Break The Silence- Representation In Country Music
My name is LJ Tyson. My pronouns are he/him. I am a singer/songwriter from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I am an indigenous person who identifies as part of the LGBTQ2+ community and for the past few years I have worked professionally in country music.
My time in country music has been very rewarding but at times it felt like I was up the river without a paddle. Every artist has to work hard and grind to get their music heard, but from personal experience, those in minority groups have to work that much harder.
Unfortunately country music has a long history of being non-inclusive to artists like myself. Indigenous artists aren’t given the same opportunities and face constant racism. I remember coming off stage feeling so proud I was able to wear a jean jacket with an indigenous design on the back. I was so proud to show it off and represent my culture while performing the country genre. Two men then came up to my mom and I after the show and said in a threatening tone “I wouldn’t wear that kind of stuff around here, you might get shot.” This horrified my mother, but I didn’t allow her to say anything or make it public because I was terrified. This is just one small example of situations indigenous artists have to face. Not to mention the systematic racism in the industry that we try so hard to combat.
When I came forward as a member of the LGBTQ2+ community and started to talk about it in my shows or online, many chose to ignore me, treat me differently, or accused me of spreading a “gay agenda.” All I wanted to do was spread visibility for LGBTQ2+ people and hopefully show that we had a place in country music.
On the street one night in Saskatoon, I was beaten to the point where I had my jaw broken. I went into shock and only remember certain parts of the event, but I do remember the words, fag, homo, and gay being thrown at me as insults. This is scary. We need to start to shed light on these situations and no longer keep pushing them under the rug because they are uncomfortable.
Representation is so important. I was fortunate enough to grow up with amazing family and friends that helped me block out the negativity. I’m sure my mom and dad were terrified when they found out they had a bisexual son, because we fear the unknown. There are virtually no examples of people like myself finding mainstream success in country music where I grew up, so I don’t blame my parents for the fear that I would treated differently or even worse, face different types of violence.
My hope is to become part of the solution. I want to be a part of the representation in country music that I want to see. I have wrote a song called “Home On The Rainbow” that is in the style and genre of country music. I have shared this song with many friends and fans and the stories that they share back always made me feel like this song was a perfect conversation starter.
I remember crying after writing the song. It wasn’t the most technically diverse song, the lyrics weren’t over the top deep, and it was only a few chords. But the emotion behind the song, and my true story woven in the lyrics spoke to my heart in an honest way.