For Gay Pride Month, @billboard asked numerous pop culture luminaries to write 'love letters' to the LGBTQ community. I was honored to be among those asked. My letter [below] is live at billboard.com/pride with all the others. This wasn't easy, as 7 million things I wanted to say came to mind. "I've not always been the "Follow Your Arrow" girl. It's embarrassing to admit but I wasn't always so open-minded. Growing up in rural East Texas I can count on on only a few fingers the amount of interactions I had with anyone gay throughout my entire childhood and most of which was clouded by closed-minded viewpoints and sneers. I love where I came from but the stance on homosexuality is unfortunately still pretty archaic and behind the facts.
Becoming an adult is shedding the outlook of whoever you were around in your formidable years and forming opinions of your own through experience. Directly out of High school, one of my best friends at the time came out to me one night. Through his long pauses and deep breaths I knew it was something that was very hard for him to say - especially considering the homophobic words he heard daily from his own father. His bravery and honesty completely changed the way that I'd thought I viewed the entire subject. I shortly moved to Nashville where I made tons of gay friends and started going to the few gay clubs we have in town. It started to enrage me that I'd had some previous misunderstanding about a group of people that I now love so much and have so much in common with.
As I got deeper into the country community I realized how many still felt the need to hide their identities. Country music has always been a genre built on songs and stories celebrating REAL life so I took it upon myself to include my own awakening into my music and knew that I would be taking some heat for it. "Follow Your Arrow" may have tanked on the country radio chart, but that song specifically has brought so much meaning, happiness, and listeners to my music that may not have been there otherwise. So, to my friends in the LGBTQ community - Thank you. While the career stuff is great; it's fleeting...you changed me forever as a human. #30DaysPride