While the country music music industry is still working toward equality and inclusion on several fronts, the onslaught of music streaming and maturation of social media have opened doors for artists in the LGBTQIA+ community to connect with music fans and build audiences.

While country music artist Lavender Country was a pioneer in the space, releasing a queer-themed country music album in 1973, it has a been a largely uphill battle for LGBTQIA+ artists in the genre.

Chely Wright, known for her 1997 top 20 Country Airplay hit “Shut Up and Drive” and her 1999 No. 1, “Single White Female,” came out publicly in 2007. Ty Herndon came out as gay in 2014, having previously earned a handful of No. 1 Country Airplay hits in the 1990s, including “What Matters Most” and “Living in a Moment.” That same year, Billy Gilman (who found success in country music as a child with songs including “One Voice”) also came out publicly as gay.

Since then, the country music industry has slowly seen more openly gay artists and songwriters find success. And certainly, there have been and are many within the LGBTQIA+ community who are creatives, songwriters, producers and music industry execs working behind the scenes within the industry.

In the 2000s and 2010s, songwriters Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, who are both openly gay, began having success as writers. McAnally earned No. 1 Country Airplay hits for artists including Lee Ann Womack (“Last Call”) and Kenny Chesney (“Somewhere With You”), and rose to prominence as a writer and producer working with Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Reba McEntire, Kacey Musgraves and more. Meanwhile, Clark wrote hits including Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” and The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two.”

The year 2014 brought a moment of public recognition, when Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow” — which Musgraves wrote with Clark and McAnally and which famously featured the line “Kiss lots of boys/ or kiss lots of girls, if that’s what your into” — was named song of the year by the Country Music Association’s music industry voters.

Then 2021 saw two more country artists — Brooke Eden and Brothers Osborne’s T.J. Osborne — speak publicly about their sexuality. Additionally, more artists in country and Americana circles have been forthright about their sexual identities, including Lily Rose, Joy Oladokun, Orville Peck, Amythyst Kiah, Adeem the Artist and more.

We take a look at a set of songs from LGBTQIA+ artists and allies — songs which run the gamut from celebratory to reflective, from joyous to mournful — as we continue to celebrate Pride Month.

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