Ev­ery­one’s wel­come un­der Dolly’s tent

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

By CHRIS AZ­ZOPARDI

Dolly Par­ton scoots into a drab back­stage garage on her own two legs like a uni­corn dream: knee-length ca­nary yel­low dress, rhine­stones, more rhine­stones, and a glow that can ap­par­ently turn even an in­dus­trial un­der­ground into heaven on earth.

This woman – a coun­try queen, a “back­woods Bar­bie,” the self-pro­claimed fairy god­mother – has united us all merely by ex­ist­ing. And if it wasn’t al­ready ev­i­dent, it cer­tainly is in her midst: Dolly Par­ton is the only re­li­gion we may ever agree on.

Read on as Dolly, who re­leased her 43rd stu­dio al­bum “Pure & Sim­ple” last month, looks back on her in­tro­duc­tion to the gay com­mu­nity and, like any paragon of virtue, help­ing her own fam­ily mem­bers come to terms with their sex­u­al­ity.

Grow­ing up in the Great Smoky Moun­tains, did you know any gay peo­ple?

If I did, I didn’t know they were at the time! (Laughs) We were just moun­tain peo­ple, and I did not know at that time – I sure did not.

What was your in­tro­duc­tion to the gay com­mu­nity then?

As I started to be a teenager there were a cou­ple of guys down­town that ev­ery­body was sayin’ were queer, ya know? I know they of­ten said that about any­body who was odd or dif­fer­ent – “they’re just queer, just strange and odd” – but the way they would talk about these two guys they would say, “Well, they’re sissies, they’re girls.” I was a teenager then. But in my early days we did not know (what gay was).

It didn’t take me long to know that peo­ple were dif­fer­ent and that was al­ways fine with me ’cause I was dif­fer­ent too, and I em­braced and ac­cepted them and I knew them. I knew them well. But no, in my early days I did not know. But I know a lot of them now! I have a huge gay and les­bian fol­low­ing and I’m proud of ’em, I love ’em and I think ev­ery­body should be them­selves and be al­lowed to be them­selves who­ever they are, what­ever they are.

How big is your gay cir­cle these days?

You know what, I have so many (gay) peo­ple in my com­pa­nies. And later on, I did find out I have many gays and les­bians in my own fam­ily. 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.

Be­cause you’ve al­ways been so LGBTaf­firm­ing, are you a safe place for them to open up about their sex­u­al­ity?

Yes! Ac­tu­ally, I’ve had many peo­ple through the years who I have helped to feel good about them­selves. 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? 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.”

I have a cou­ple of trans­gen­der peo­ple in my com­pany who are on salary with me, so I am to­tally open for that. And a lot of peo­ple feel like they can come to me… and they do! 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.

Through­out your ca­reer, gay peo­ple have leaned on you for mu­si­cal moral sup­port while also ab­sorb­ing your sage wis­dom. But what have you learned from the gay peo­ple in your life?

I cer­tainly know that the gay peo­ple I know are the most sen­si­tive and most car­ing of all. I think they go through so much that they have to live with their feel­ings on their sleeve. They’ve had to go through so much that I think they’re very emo­tional and ten­der­hearted and more open to feel­ings, so I’ve just learned the same things I try to learn from ev­ery­body. I know they’re good peo­ple and I’ve tried to learn from that as well. They’re very cre­ative, most of them. And I think that also comes from just em­brac­ing the fact that they’re dif­fer­ent. Most of the gays I know just want to make the world a more beau­ti­ful place like I do.

Dolly Par­ton re­leased her 43rd stu­dio al­bum “Pure & Sim­ple” last month. (Photo cour­tesy Web­ster Pub­lic Re­la­tions)

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