Curtis Braly Encourages Fans to Be Vocal in Support of LGBTQ+ Community

It's sad he was told these things for so long...

Curtis Braly Encourages Fans to Be Vocal in Support of LGBTQ+ Community
Photo courtesy of Curtis Braly

When “That Should Be Me” singer Curtis Braly first tossed around the idea of being a country singer, he wasn’t sure how he would be received. Would he have to hide his true self or could he live openly as a gay man? As the years have gone by, Braly has found the country fan base to be not only open, but accepting, and hopes that the vocal support continues to grow in size. In this blog from Braly, the singer opens up about his early days of hiding in the closet and why it’s important to speak up for the LGBTQ+ community.

As a kid coming out of high school, I was convinced that my dream of being a country music star came with a big sacrifice. I could either be in country music or I could live my authentic life as a gay man but both were not an option. At that age I wanted to be in country music so bad that I was willing to make the sacrifice not knowing how mentally damaging that could be.

So, I made the move to Nashville and began working as hard as I could to make a name for myself and began networking with other industry executives and professionals. It wasn’t long before I regularly heard comments like, “Country music fans will not support a gay artist,” “I wouldn’t gamble any money on a gay artist” or “the industry isn’t ready for one.” That experience pushed me into the closet even further.

Years went by and I began having some really good success. However, I was so unhappy and couldn’t figure out why everything was going the way I wanted it to with my career, yet I was miserable. It took some long hard soul searching to realize that it didn’t matter how much success I had, if I wasn’t being true to myself I would never be happy. The problem was I didn’t want to become the “gay” country artist, I just wanted to be a country artist who happened to be gay. The fear of being boxed into a “gay” label scared the hell out of me. I knew that by starting my journey of authenticity, I was putting a nail in the coffin of my career. Fortunately, I was wrong. We now live in an era where fans get to choose who they want to hear, not just the gatekeepers of Music Row.

It wasn’t long after that an opportunity came my way to go on the road with Tanya Tucker as her opening act. Again, music execs started telling me it was a risky move because Tanya’s demographic was very conservative and anti-gay. There was even a suggestion of having a bodyguard while on tour with her to protect me from any backlash. So, I mentally prepared myself for the criticism and scrutiny that was likely to come from Tanya’s fans. However, I learned very quickly that the FANS DIDN’T CARE! I would do Meet & Greets after the show with Tanya, and I would regularly have fans want to shake my hand for being open and proud of who I was in country music. I discovered and met a large part of her fanbase, who were part of the LGBTQ+ community, that would ask to hug me and give their gratitude for inspiring them, and showing you could be gay and still be anything you want to be.

That experience taught me something that I long suspected, but allowed myself to be convinced otherwise, from music business execs: country music fans are better than that. I spent years touring the country and meeting country music lovers and I’ve had the honor to play in front of audiences with Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton. Those shows were proof that country music fans are some of the most loving, compassionate and caring individuals I’ve ever met.

The genre has had this stigma with it for years that country music isn’t for gay people; that somehow it only has one demographic with little to no appeal to many minority and other diverse demographics. The reality is, these fans are just as diverse as the world we live in & they simply want to hear great music that tells a story that they can relate to; that brings out a variety of emotions. At the end of the day they want to leave a concert feeling like they just had the time of their life. That’s what they care about. Artists like Tanya, Dolly Parton, Reba, Ty Herndon, Ashley McBryde, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile, Brooke Eden; just to name a few, have proven that with their large and diverse fanbases.

Yes, there are a few out there that will never accept me or think I should have a place in country music. They’ll also say that Pride month is nonsense. The problem is they just don’t understand and I can honestly understand why they don’t. They haven’t lost their job simply for being straight, denied the opportunity of marriage, denied a family or had the hell beaten out of them for showing affection to their special someone. I could go on and on.

Pride month is an opportunity to not only celebrate how far we’ve come, but remind ourselves of how far we still need to go in publicly showing LGBTQ+ support in the country music genre. It’s an opportunity for us as human beings to cheer on the community and our fellow humans to live proudly, and openly for who they are despite all the risks that come with it. It’s an opportunity to teach and show our support to that kid in Nowhere, USA who feels invisible to his peers… or the girl who doesn’t fit the mold of what “beauty” is, yet she IS beautiful. It’s for the person who feels like they’re stuck in a dead end job because they don’t believe they can be anything they want to be…to the person who is afraid to embrace their true self because they’re scared they’ll be rejected by those closest to them…to the person who feels too old to take a leap of faith to pursue their dreams and thinks it’s too late.

Pride month is about championing the outsiders, the “misfits” and even those that look to the naked eye like they belong, but still feel fundamentally flawed. So, in the bigger picture, this isn’t just about me or country music. This is about all of us. It’s simply about love.

- Curtis Braly