When Sundance Channel's "Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys" chose Nashville, Tennessee, as the location for its second season, it only made sense that a country music star might turn up. But a gay country music star?
That's exactly what happened last night when songwriter Shane Stevens, who has had his tracks sung by everyone from Lady Antebellum to Jordin Sparks, was introduced, along with his BFF, straight girl friend and country singer Sherrie Austin, to viewers during the show's premiere episode, reports TheBoot.com.
The reality show follows four Nashville-based "couples" for 12 weeks to learn more about the dynamics of the special bond the gay men share with their straight girl friends.
Country music has a complicated history when it comes to the LGBT community, but Stevens says that he hasn't personally felt the sting of homophobia from the industry.
"Faith [Hill] has always been amazing," he told TheBoot.com. "Barbara Mandrell has always been amazing. Sara Evans ... Tammy Wynette. No one has ever said anything derogatory to me ever. If they have it's been behind my back."
Even Blake Shelton, who infamously tweeted what many took to be a homophobic comment earlier this year, is in Stevens's corner.
"He loves me," Stevens said. "And I love and adore him. Last year when something was on Twitter or somebody took it the wrong way, I was like, 'OK, people, I've known him since I was 17 years old. He's far beyond being a homophobe. He'll pinch my ass and pick on me and tell me he loves me. He'll say, 'I know you're gay but, really, the blue nails last night?'"
But, while the songwriter has found a support system in Nashville, he admits that being gay and living in the country music capital can be challenging.
"In New York, you can really be who you are," he said. "In L.A., Miami, a lot of other cities in America, no big deal to be gay, who cares? But being in Nashville it's still tough. Sherrie always says we're 'unbuckling the Bible belt.' Matt [Shane's longtime boyfriend] and I can't walk down the street holding hands. Somebody might throw something at us. That's happened to me before here. It's getting better. It's getting more and more open-minded, but it's still not safe."
Below, see a slideshow exploring where 14 country music stars stand on the LGBT community.
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