Country Music and the LGBTQ community

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Rather obviously, country music is entirely hetero-normative. We do not see openly gay, lesbian, or trans country music artist who writes or sings about their relationships. For the most part, country music is men singing about women they love or women they want to have sex with and women singing about men that cheated on them or broke their hearts. These cultural norms in this genre of music make it next to impossible to break out in this business if you so choose to be open about your sexuality if it is not hetero-normative.   Have country music artists come out? Yes. However, these artists are very slim, the first person openly coming out being in 2010. Most recently in November 2014, Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman came out within hours of each other stirring up the country community. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/21/country-artists-ty-herndon-and-billy-gilman-come-out-as-gay/ Coming out is one thing, but are any of these people that choose to reveal their sexuality headliners or overly successful? No. Why is it that even in the R&B community which use to be historically homophobic, they are beginning to be a lot more supportive of gay, lesbian, and trans but country has remained stagnant?

Chely Wright was the first person in country music to publicly come out as gay. For the majority of her music career she appeared to be straight, even dating Brad Paisley, a very famous heterosexual male country singer, while they were on tour together. She wrote songs like “Hard to be a Husband, Hard to be a Wife” which is overtly hetero-normative, but she also wrote songs with titles like “Let me in” which is not telling of her sexuality at all. Chely in fact was intending to mask her sexuality the entire time. She has said that not only did she know she was a lesbian since she was 9, but she also swore to herself in her teen years that she would never reveal her sexuality to anyone as it was “immoral and would kill her career”. She eventually did come out to family in 2005 and later came out publicly in 2010. She is by far the most successful career wise in terms of people that have come out in country music, but she only came out when her music career was over. I can’t help but think it had to be much easier coming out not having the pressure of having to sell albums, tours, tshirts, etc. She in a lot of ways got to a point where there wasn’t much riding on her sexuality anymore, so while it was brave to come out, it wasn’t nearly as risky for her career as some of the younger artists who are coming out more recently.

When reading Chely’s story I couldn’t help but be reminded of Walt Whitman and his story of “coming out”. Could we find a pattern in Chely’s music like historians did in Whitman’s work?

Lyrics from the song “Not as In Love”

I want the earth to move, I want bells to ring
When he walks in the room, I wanna hear angels sing
It’s not a bad situation I’m in right now you see
I’m just not as in love as I’d like to be
No I’m not as in love as I’d like to be

Are these out of the many, many lyrics she has written not some how indicative of her feelings for women over men? For most listeners of this song when it came out in 2001, the thought was probably, “shes not in love with this man so she should move on to another man”. If one would have known her story, they might have saw these lyrics as her expressing how it is in fact a man that doesn’t satisfy her at all. In future lyrics that were released around the time she came out, she was much more candid about her feelings, even expressing that it could be a woman or man to end up with.

 

Lyrics from the song “Like Me”

“And who’s gonna end up holdin’ your hand-
A beautiful woman or a tall, handsome man?
There’s no doubt they’ll love you, but it’s yet to be seen:
Will anyone ever know you like me?”

Obviously, Whitman was a little different because his poetry wasn’t as overt in the coming out process, but like I said, she is not nearly as successful and has not been since coming out.

Why doe’s non-normative sexuality seem to be a death sentence in country music? I think it is the fan base. Country music has historically not been diverse. It is an industry run by white men with very little African American men, much less women then men, and almost no other ethnicity found. In order to bridge the gap for LGBTQ to feel comfortable coming out in country music, there needs to be much more diversity in general.

