‘A Terrible Kind of Fame’ Country Stardom and the Closet

Chris Carmack with cowboy hat and guitar

photo from Out Magazine

Out magazine’s October issue has a short article interview with actor, Chris Carmack. Carmack stars as Will Lexington on ABC’s Nashville series. Lexington is gay (or, possibly, bisexual), but playing straight to follow his dream of being a country artist. Out asked the actor if a country star could be out and successful. Here is what he had to say:

People I’ve spoken to say that at a certain level it’d be career suicide for somebody to come out of the closet. That’s a terrible kind of fame. I don’t think executives would give Will the time of day. That’s a damn shame, but in country music there’s a stigma that’s insurmountable.

That is a terrible kind of fame, and a damn shame. I find myself wondering if there is anything that we could do to help country get over this stigma. I know that there are a lot of fans of country music out there who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). I’m one of those fans. Through this blog, I hope in some small part, that I am showing country music they do have a LGBT fan base.

I’ve been to country concerts where other fans; strangers that you just happen to meet and talk with through your mutual interest in the artist and music, have known that I’m bisexual and that the friends with me are gay. They didn’t give two hoots. Sometimes they wind up talking to us more. So, is this stigma real or is it imaginary; something that is built up in all our minds over years of fear?

Would people really abandon a star artist? Would people really abandon a superstar artist? I think that there would be some loss, but I think that the higher up you go on country’s fame ladder, the less that loss would be. Household names would stop being used in some households, but I think that any damage would not be as extensive as perceived. I think that people would be more upset that they were lied to by and about an artist than finding out they were gay.

I think that the real fear might be in challenging perceptions. As we all know from telling our stories, getting to know an LGBT person can open hearts and minds. It’s a lot tougher to stigma the ‘other’ when the ‘other’ becomes the someone you know. There’s a fear that comes with that though. We’ve all felt it; continue to feel it. That moment when we decide to set down our chips and gamble on the reaction. I think that country music holds onto this same fear. There’s a lot of money tied up in music and the industry may not want to place a bet and see what happens, but they may be surprised at the support and reaction should they lay down their chips.

I wonder how long we’ll have to wait to see a willing gambler.

read the full article

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