LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles On How To Be An LGBTQ Ally And Why 'Words Are Powerful'

"Words can be beautiful healers or they can be weapons that cause huge damage."

Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicide.

You probably know Sugarland — the Grammy-winning country music duo made up of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush — but allow us to introduce you to Sugarl&. It's the same group members singing the same music and telling the same stories. The only difference? That ampersand is there to show that everyone — that means you & you & you — are welcome and accepted.

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"I want our LGBTQ fans to know and feel what my LGBTQ family and friends know and feel," Nettles told A Plus via email. "That they are loved and supported and valued and seen."

Throughout Pride Month, Sugarland has been covering Patty Griffin's "Tony," a song that confronts listeners with a story about a gay teen who commits suicide while on tour. There's a lot to celebrate throughout the month of June in the LGBTQ community, but this song choice shows that, while we've made lots of progress, many young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are taking their lives at alarming rates. As the video points out, LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to consider suicide as non-LGBTQ youth.

Photo Credit: Cole Cassell

"Words are powerful. Words can be beautiful healers or they can be weapons that cause huge damage. And social media now multiplies those effects," Nettles continued. "The LGBTQ community knows painfully well how hurtful words can be. 'Tony' explores those words and the damage they cause, in this story of gay teen suicide. We wanted to bring awareness to the challenges experienced by LGBTQ teens and to offer information on how we can all help."

Both Nettles and Bush worked with the Human Rights Campaign, something they considered "imperative" to do in order to deliver a message that was "authentically representative of the LGBTQ community." Throughout the video, you'll see statistics on gay teen suicide (which results in a one-two punch with the song) as well as tips for those who want to be allies. There's information on where teens hear those damaging words, how you can offer help or support, and encouraging the creation of safe spaces such as homes, schools, and churches. Plus, resources are listed at the end if you know anyone who might be in danger of harming themselves.

Photo Credit: Cole Cassell

As for those who are surprised at the country music genre being this outward in its embrace of the LGBTQ community in 2018, Nettles has a few words for you as to why you shouldn't be.

"The world is expanding. So is country music; it's artists and its fans," Nettles explained, noting that Sugarland isn't alone here. "There are many country artists who make their support vocal both on their socials and in their music. Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Cam, Dan and Shay, Little Big Town, and Brandy Clark — just to name a few."

Photo Credit: Cole Cassell

If you can't tell by now, Sugarland is both celebrating Pride Month, and also treating it with the care and consideration it deserves. There's a lot of work to be done to ensure that today's LGBTQ youth — and even older LGBTQ folks — are able to live openly and freely. This, Nettles added, is at the center of Pride Month. 

"To me, as an LGBTQ ally, Pride Month means celebrating the beautiful and diverse LGBTQ community," Nettles concluded. "It means saying, 'I see you and I love what I see.' It means saying, 'Who you are is precious and perfect.' It means saying, 'I will stand with you in this gap until it is filled with only love.' "

Watch Sugarland cover Patty Griffin's "Tony" live, here:

If you or a loved one is at risk, please reach out to The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or www.thetrevorproject.org. For more information and resources on how to be an ally for LGBTQ youth, please visit the Human Rights Campaign at www.hrc.org.

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