Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

An Open Letter to the CMA

Dear Country Music Association,

Happy Pride Month! We would like to start by acknowledging the steps the Country Music Association has taken to highlight Pride Month this year. Social media takeovers by LGBTQ+ artists, playlists curated by queer artists, flying the rainbow flag on your social media profiles, and more. These are important gestures for the LGBTQ+ artists and listeners who have helped make the genre the vibrant musical space it is, but who have often gone unrecognized.

As much as we appreciate this progress, we are cautious about the appearance of tokenistic allyship, especially during Pride month. We would like to support you in following through on your positive steps.

Further, pursuant to your display of solidarity last year with Black Lives Matter, we feel strongly that LGBTQ+ equality, like gender equality, cannot be done in isolation. It must be done in solidarity and in tandem with addressing other structural inequalities in the country music industry. (And when including LGBTQ+ people, it is important to specifically elevate the voices of trans and nonbinary people, especially trans women, and Black trans women in particular.)

You have an opportunity, if not a duty and a responsibility, to begin proactively lifting up voices that have been marginalized for far too long. These are important voices that deliver vital stories for these times, and we’re certain they represent the future of country music.

We would like to see:

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  1. Direct financial  support for LGBTQ+ and BIPoC country artists (for instance, contributing to the Rainey Day Fund).
  2. Encouraging and incentivising country radio stations to play LGBTQ+ and BIPoC artists (LGBTQ+ artists are still only accounting for 0.01% of radio play. This is not representative of the quality of the music or the makeup of the audience).
  3. Supporting LGBTQ+ and BIPoC journalists writing on country music (for instance, allocating funds and resources to the Rosetta Fund, which offers financial support and mentorship to upcoming LGBTQ+ and BIPoC journalists).
  4. Creating an LGBTQ+ and BIPoC inclusive culture within the CMA so that people can be their authentic selves (what some might say is the cornerstone of country music) and modeling this externally, so that artists feel able to celebrate their LGBTQ+ fans.
  5. Transparency and fairness at the CMA awards and Country Music Hall of Fame Nominees: Panelists and criteria should be publicly available and it should be recognized that chart position as a nomination criterion is an unnecessary barrier that excludes some excellent music and deserving artists.

We welcome a dialogue with you in what we hope is a shared commitment to make country music and the industry open to everyone and sustainable for years to come.

Signed,

Dale Geist, Publisher, Country Queer
James Barker, Staff Writer, Country Queer
Adeem Maria, Editor, Country Queer
Mya Byrne, Staff Writer, Country Queer
Annie Parnell, Editor, Country Queer
Rachel Cholst, Producer/Host, Country Queer, Adobe & Teardrops
Tyler Morgenstern, Staff Writer, Country Queer
Will Groff, Staff Writer, Country Queer
Holly G., Founder, Black Opry
Marcus K. Dowling, Journalist
Aaron Lee Tasjan, Artist
Olivia Ladd, Journalist
Lorie Liebig, Journalist
Dr. Jada Watson, SongData
Amanda Marie Martinez, Ph. D Candidate, UCLA
Angela Stefano, Editor-in-Chief, The Boot
Cillea Houghton, Journalist
Karen Pittelman, Artist and Activist
Amanda Hensel, Editor-in-Chief, Taste of Country
Rissi Palmer, Artist
Anna Dickinson, Artist
Jenn Cuddigan, Artist
Coda Gardner, Artist
Eli Erlick, Educator
Mark Aaron James, Artist
Cindy Emch, Artist
Lance Horne, Artist
Shaun Osburn, Artist
Leigh Crow, Artist
Ruby Vixen, Artist
Robyn Shooter, PhD Candidate, King’s College London
Jim Malec, Journalist
Genesis Fermin, artist
Lindsay Graves, artist
Cheryl Deserée, Artist
Jason Mellard, Historian
Jeremy Leroux, Filmmaker
Jessye DeSilva, Artist

[For a more thorough exploration of why now is the time to stand up for marginalized voices in country music, please see “Country Music’s Hour of Reckoning.”]