Don’t be surprised to find Cody Alan at the grocery store sporting his Crocs. Yes, that Cody Alan—the co-host of CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown and radio shows like CMT Radio Live and CMT After Midnite. Here’s a guy who gets to rub elbows with Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and that handsome Blake Shelton. Perhaps the show business flair that makes Cody a bit of a fashionista, but not when it comes to his comfy Crocs house shoes.
He wasn’t, however, wearing Crocs the night he let me interrupt his weekly appointment of The Bachelor viewing with his daughter and partner. Like so many of his fans, I wanted to discuss his recent big announcement. Over the New Year, he made a big blip on country music’s radar by coming out publicly.
Cody said his timing wasn’t exactly planned. He was just finally ready.
“I came out now because I’m finally comfortable enough for everyone to know this truth about me,” he said. “Being gay is not a choice I made recently, but something I've known about myself my whole life. Through life's twists and turns, I came to a point where I felt it was time to be 100% open and real.”
Now that the initial fuss is over, he is settling into his role as an unintentional leader within the Nashville gay community. Cody says our fair city had a starring role in his decision to publicly declare his true self.
“Nashville is a very accepting city, loving and kind. You get that sense not only from your day-to-day walk with people, but also the music industry people,” he said. “And over the years I’ve become friends with many of the stars of today and the people behind the scenes, and I knew that, if I said something to most of them, it would be received positively.”
It was the comfortable environment of Nashville that encouraged Cody to make the decision to come out, along with the insight that everything would be okay on the other side.
He includes Mayor Megan Barry on his list of inspirational people, saying she has been a valuable proponent for equality and openness in Music City. “I’m not sure every city is like that. I’m not sure every Southern city is like that, particularly,” he added.
That’s why it’s still important for figures like Cody to be open about who they are, if they can. “I think there are probably some kids on dirt roads in lots of places who listen to country music who are different,” he said. “Maybe not gay, but different in some way and don’t feel there’s a place for them. I think if I can be the voice of someone who is a little bit different and embraces who they are, I will have done some good here.”
Now that he has spent his first few months as an openly gay man, Cody’s next step, or evolution, is one of continued discovery and inner peace. His great revelation was a much better experience than that experienced by many LGBTQ people.
“So many people came forward to put heart emojis on my Facebook or to send personal messages to me just to say thank you for speaking up. I’ve had thousands of those over the last few weeks, and it’s been overwhelming. I think it’s such a personal thing for someone to even
write that on Facebook or just send a message to me, telling me their story. Some of these messages are paragraphs long, ya know, telling me ‘This is what I’ve been through…’”
Cody takes all of these heartfelt messages seriously and is currently spending much of his free time personally responding. He says it’s the least he can do.
“They didn’t know me personally, until now,” he explained, “because I’ve opened up in such a way that many people feel like they know me better.”
While there is admittedly some negativity in Nashville’s gay community, Cody claims he hasn’t seen it yet. He wouldn’t focus on that anyway. Instead, he turns to messages where people tell him he is saving lives by simply coming out. He is grateful, though that isn’t what he set out to do.
“I wanted to live my life and to share where I have been and my journey with people and I wanted to be honest. I just felt like it was time for me to be transparent, so for someone to say I have effected them or others in such a way positively, that’s a real humbling responsibility.”
Cody’s timing was interesting because he came out during a time in the United States where some in political power do not agree he has the right to equality. But Cody doesn’t allow his mind to be bogged down with pessimism.
“I look at the glass half full. I’m an optimist at heart. I don’t look at the negative. I try to focus on the positive. It sounds cliché, I know,” he explained. “I do think we do have to stand up and speak out for what we believe because when you have a chance to reason with someone over issues that we are fighting for, I believe that it’s not difficult to convince people.”
While Cody did officially come out in January, he had previously headlined LGBTQ events, making some wonder if he was gay. But, coming out on a national platform was something he needed to be prepared for privately and publicly.
“It really wasn’t difficult to host events and be active with CMT’s LGBTQ group for Pride and other functions, because I was okay if people assumed I was gay. I never tried to hide it. In fact, feeling comfortable in those settings with other like-minded individuals helped. Ultimately, I wanted to take the time to prepare the people closest to me, not completely knowing what coming out would mean for my life and those around me. Everyone’s story is different. I certainly respect everyone’s timing on how and when they share because it’s truly such a personal journey.”
With such a well-known personality in country music putting a face on LGBTQ issues, could some big stars follow his lead? Could his fan base begin to change some of their views? Only time will tell how Cody’s coming out will continue to inspire people and change things.
Connect with Cody on Facebook at www.facebook/codya and on Twitter @CMTCody. Photo at top: with Thomas Rhett and Nick Jonas.