By Timothy Rawles
Coming out is difficult already, but when you're a celebrated mainstream country star, that process might be even worse since you're in the eyes of millions of fans who might not be supportive.
Despite the fear of those judgments and the potential knock to his country singing career, T.J. Osborne, 36, came out to Time magazine, making him the first out gay country singer signed to a major country label. Obviously, in his line of work, the decision to reveal such a personal part of himself was difficult.
“I’m very comfortable being gay,” he told Time. “I find myself being guarded for not wanting to talk about something that I personally don’t have a problem with. That feels so strange.”
T.J. is one-half of the Country Music Award-winning, Grammy-nominated singing duo Brothers Osborne. The pair have racked up several top 40 country hits across three albums. The singer fears that his coming out will be perceived as a publicity stunt or non-exigent. But in revealing his true self, the singer says he can express himself now without the dread of secrecy.
“People will ask, ‘Why does this even need to be talked about?’ and personally, I agree with that,” he says. “But for me to show up at an awards show with a man would be jaw-dropping to people. It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, cool!”
Although T.J. (which stands for Thomas John) doesn't think a mob is going to rush the stage at a concert and throw him out because of his sexual orientation. He does acknowledge that there are homophobes that despise inclusion. For the video to the song "Stay a Little Longer," the band included a same-sex couple and for the most part, it was received positively. “And then,” he explains, “there were people who were like, ‘Fa**ot lovers!’”
It was this sort of response that hindered not only his self-concepts, but his dating life too.
“Saying, ‘Hey, don’t hold my hand. Someone I know is in here, so can you wait in the car?’” T.J. says. “Rightfully, they would feel unwanted by me.”
With the pandemic keeping everyone isolated for almost a year, T.J., had some time for soul searching and as a result, decided there was no time like the present to come out.
“I want to get to the height of my career being completely who I am,” he told Time. “I mean, I am who I am, but I’ve kept a part of me muted, and it’s been stifling.”
It helps that the Brothers Osborne have distanced themselves from gender-specific lyrics about love or heartbreak, so future songwriting probably isn't going to include gay themes. Then again, T.J. admits that he might be underestimating his fanbase.
“I just want to move on,” he says adding that coming out isn't subterfuge for being loved or hated. “Don’t get me wrong,”
T.J. clarifies to Time: “When I say I want to put it behind me, I want to put the coming out behind me. Because ultimately it’s a very small detail about me.”