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Dolly Parton Says She Has Encouraged Her Own Gay Family Members to Be Who They Are

by ETonline Staff 11:00 AM PDT, August 31, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

It isn't just legions of LGBT fans who are inspired by her unconditional love for them -- Dolly Parton's longtime gay advocacy hits even closer to home.

The country music legend reveals that she's had heart-to-hearts with gay family members still living in her Tennessee hometown who have struggled with coming out.

WATCH: Dolly Parton 'Really Happy' About Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth's Reconciliation 

"I did find out I have many gays and lesbians in my own family," Parton, 70, shares in a new interview with Chris Azzopardi at PrideSource. "We accept them, we embrace them. Oh, there are some in the mountains who still don't know quite what to make of it or how they should feel about it, but they're ours and they're who they are and we know they're wonderful and they're like us. We love the fact that they are who they are and we nurture that. We don't try to make them feel separate or different. We embrace it."

WATCH: Katy Perry and Dolly Parton Dazzle in Duet at ACM Awards 

The gay icon says that she has become a shoulder to lean on for her LGBT relatives, whom she reveals often come to her to work through their issues regarding their sexuality.

"I say, 'You need to let people know who you are and you need to come on out. You don't need to live your life in darkness – what's the point in that?'" Parton says. "You're never gonna be happy; you're gonna be sick. You're not gonna be healthy if you try to suppress your feelings and who you are.'"

She adds, "Whether it's about being gay or whatever, a lot of people do me like they used to do my mama and come to talk to me about things. Hopefully, I'm able to help. I think I have."

RELATED: Dolly Parton and Carl Dean Renew Wedding Vows for 50th Wedding Anniversary 

The revelation regarding Parton's gay kin comes on the heels of her 43rd album, Pure & Simple, which includes a song called "Outside Your Door," about friends with benefits. The singer has been married for 50 years to Carl Dean, and when asked about the sexy song's inspiration, Parton laughs.

"Well, I'm married, but I'm not dead!" she says. "I'm a romantic, fantasy person and I've felt all of those feelings. I've been through everything in my life. … And hell, you don't get too old to fantasize!"

Watch Parton talk about her first major U.S. tour in 25 years in the video below.

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