Dolly Parton. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
America rarely, if ever, agrees on anything.
It’s a country fragmented by more or less everything – politics, religion, economics, among many, many others.
But if there is one thing America can agree on, it’s Dolly Parton.
The country star has throughout her decades-long career as a professional angel written critically-acclaimed songs on the same day (“I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene”), had theme parks built in her image and became our pandemic saviour by partly funding a coronavirus vaccine.
She’s a busy woman, no doubt, but being an LGBT+ ally is a full-time job for the living legend. To celebrate her 75th birthday (19 January), here are six times Parton proved she is a patron saint of queer allyship.
1. Dolly Parton made a defiant pledge of support for LGBT+ people in her 1991 album
Tucked away in her 1991 album Eagle When She Flies was a song that says regardless of religion, lifestyle and sexuality, family is family.
The appropriately titled “Family” includes the lyric: “Some are preachers / some are gay / some are addicts, drunks and strays / But not a one is turned away when it’s family.”
While not all the song’s lyrics would fly today, it was a quiet yet defiant statement of solidarity with queer families.
2. She’s urged her fellow Christians not to ‘shame’ queer people
In a 2017 interview that resurfaced last year – re-introducing listeners with their serotonin, long thought lost – Parton called out Christians to be “more loving” of the LGBT+ community.
Speaking on Larry King Now, the songwriter explained that her high-decibel advocacy for LGBT+ rights has drawn criticism from some Christians. But she shrugged it off.
“I keep saying: ‘If you’re the fine Christian that you think you are, why are you judging people? That’s God’s job,’” Parton told Larry King.
“We’re not God, we’re not judges, we’re supposed to love one another, we’re supposed to not judge.”
3. Trans bathroom bans are a bad idea, says Dolly Parton: ‘If I have to pee, I’m gon’ pee’
Bathrooms have been reduced by social conservatives and anti-trans activists into pinched battlegrounds in the US – lacking federal guidance, states have tugged in different directions about allowing trans people to simply swing by a public restroom.
Parton waded into the tangle of state laws in 2016, emphatically telling CNN: “I think everybody should be treated with respect. I don’t judge people and I try not to get too caught up in the controversy of things.
“I hope that everybody gets a chance to be who and what they are. I just know, if I have to pee, I’m gon’ pee, wherever it’s got to be.”
4. After a Dollywood visitor was made to take off her marriage equality tee, Dolly Parton stepped in
When a lesbian patron of Dollywood – the theme park all about, you guessed it, Dolly – was forced to turn her pro-marriage equality inside out in order to enter a water ride, Parton was not impressed.
She was quick to issue a statement reaffirming her unwavering support for LGBT+ rights, including her support for marriage equality, according to Hornet.
“I am truly sorry for the hurt or embarrassment regarding the gay and lesbian t-shirt incident at Dollywood’s Splash Country recently,” she wrote in the 2011 statement.
“Everyone knows of my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome.”
5. She backed marriage equality as early as 2009
Dolly Parton came out swinging for the hot-button issue of US marriage equality years before the Supreme Court legalised it in the historic 2015 judgement.
Back in 2009, talkshow host Joy Behar suggested that Parton’s background as a Tennessee-born country musician would imply that Parton would be in no way supportive.
“I know that’s true,” acknowledged Parton. “I always say, ‘Sure, why can’t they get married? They should suffer like the rest of us do.’”
6. Absolutely everything about ‘Travelin’ Thru’
“Travelin’ Thru” was a tear-jerking, award-winning song written and performed by Parton for the 2005 film Transamerica.
The film starred Felicity Huffman as a trans woman who jumps on a road trip to reunite with her long-lost son, with Parton’s song becoming a queer anthem – capturing the bravery and resilience of the LGBT+ community.
“Some people are blind or ignorant, and you can’t be that prejudiced and hateful and go through this world and still be happy,” Parton said about what motivated her to pen the track, according to her website.
“One thing about this movie is that I think art can change minds. It’s alright to be who you are.”