Country star T.J. Osborne is speaking his truth.
The 36-year-old Brothers Osborne singer spoke to TIME about his sexuality for the first time.
“I’m very comfortable being gay. I find myself being guarded for not wanting to talk about something that I personally don’t have a problem with. That feels so strange,” he said.
T.J. continued, “People will ask, ‘Why does this even need to be talked about?’ and personally, I agree with that. But for me to show up at an awards show with a man would be jaw-dropping to people. It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, cool!”
The singer expressed some fear about what the revelation will mean for his career, adding, “I don’t think I’m going to get run off the stage in Chicago. But in a rural town playing a county fair? I’m curious how this will go.”
T.J. acknowledged that the gay community isn’t known for a love of country music, but is hopeful that things may change: “…Is that just because they’ve never had the opportunity to relate to it?”
The country star said being in the closet was “so lonely and isolating,” adding, “It made me resent people.”
A heartbreak in his 20s inspired the Brothers Osborne hit “21 Summer,” but T.J. said it was hard that fans didn’t know the song’s true meaning. “I was mad that no one knew why I was hurting,” he said. “There are so many times I’ve sung that song and wanted to cry. People love that song, but the emotion of it is deeper than they even realize.”
John Osborne recalled the moment when his brother first came out to him, telling TIME, “He was very open and candid about it, and I was emotional, because my brother was finally able to be completely honest with me about who he was. How often, in life, do we hold back parts of ourselves and wish that we didn’t?”
John isn’t concerned with what the country fanbase’s reaction to T.J.’s sexuality might be, as he says his brother’s happiness is far more important. “If I had to have all my money and success erased for my brother to be truly fulfilled in life, I wouldn’t even think about it. Not for a second.”