Gay Sex Clubs, Poz4Play, and Serosorting

http://www.poz4play.com/

 

Stigmatized Gay sex club culture is based on the idea that gay men are spreading diseases through the use of unprotected sex and drug use. While some of these stereotypes can ring true with some people, it seems that gay sex clubs and gay men fall under much more scrutiny then straight sex clubs and straight people in general, because of the higher frequency of gay men of any race being infected with HIV. Why such stigmatizations? In the clip linked above, Mark King, a gay man living with HIV, takes a tour of a gay sex club. He eludes to the fact that he chooses to no longer frequent gay sex clubs because of the way he affiliates the clubs with a drug he had previously been addicted too. The culture he felt was something that would strike up his drug use again, but he is very familiar with what actually goes on in the sex clubs, so he is not someone making opinions about something he is completely unfamiliar with. He takes a mostly unbiased tour of the sex club while seeming to be only rather critical of the fact that there is “bare backing” (sex without protection) that occurs in the club. The man giving him the tour explains that he provides protection at all the parties he hosts, however it is the own individuals choice as to whether they want to wear protection or not knowing that there is the potential for a partner to be infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

This is where the idea of serosorting comes in. Serosorting is the idea that a person chooses to limit their sexual partners to someone whom is of the same HIV status as themselves. The Poz4Play party allows HIV gay men whom choose to participate in serosorting, to only interact with other men with the same HIV positive status as them. This in turn attempts to allow HIV positive men to experience the same type of sexual experience of a sex club while not infecting people who haven’t already tested positive with HIV. I think what concerned Mark King with the idea of serosorting is that this may encourage unprotected sex assuming that you are with a partner whom has the same HIV status as you. Other sexually transmitted diseases could potentially be more easily spread, and it may cause men who are not HIV positive to assume that those that are HIV positive are only attending these parties and not attending sex clubs regularly.

 

The idea of claiming your status and being proud of it is, in my opinion, a great one. I think that this topic directly relates to our class topic of sex, as it discusses and tries to come up with a way for HIV positive people to feel comfortable with their status and own it in a scene, the sex clubs that is, that most likely would not be welcoming to people on a regular basis who are openly HIV positive. HIV and sexually transmitted diseases is still a very tough topic in that no one is required to tell someone else if they are positive for anything. Hopefully with an outlet like a HIV positive party night at a gay sex club, it will open up a greater dialogue and comfortable level to make everyone comfortable to being open and honest with the partner they choose.

Frank Ocean

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Christopher Edwin Breaux, better known as Frank Ocean, is an americna singer, songwriter, and rapper. He’s an artist that seems to prefer no labels. In Frank Ocean’s coming out statement (http://frankocean.tumblr.com/image/26473798723 ) which read slightly more like a song at times, it appeared that he wasn’t really coming out, but acknowledging that he does not choose one sex or the other, in his own very poetic way. The statement, an image posted on Ocean’s tumblr account clarifys a situation that occurred when a journalist made comments on about several of his songs addressing a “male love object”. His announcement of the fact that he has once been in love with a man in an industry that is historically and currently deemed rather homophobic was significant and even more significant because he has not “come out” but rather just announced that he loved a man. He identifies with neither gay nor straight.

Instead of an announcement addressing his sexuality one way or another, Frank Ocean took to tumblr in a way in such that I would classify his work as art and specifically poetry in the way he articulates his thoughts. With his post, he breaks down normative thoughts about queer culture, and not only chooses to not classify himself as gay but not as straight either; in fact he does not classify himself as anything but simply defines himself as a loving human being who experienced a relationship with strong emotions.  While he did post this post out of a response to a journalist commenting on his “male love object”, he didn’t respond by simply saying he was gay; he responded by expressing a love he had shared in his life.

 

I think Frank Ocean’s coming out, if you will, or better said, expression of his sexuality, is important to gender, sex, history, and current queer culture, because it is so representative of what modern day sexuality should be like. Sexuality over time has been classified in very certain definite ways, and in today’s culture, not only should gender and sex not be assumed by someones appearance, but sexual preference should not have to be one way or another. Sexuality has evolved and through Frank Ocean’s statement, through the units of our class and discussion, if there is one thing that is clear, it’s that sexuality is and should be up for every individuals own interpretation and not classified as gay or straight only… if that is not what someone so desires.