When CMT announced that they would be co-sponsoring an LGBTQ+ artist activation event at CMA Fest — the first of its kind at a major country music festival — rainbow flags and heart emojis abounded across social media. Many of the Facebook comments, however, told a different story.

"Depraved and disgusting!" wrote one embittered country fan, while another complained that "It's a music awards show and should not be about anything else." This particular user seemed to be confusing CMA Fest (the four-day musical festival happening in Nashville this week) with the CMA Awards set to take place in November.

Other commenters seemed similarly unaware of what exactly they were upset about, but still chose to post vague accusations of "wokeness" and "grooming." While it’s important not to put too much stock in social media comments — which can often skew toward the hateful and uninformed — the degree of negativity directed toward the post is indicative of the resistance among many country fans to even the most innocuous displays of support for LGBTQ+ people.

It’s worth nothing that the event in question, which will directly conflict with the Thursday night concert at Nissan Stadium, is not listed in the CMA Fest lineup or schedule. (Details for “Country Proud” can be found on the CMA Fest website under “Activities.") As of writing, CMA has yet to post about the event on any of its official social channels, though the vile replies to a recent Pride-related tweet from the organization suggest that maybe that’s for the best. (Emphasis on maybe.)

These hateful reactions are troubling, especially at this moment when anti-LGBTQ legislation is sweeping much of the nation and particularly Tennessee. But there's also — and this is harder to explain — something sort of funny about them, which is where progressive country singer Chris Housman comes in. Housman, who had a viral hit with his song "Blueneck" after connecting with audiences on TikTok last year, compiled some of the offending comments in a parodic video posted to the app on Saturday (June 4).

“The country music fans could not be more excited,” Housman says with a smile as the text-on-screen reads: "COUNTRY IS GAY. FANS ARE EXCITED!!" He goes on to read out some of the more hateful responses, egregious spelling errors and all. The video quickly racked up over 130K views and hundreds of comments offering overwhelming positivity and support.

On a phone call, Housman said that the responses to the CMT story echoed the kind of bad-faith arguments he's heard time and time again from people who do not want to see country music become more inclusive.

"A lot of people's comments went straight to, 'What does it have to do with their sexuality? Good music should just be good music,' or whatever," said Housman. "And that's a deflection tactic a lot of these right-wing country fans use, which is similar to people who advocative for so-called 'straight pride.' Those people have clearly never had their identities suppressed."

He added that events like "Country Proud" are a double-edged sword, because more visibility can mean more opportunity for harassment. Still, he says, no amount of homophobic insults — either in person or behind a screen — can stop him and other queer country artists from staking a place in the industry.

"I will continue to celebrate Pride in country music because it feels good to be myself after feeling shame for so long," he said. "The talent is here, the demand is here, and I just hope that one day we'll see all of these queer artists on bigger stages."

"Country Proud" will be held Thursday, June 9, from 6-10PM at Assembly Food Hall in Downtown Nashville. Free registration for the event is available here.

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