Singer Steve Grand is described as “the first openly gay male country star” and is growing in fame. He is also a committed Catholic who openly shares his faith. Yet, what has made Grand’s music and persona stand out is how little those three identities conflict in the public sphere, and the warm reception he has received.
The musician’s rise began with Grand’s participation in his parish’s music ministry, rooted in his “coming out” as a teenager. He claims none of the performers there were “out,” leading Grand to doubt what his priest said about all people being welcomed in the Catholic Church. He also struggled with his parents, who sent him to ‘ex-gay therapy’ when they discovered Grand’s sexual orientation and closely monitored him in high school. Music became Grand’s outlet as he struggled with relationships in his family and with himself.
Grand’s music blossomed in the summer of 2013 when he released an independent music video on YouTube: “All-American Boy.” It was a wild success. Even though he had been “out” for years, the video placed Grand in a spotlight before family, friends, his parish, and the world. Buzzfeed reports:
“The video wasn’t necessarily Grand’s coming out. He’d done that officially years earlier, but doing this was a terrifying act of vulnerability. ‘It’s me coming out as totally myself and just standing naked before the world,’ he says.
“Despite the risk and fear, Grand says it was something he felt compelled to do. ‘I think that we’re at a time now where there’s no room to be anything but totally honest and totally who you are…I decided this is who I’m gonna be to the world. Just my true, raw self. I’m putting it all out there.’…
“ ‘I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t true and honest…That’s what people deserve. People don’t deserve a lie. We have a whole new generation that’s counting on us to be brave and to not be afraid of pigeonholing ourselves. People need to be brave for the world to change. If it puts me in a hole, I’ll accept that. But I did what I needed to do.’ “
Grand’s anxiety ceded to overwhelming displays of support from YouTube viewers and peers, and even within his family. The Huffington Post also reports his fellow Catholics are making their support known:
“Many church members have commended Grand for his courage to openly sing about his sexuality, and his priest has held him up as a model Catholic.
“Father Kurt Boras, the priest at Grand’s church, said that Grand has greatly impacted the community.
” ‘I think he’s changing our community, he’s changing us’…Boras watched the video with some of the church staff, and any concerns were about the whiskey and beer consumption in the video, not Grand’s sexuality, he said…
” ‘I’ve never seen this before. It’s opened up conversations with me that are unbelievable, really…A lot of folks have come to me and said, “I have a gay daughter, a gay son.” This young man has really opened up some conversations that maybe I would never have had as a pastor and they’re coming and saying, “Can we talk to you?” ‘
“Boras said that he has not heard a single negative thing from anyone at his church about Grand or the video. He attributes part of this to Grand himself, whom he describes as “charismatic, humble and warm.” But part of it, he believes, is also due to Pope Francis…He said, “Who am I to judge?” and that one statement, I’m telling you, has opened up conversations for me as a pastor that I could never have imagined before. It’s a new kind of era.’ “
Given the increasing demands on Grand, he resigned from his parish’s music ministry. During his final appearance at Mass, the parishioners applauded him with three standing ovations and other signs of support. Steve Grand’s contributions over the years are not diminished for his fellow Catholics, but only amplified as he preaches a message of authenticity that is warmly received. This can surely be read as a positive sign of the times. It is also a positive sign that Catholics who gain fame can use it to promote LGBT equality, as was reported about the hip hop artist Macklemore earlier this year.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry