How the Dixie Chicks became fierce LGBT allies and embraced their new fanbase

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“You don’t like the sound of the truth

Coming from my mouth

You say that I lack the proof

Well baby that might be so

I might get to the end of my life

Find out everyone was lying

I don’t think that I’m afraid anymore say that I would rather die trying.”

“Truth No. 2” – The Dixie Chicks

 

It’s been 13 years since Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines let her truth pour out at a concert in London and earned the wrath of the country music establishment. The frank political and anti-war statement was unlike anything country music had ever experienced, and the Chicks, one-time darlings of country radio, found themselves awash in controversy and death threats. Country radio stopped playing their songs, and for a genre still firmly rooted in radio, this was akin to excommunication. The Chicks were forced to deal with the fallout, but refused to remain silent (see their documentary Shut Up and Sing and their album, Taking the Long Way).

So what happens when three talented women refuse to in fact, shut up and sing? Well, country music may have closed the door on the Dixie Chicks, but slowly and surely a window to an entirely new fanbase was cracked wide open. I’m talking queers, y’all. I’ll get to that soon enough.

Dixie Chicks DCX World Tour MMXVI Opener Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PMK

In 2007, the Dixie Chicks took a hiatus and pursued other interests. Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson formed the Court Yard Hounds and released an album that contained a pro-LGBT song, “Ain’t No Son.” Meanwhile, Natalie Maines cut her long blonde locks, debuting a style that had queer ladies swooning, and released a searing solo album of covers called Mother.

4th Annual "Home For The Holidays" Benefit ConcertPhoto by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

The Chicks eventually reunited and performed tours and shows outside of the US, but it wasn’t until this summer and the MMXVI tour was launched, that Natalie, Emily and Martie danced back into our hearts with grit and a new sense of self. Fans were thrilled that their favorite band was once again playing on US soil, and perhaps it was the current political atmosphere, but more than ever, we needed the Chicks.

Still, anger about the Dixie Chicks runs deep, which I found out first hand when a man I was talking to the day before the concert told me, “Well, maybe they will learn to keep their mouths shut this time.” But that’s the last thing I want, I wanted to tell him. But I’m embarrassed to say, I did indeed keep my mouth shut.

After North Carolina passed its ridiculous HB2 bathroom law, some business pulled out of NC while some performers spoke up and cancelled their shows in the state, in protest. The Dixie Chicks were not one of those performers. They did something even more subversive.

Dixie Chicks DCX World Tour MMXVI Opener

I’ve been a die-hard Dixie Chicks fan since the late ’90s, and there was no way I was going to miss them live. I recently moved from New York to South Carolina, and I’m still adjusting to being queer in the South. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Charlotte PNC Amphitheatre to find the place crawling with queers. I remarked to my wife that I hadn’t seen that many lesbians since Lilith Fair, and she countered with an Indigo Girls concert. Touche, Amy Ray.  

In addition to teaming up with the HRC to educated and spread the word about LGBT issues, the Dixie Chicks found their own way to protest HB2. The Chicks purchased hats for the entire audience (they did this for their Raleigh show, too) that proudly declared, “No Hate in My State.” The audience was full of folks wearing their new hats and creating a sea of “fuck yous” to those in charge of legislating trans and gender nonconforming discrimination.

hat

To no one’s surprise, the Dixie Chicks rocked the house, and fans lost their minds. The screams were deafening and Maines, who did almost all the talking, didn’t shy away from speaking her mind. The Chicks managed to turn their hit “Goodbye Earl” into a pointed statement on domestic violence, and in true Chicks fashion, the show even featured a picture of Donald Trump equipped with devil horns. They highlighted the circus of a Presidential campaign we are being subjected to in “Ready to Run” making sure to take a shot at everyone. “Landslide” which has changed in meaning for many as we too grow older, made everyone cry.

Near the end of the concert, Maines explained the hats they provided and implored everyone to put theirs on and sing along, as a huge rainbow heart projected behind them. Seeing the Chicks wearing their hats, singing about love and declaring their unabashed support of the LGBT community, struck a chord in me. Other than Lady Gaga, who is part of the community herself, I’ve never felt so included and supported by a major musical act. The Chicks got it. They knew who their new audience was.

Maybe they lost a ton of fans back in 2003, but they found new ones. I stood next to a family a five, all wearing their hats as the mother and I screamed out lyrics to “Wide Open Spaces.” In front of me were no less than four lesbian couples, who held hands and lifted their arms to match their screams of happiness, nostalgia and inclusion in a genre that has often cast them aside.

chicks in hats

The Dixie Chicks know where they came from. Their struggle hasn’t been all that dissimilar to what many of us as women, gays, and transgender folks have experienced. They were told to be quiet, to keep their opinions to themselves, to make other people comfortable. Well, guess what? It’s not their fucking job to make you feel comfortable. And it’s not mine, or my queer and trans brothers and sisters either. That’s the point the Chicks were making, and by doing so, I’ve never connected with a band more. The Dixie Chicks support the LGBT community and the feeling is mutual.

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PMK

The Dixie Chicks’ MMXVI tour is happening now. Find out where you can see them live here.

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