate how he lives his life.
Catherine the Great was also able to let go of her expectations for her father: “But I have made this world my own / I have started something new / I have learned to be the thing / That I needed from you,” she sings.
Even though Katie Pruitt’s father “Would scream / He’d scream out in rage” because “He did not want a daughter whose soul wasn’t saved,” she stayed strong and found other people who accepted her.
“There is a place past the Georgia pines / Where people who welcome you with an open mind,” she sings. “Oh cause I told the world / And they still saw me as the same girl / They listened to my songs / And they made me feel like I belonged.”
Acceptance can come in many forms, whether it’s letting go of your past, creating your own future or finding a community that loves and accepts you.
And sometimes, like in Aaron LaCombe’s “Uncle Carl,” you can find acceptance in your own family when you come out to them on Christmas.
So if you’re in the closet and avoiding your family, or if you’re estranged, know that the queer community — especially the Country Queer community — loves you. If you’ve come out and you’re accepted, that’s phenomenal — and we’re still here for you.