It’s hard to believe that Dolly Parton, who has cultivated a massive gay following in her long career, was once a “mountain person” who didn’t even know any gay people.
In an interview with Pride Source at the end of August, the “backwoods Barbie” said that if she did grow up with gay people, she certainly didn’t know it. When she was a teenager, Parton said a couple of guys were calling people “queer.”
“But in my early days we did not know [what gay was],” Parton said. “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.”
Parton said she has a lot of people look to her as a safe space.
“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,” Parton said. “Hopefully I’m able to help. I think I have.”
The seven-time Grammy Award winner has sold more than 100 million records globally and has just released her 43rd studio recording Pure & Simple, a collection of songs celebrating her 50th anniversary.
“I’ve been through everything in my life,” Parton said. “And when I don’t write about myself, I write about other people that I know and their relationships, and people I know who don’t know how to express themselves.”
Parton has just begun her 60-city tour and she said she has to keep her sense of humor to get through everything.
“My mama’s people were hysterical; my daddy’s people were hysterical,” Parton said. “They just had a different sense of humor, that’s how we got through everything, with our sense of humor. And as a writer, I just think funny. I try to find things to laugh about and so anyway, I just say whatever I say.”
Though many LGBT people have looked up to Parton for her “musical moral support,” Parton said she leans on the community as well.
“[Gay people] 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,” Parton said. “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.”
Pure & Simple is out now.
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