2021: The year of Pride, or business as usual?
by James Barker, Senior Writer
Despite all the dazzle of rainbow logos and LGBTQ+ country playlists during Pride month, homophobia continues to fester in the country music industry. On August 12, artist Hayden Joseph posted an emotional TikTok detailing a recent experience where this became all too real for him: when another country artist asked not to be featured prominently in Joseph’s “Backwoods Bougie” music video, as being associated with an LGBTQ+ or pro-LGBTQ+ artist would be bad for his “brand”.
Joseph did not mention the artist by name, just that he was a young artist trying to make it in the industry. Of course, it’s not about any one artist — as Joseph says, the industry has been built this way, and encourages artists to see issues of equality as a matter of branding, instead of what’s right. Let’s be clear, if being “pro-LGBTQ+” is not part of your brand, then homophobia and transphobia are. There is no middle ground.
We commend Joseph for speaking out and drawing attention to this, as well as for nobly using his experience to focus on the structural issues. Too often we treat homophobia, racism, and sexism as a few bad apples, rather than a system that is rotten. If all those Pride logos and “allyship” from the likes of the CMA and mainstream country artists are to mean anything, now is the time to speak out, and get the house in order.
Country Queer stands in solidarity with Hayden Joseph, queer country artists, and LGBTQ+ country industry professionals — and all people who feel they have to hide who they are, even if they are technically out of the closet, but are still pressured to act “culturally straight” to even get a chance.
Senior Writer James Barker is a PhD student at Newcastle University UK, currently writing a thesis on Dolly Parton. He wants academic work to be engaging and accessible to everyone and to have a real impact on the ground, not least changing country music to be more inclusive. Contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org.