by Brian Glenn
I met a friend for dinner a few months ago. He recently relocated from Michigan to Nashville, having been schooled in one of the few elaborate music business programs offered in the country on the college level. He’s a likeable, articulate, intelligent man and appears fearless in the art of networking. I think he will find success in the administrative side of the country-music scene for which he has been trained.
During our conversation he said something I’ve heard before. Basically, he gave me the “you could still be a contender” speech. He spoke with thoughtful respect, asking if I had lately considered throwing my hat back in the ring for bigger, mainstream success as a solo performer. While trying to convey my feelings about it, he interjected this: “I don’t think being gay would be an issue if you didn’t make it one.”
Now just a few minutes prior, he mentioned going to a nightclub to see a female performer signed to the record label he interns with. He told me what a great singer and songwriter she is and how much he loves her sound. When he mentioned meeting her after the show, his eyes glimmered, and without verbal verification, gave a boyish grin that unmistakably said, “…and she’s gorgeous, too!” I prodded, “Intriguing, was she?” With a look of longing, he replied, “Oh, yeah.”
In hindsight I muse: Was he making his sexuality an ‘issue’? Through common, everyday interaction it took my well-intentioned friend all of ten minutes to spill the beans that he is straight. Granted he did so in a one-on-one setting, but to suggest that I completely avoid the issue in the intimate settings involving record executives, disk jockeys, promoters, club owners, agents, publicists, managers and fans is quite a feat. In fact, it’s a feat that I accomplished for years, and I don’t need a doctor to tell me the price I paid in excess stomach acid. The expense of energy to filter my thoughts and actions so others could rest “issue-free” from my reality became too much to bear. My friend added, “I suspect there are country artists out there who are gay and just don’t say anything.” That’s their choice and their consequence. Keeping it all inside carries its own consequence just like coming out does. I wonder how many years I would have to watch my every move before making enough star money to afford the best in rehabilitation.
Many homosexuals feel denied the safety and acceptance of speaking freely in a society that views their life as complete paradox. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. It’s damaging. It’s a
reality. It’s not a perfect world and I’m not trying to make it such, but for me, it all comes down to whether or not I accept the second-class standing and its social rules administered to me by ignorance. I no longer take responsibility for anyone else’s prejudice by protecting them from the truth.
My dinner companion was aware that I’m gay and was still willing to meet with me. So for him, my sexuality was not an issue, but he knew. Aside from someone knowing, how can the notion of whether it’s a divisive issue or not be determined? I think about the straight people I work with. In most cases, I know who’s married, who’s divorced, who has children, and so on. Yet I’ve never seen them admonished for the sexual nature come to light in conjunction with these simple things.
Why do I have to talk about being gay? I don’t have to, and often I don’t. But I don’t hide it, and if you hang around with me long enough you’re going to find out; so it is with the rest of society. I’ll consider hiding the role my gay-ness plays in my everyday life when everyone does the same. Then we’ll be equal.