Toronto Diary
7 min

Is Steve Grand really the first openly gay country star? (Nope, not really)

Last week, BuzzFeed reported on openly gay country artist Steve Grand’s “All-American Boy,” a fairly cute ditty about growing up gay. As these things are wont to do, the song went viral and Grand has been named the first openly gay country star ever.

Except he’s not. Technically.

As The Atlantic Wire points out, not only have there been openly gay country acts in the past — most lost to time since, let’s face it, very few people document indie-country — but last year, Drake Jensen came out as an openly gay country musician and received a fair bit of press and admiration for his work. So why has Jensen been forgotten while Grand goes viral?

As is often the case with these sorts of bold media proclamations, the label brushes aside a bit of history in its eagerness. Most notably, it ignores Drake Jensen, a Canadian country singer who came out in February, 2012, and whose latest video, “Scars,” details the pain of being bullied as an LGBT teen. Of course, you could argue that Jensen isn’t exactly a star, and his video won’t likely have the same viral appeal; as Salon’s Daniel D’Addario notes, “his bearish physique isn’t winning him any fans among the BuzzFeed set.” (Did we mention Grand looks pretty good shirtless? He does.)

So basically, Grand gets to be first because he just so happens to be marketable as hell. He may not be the first openly gay country star, but he is the one with the best publicist. It also doesn’t help that BuzzFeed’s misnomer has thus far gone pretty much unchanged, even though there are more than a few pieces of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. (Not to bash BuzzFeed — they’re great people, but really? If you’re going to shout “FIRST!” you need to do a Google search or something.)

None of this is to diminish what Steve Grand has done. He’s an openly gay musician in a genre not known for diversity. That’s not easy, and the fact that he’s written a song that so many people can relate to is a testament to his talent.

It’s just unfair to other openly gay country musicians like Drake Jensen who have put in just as much work and gained none of the viral notoriety. Steve Grand is many great things, but first is not one of them.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering if nude photos of him have surfaced online: The Sword has them. Yay! Man-candy! (Also: NSFW.)