Country Queer is an online magazine that is focused on creating a space to uplift LGBTQ+ voices in country and americana music. The organization has found itself as a force for real change in the country music industry. Beyond their website that features stories, interviews, music reviews, and a beautifully done artist directory that informs people about LGBTQ+ acts, they’ve also created a podcast, a line of stylist merchandise that includes clothes, pins, bumper stickers, and bags, and they’ve also held both live events and virtual events. The creator of Country Queer, Dale Geist, tells us “A couple years ago I had an idea that maybe there were other people out there that were LGBTQ+ creators and fans of americana and country music, and we were not seeing each other and hearing each other. And maybe there was an opportunity to fix that. That’s when I fired up Country Queer.”
Geist had been involved with numerous forms of media before bringing his expertise to Country Queer. He had gone to undergraduate journalism school and undergraduate film school. In the early 90s he worked with digital media and interactive programming before the internet. He then went on to be a video game producer. After he did that for a while, he started to build websites and then became serious about getting into the music scene. He got a job as a designer for the magazine, No Depression, a publication that centers around roots music. His idea for Country Queer would follow a little later on.
Country Queer has created a space not only for LGBTQ+ musicians, but also LGBTQ+ journalists, and fans who have felt shut out by the country music mainstream. “I get such positive feedback on a regular basis,” Geist says. “It’s been tremendously encouraging.”
On June 8th, Country Queer posted an open letter to the Country Music Association (CMA) about tokenistic allyship and directly listed change that they’d like to see such as direct financial support for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC country artists, encouraging country radio to play LGBTQ+ and BIPOC country artists, supporting LGBTQ+ and BIPOC country music journalists, and more. They also state in the letter, “You have an opportunity, if not a duty and a responsibility, to begin proactively lifting up voices that have been marginalized for far too long.” The note goes on to say, “These are important voices that deliver vital stories for these times, and we’re certain they represent the future of country music.”
The letter had over 30 signatures from numerous artists, journalists, and more. Geist tells us the idea for the letter came from one of their staff writers named James Barker; the draft of the letter was written by him as well. “CMA is the institutional voice of the country music establishment,” Geist exclaims. “For them to do anything is influential. So if they begin to make some gestures towards inclusivity, we want to give positive reinforcement; that’s consistent with our mission.” Since the letter was posted, CMA has reached out to them and they are in the midst of speaking about the steps to make towards inclusion and diversity.
Country music as a whole has come a long way, but it has a long way to go. When asked where he thought the most improvement could be done, Geist says, “Because of the size of the country radio audience, any improvement that is made there is going to be a big deal.” He continues, “I think country radio is at the same time the least progressive arm of the country music industry and the one that is probably the most influential in terms of cultural attitudes in America.” And he’s right. There are over 2,000 country radio stations in the United States alone and those stations have the power to reach millions and millions of people. Any change in that sector would be prominent.
Country Queer is also in the middle of promoting their new crowdfunding campaign titled, “Taking Flight.” The pandemic gave Geist and his team the time to make more of an imprint in the industry. By doing this, his goal is to take in profit that would pay the writers and editorial staff; since he has started Country Queer, all of it’s work had been done by volunteers. “That is the transition we need to make in order to fulfill our mission,” he says. “That’s why we call it Taking Flight. We are sort of fledglings in our nest and need to step off the edge.” The way he aims to reach his goal is by inviting their avid readers to become members; each membership tier comes with unique benefits and all of the information can be found here.
Geist also encourages those who are interested to read his short piece on the website titled, “Country Music’s Hour of Reckoning.” He lays out what he thinks is the biggest decision that lies in front of the country music institutions right now when it comes to inclusion. To read more from Country Queer and to get involved, visit their website at https://countryqueer.com/ and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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