T. J. Osborne of country music duo Brothers Osborne is publicly discussing being gay for the first time, and sharing how he feels about marking a historic moment in the genre when it comes to being the only openly gay artist signed to a major country label.
In a new interview with Time, the 36-year-old singer says he's known he was gay since he was young and that he has been out to friends and family for years.
"I'm very comfortable being gay," he says. "I find myself being guarded for not wanting to talk about something that I personally don't have a problem with. That feels so strange."
While he is comfortable with his sexuality, he acknowledges that more conservative country music audiences might not be.
"People will ask, 'Why does this even need to be talked about?' and personally, I agree with that," he says of discussing his sexuality. "But for me to show up at an awards show with a man would be jaw-dropping to people. It wouldn't be like, 'Oh, cool!'"
"I don't think I'm going to get run off the stage in Chicago," he continues. "But in a rural town playing a county fair? I'm curious how this will go."
As for how being gay might potentially affect his and his brother, John's, career as the popular duo Brothers Osborne, 38-year-old John says he couldn't care less.
"If I had to have all my money and success erased for my brother to be truly fulfilled in life, I wouldn't even think about it," John tells the magazine. "Not for a second."
Similarly, T.J is also putting his personal happiness above anything he could achieve in his career. The singer acknowledges he felt "stifled" about not being publicly out, especially when it came to having to hide the men he's dated in the past.
"I want to get to the height of my career being completely who I am," he notes. "I mean, I am who I am, but I've kept a part of me muted, and it's been stifling."
"There are times when I think I've marginalized this part of me so that I feel better about it," he also says. "And I realize that it is a big part of who I am: The way I think, the way I act, the way I perform. God, think of all the times that we talk about love, and write about love. It's the biggest thing we ever get to feel. And I've kept the veil on. .... I’ve done more than I ever thought I would. At this point, my happiness is more valuable than anything else I'd ever be able to achieve."
Following the news, Anthony Ramos, GLAAD’s Head of Talent, released a statement expressing how T.J. sharing his story is a "major step forward."
"T.J. Osborne’s decision to publicly come out and share his story is a major step forward to increase LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion in the country music world," the statement reads. "He is now the only openly gay artist signed to a major country music label, and I hope that the business continues to realize that there is a space for LGBTQ artists, and that they can be commercially successful. Brothers Osborne are one of today’s most successful country music acts and T.J.’s decision to share his true and authentic self with their many fans has the power to change hearts and minds when it comes to acceptance for the LGBTQ community."
Many other country artists like Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay and Cassadee Pope also showed their support for T.J. on social media.