For all of Pride Month, Sounds Like Nashville will celebrate country artists of the LBGTQ+ community and support those who act as allies. In this artist-penned blog, Ty Herndon recalls his powerful coming out story and how he’s used his platform to help support other people going through the same thing. Since going public, Herndon has carried out his message by hosting his annual Concert for Love & Acceptance, which will once again take place again this year. Read more below about the singer’s journey for representation and equality…
The night before I came out in the pages of People magazine back in 2014, I could hardly contain my feelings. I was feeling everything — hope, love, fear, you name it — and there wasn’t much of a roadmap for it. My dear friend and mentor Chely Wright had paved the way for women, but no other major country male artist had done what I was about to do. I refreshed my browser hundreds of times in anticipation of the story going live.
Then, it did. And at once, I was flooded with the sense that I could never take back what I had just said to the world of country music — I am a gay man. The bad news is that I had that feeling of regret for a split second. The good news is that I have never felt it again.
Indeed, most of the blessings of my life have stemmed from that moment. And I’m proud to say that not only did it make an immediate impact for me personally, it has been making a difference in the world of country music and beyond ever since. Within hours, country star Billy Gilman went online and told his truth. Then not long after that, CMT’s Cody Alan shared the same news with the world. And of course, just weeks ago, TJ Osborne became perhaps the biggest country music star yet to come out as gay.
I don’t tell you this to take any sort of credit. I share this to remind all of us that a single voice can matter, and that we all have a platform, whether large or small, for sharing our stories with the world. It’s been so gratifying to see the change that has taken place in country music since that day in 2014 — not just in terms of new voices speaking up and living authentically, but also in the way allies have stood with us. I hesitate to name them, because there are so many, but it’s hard to overlook the difference that people like Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Maren Morris, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, and so many others have made simply by sending their messages of love and acceptance to all of us so publicly. I could name dozens of others.
In a few weeks, I will join my great partners at CMT to host this year’s Concert For Love and Acceptance, an annual event that I co-founded alongside GLAAD back in 2015 to give LGBTQ and ally artists a place to stand up and share not just their talent, but also their support for LGBTQ people — especially our youth. Regardless of how much acceptance we see around us — and let me be clear, when I say “acceptance” I don’t mean tolerance; I mean affirmation and support — and how many positive portrayals we see in the media of LGBTQ people, it’s still extremely hard in way too many places to be a young LGBTQ person. Homelessness and suicide attempts are too high, and family acceptance numbers are still too low.
But we’re working every day to change that. And while I know a single concert can’t do it, I also know that there’s a young kid out there somewhere who needs to hear a positive message from one of the people on our stage. In fact, there are many, and I have no doubt that the messages of love and acceptance that have resonated from our stage since we created the show in 2015 have saved lives.
As we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month this year — following a year filled with so many challenges for so many — it’s my hope that we can all remember to use our voices and reach back to those who still need our help — and yes, our love and acceptance.
Tune into the Concert For Love & Acceptance on Wednesday, June 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET on CMT’s Facebook and YouTube channels. For more information or to make a contribution to support the Foundation For Love & Acceptance, go to www.F4LA.org.