Review: 'Invisible: Gay Women In Southern Music' Uncovers a Culture of Homophobia

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday October 10, 2021

'Invisible: Gay Women In Southern Music'
'Invisible: Gay Women In Southern Music'  (Source:Reeling)

Queer cinema plays such an essential role in the LGBTQ+ community, and on so many different levels. In the case of T.J. Parsell's fascinating new feature-length documentary "Invisible," it's about educating us by sharing the tale of how a group of queer women are still dealing with a persistent and pernicious form of homophobia that hardly anyone outside the world of country music is aware of.

Parsell's tale is set mainly in the South, which is where you must go if you want to be a country music star. He manages to interview a whole roster of female singer/songwriters, and although they include a couple of household names such as Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou-Harris, most of them are unknown outside of the industry. One after another, they share similar tales: The chances of women breaking into this heavily macho business are very slim, but if they also happen to be lesbians, then they are basically non-existent.

It's a real eye-opener listening to story after story of these artists who, although they wrote Number 1 Hits for country legends such as Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, Reba McIntire, etc., could never publicly perform their own material. It's hard to remember that they are not talking about the distant past, but rather the present day.

Dianne Davidson is one of the few singer/songwriters that managed to break through and have a successful career. That is, until she recorded a track about her girlfriend; suddenly, she was dropped by her record company and lost all her gigs.

Leading an unhappily closeted life eventually empowered the very successful Chely Wright to come out at the height of her career. Now she's also an LGBTQ activist, but she recounts on camera how, at the time, it was very touch as to whether she might end up being dumped by her record company, and even her fans,

The upside of what Parsell discovers in this film is that despite the undisguised hatred and prejudice of the people (men, specifically) that control the world of country music, this clique of queer women somehow bonded together. He shows that while their professional lives may have been full of disappointments, their personal ones are not.

Parsell also shares the heart-touching, and very happy, story of singer/songwriter Cidny Bullens, who was originally known as Cindy before he transitioned in 2012. Another happy-ever-after-ending is that of Dianne Davidson, who is back performing her own work and recording on an indie label. She points that as major record labels lose their dominance, people like her can re-emerge and control their own careers and destiny.

It is way past time, as for every very-out Mary Gauthier (nominated for three Gay and Lesbian American Music Awards (GLAMAS), there are seemingly many, many more who are too scared and worried to risk putting their careers on the line by coming out.

We do hope that "Invisible" reaches the audience it so deserves.

"Invisible: Gay Women In Southern Music" is screening at OUTshine Fort Lauderdale and NewFest (NYC)

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.