Growing up in a small, rural town, I was always taught to raise cattle, ride horses, grow crops, hunt, and fish. Through all of my 29 years on this Earth, there has ALWAYS been ONE constant in my life... Dolly Parton. Dolly represents freedom, empowerment, expression of self, love, pain, secrecy, hope, and most of all, FAITH IN GOD! With all that Dolly represents, she has helped me to become a self-empowered, strong, courageous, and self accepting person. Growing up gay in a small community is not easy, and though my story is not the only of it's kind, I believe that it is highly powerful.
When I was born, my Mother dropped me off at DCF where my Grandparents picked me up and adopted me after a turbulent battle amongst family members about who would become my parents. Granddaddy, Grandma, their children, and my biological mother's husband all abused me in one form or another. I never could come to terms with it. However, through all of the hard times, Dolly and her music were right there with me. At the age of 7, I began singing "Silver and Gold" by Dolly. No matter where I went, I was always singing that song. I know the song forward and backward. I think it became my security blanket.
On top of all of the abuse, Granddaddy had his first heart attack when I was 2 because he picked me up. After that, he had a total of 6 more heart attacks, and was put on the heart transplant list (as he was alive with only 1/4 of his heart functioning properly). By the grace of God, he received his transplant when I was 15. Regardless, the tubes, wires, and medications continued. To this day, I cannot stand to be in a hospital unless I have Dolly's music with me.
Despite all of the medicinal miracles, Granddaddy passed June 23, 2009 after contracting Limited Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer. It was a very quick moving cancer, as he was diagnosed exactly 6 months prior. THIS was the biggest heartbreak in my life thus far. At his funeral, I sang "Silver and Gold" because he knew I loved that song, and I wanted to remind my family that despite our differences, we all have an unknown expiration date. Only God knows that information.
After the passing of Granddaddy, I enveloped myself within myself, if that makes sense. I couldn't handle being around people, going places, or talking to people. I, being the Pinkneck I am, turned to country music. I got online and started going through every Dolly Parton, Jack Greene, Kenny Rogers, and Ferlin Husky song that I could find. Through it all, Dolly always stood out among them. Although, "Through Our Rockin' Years" did become one of my top 5 songs of all time during this dark time.
I guess you could say that Dolly Parton has not only helped to raise me, but she has pulled me out of so many dark places, bad situations, and unbelievably distressing moments. I think of her as the Mom I've never met. She's always in my heart, on my mind, and in my prayers. She is the one person in the world that motivates me to be a better, more successful person. With that being said, thank you Dolly Parton for all of your musical upliftings and inspirations. You have made my life bearable, and without you, I would have been dead long ago (thought about it numerous times, but then thought of you every time).
*For those of you wondering, a gay redneck is a Pinkneck. Seriously, who ever heard of a gay redneck?*
Again, thank you Dolly, and thank you to this community for taking the time to read through my story. I hope it helps someone out there or at least opens someone's mind up to other people's lifestyles. Just because you're different, it doesn't mean you don't have something in common with the rest of the world. We are all human. Ultimately, Dolly told me that. God Bless.