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When 2 famous singers came out as gay — and 9 other great things that happened in 2014 country

Country music is sometimes criticized for not being very progressive. And with the rise of "bro country" in the past couple years, such criticisms are not entirely unfounded. But here's a list of some pretty awesome stuff that went down in the country music world in 2014.

When 2 famous singers came out as gay — and 9 other great things that happened in 2014 country

1. Kacey Musgraves won two Grammys and bunch of other awards.

Background via Thinkstock. Quote from The Wall Street Journal.

Kacey Musgraves is amazing. She's a popular female country artist who — *GASP* — actually sings about things other than trucks, beer, and gettin' it on. Her 2013 album, "Same Trailer Different Park," features the song "Follow Your Arrow," which is based on not letting the haters get you down. It goes, "Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into." Besides, Musgraves has been writing hit songs for country artists for years — 'bout time she got some more recognition!


Just to tally it all up, in 2014, Musgraves won two Grammy Awards (for Best Country Song and Best Country Album), an Academy of Country Music Award (for Album of the Year), and a Country Music Association Award (for Song of the Year).

2. Maddie & Tae took the scene by storm with "Girl in a Country Song."

The teen duo consisting of Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye debuted their first hit single, "Girl in a Country Song," in mid-2014. The song is (a) VERY CATCHY, (b) so on point, and (c) really impressive for a debut single. And the video is hilarious as well, so check that out when you can.

My absolute favorite line is this: "We used to get a little respect. Now, we're lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep my mouth shut, and ride along down some old dirt road we don't even want to be on, and be the girl in a country song." So good!

3. On Nov. 20, 2014, Ty Herndon came out as gay.

Ty Herndon may be best known for his 1996 hit "Living in a Moment." But he's back in the country scene making a splash with a recent announcement that he's gay — and in a happy, long-term relationship. He came out in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Background via Thinkstock. Quote via Entertainment Tonight.

4. A few hours later, Billy Gilman came out as gay.

This just gets better and better! Just a few hours after the news about Ty Herndon, 26-year-old Billy Gilman (known for "One Voice," his first single at age 11, and more recently "Say You Will") posted a video to YouTube in which he let the world know he's gay.

And to make the story even BETTER, the great LeAnn Rimes took to Twitter in support of each star.

5. Brad Paisley made fun of the Westboro Baptist Church by taking a selfie with them outside of his concert.

OK, now this one is just hilarious. In June 2014, Brad Paisley spotted some angry picketers outside his concert in Kansas. Now, Paisley is famous for the 2005 song "Alcohol" and seems to post on Instagram about moonshine regularly. I can't tell you whether or not he drinks alcohol, or whether or not he's religious, but I can tell you that he took to Instagram to make fun of the picketers outside his summer concert.


Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We'll play loud.
A photo posted by Brad Paisley (@bradpaisley) on

Did you see that witty caption? It says, "Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We'll play loud."

6. Kira Isabella took a stand against rape culture with her song "Quarterback."

Image via Thinkstock. Lyrics from "Quarterback."

Kira Isabella is a Canadian country music artist (they exist!) who released her first single in 2011. Her most recent album, "Caffeine & Big Dreams," features the single "Quarterback." In the song, a young girl gets invited to a party by the quarterback of the football team. He gets her drunk, they have sex (her first time), and the next day she is horrified to find pictures of the incident posted all over the Internet. The lyrics leave the story intentionally unclear — What really happened that night? Who did or said what? — but when the whole town takes sides, no one takes the girl's, and no one believes that she was wronged in any way (which, let's just say it, is some serious bullsh*t 'cause that sh*t was definitely not consensual).

Image by Raymond Santos, used under a Creative Commons license. Quote from ThinkProgress.

The song "Quarterback" was written by Rivers Rutherford, Bobby Hamrick, and Marti Dodson. Fun fact: According to this article, the song was pitched to Carrie Underwood, but her team turned it down.

7. Steve Grand kept being Steve Grand.

Steve Grand is acclaimed by some as the first popular country musician to start a career already out of the closet. In March 2014, he ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his first full-length album featuring the hit 2013 single "All-American Boy." The success of that fundraiser — as well as his 2014 singles "Back to California" and "Time" — prove that he's not leaving the country music scene any time soon.

Here's a clip from the video for "All-American Boy," which was super popular on the Internet when it came out in 2013.

I can't imagine why. It's not like he's adorable or anything. JEEZE.

8. Glen Campbell "sung out" about his battle with Alzheimer's.

In 2011, Glen Campbell (of "Rhinestone Cowboy" — you'd know it if you heard it) announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative disease for which there is no cure. In October 2014, Campbell released one final song to make us all cry (and so everyone would remember the music he's all about).

Image by Arnielee, used under a Creative Commons license. Lyrics from "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

Be sure to catch the whole music video for "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

9. Sheryl Crow sent out this plea on Twitter (and then defended it).

After listening to the radio for over an hour without hearing a single female voice, Sheryl Crow took to Twitter with a plea:

Later, in a radio interview, Crow stood by her initial tweet.

Original image via Thinkstock. Quote from interview with KNCI 105.1.

10. Kenny Chesney called out the genre for objectification of women.

In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Kenny Chesney spoke out against the "bro country" we've all been hearing so much of.

Image by LawrenceFung, used under a Creative Commons license. Quote from Billboard.

He gets props for that, for sure, but let's not be too quick to fawn over him as The Savior of Objectified Damsels in Distress. In another interview he explains, "I am learning that when you write songs about women, the perfect place to start is their spirit." I don't really want Kenny Chesney writing anything about my spirit, so the whole thing feels a little "eyeroll-y" still, but we'll let him stick around on our list all the same.

11. Garth Brooks cancelled his appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" after Darren Wilson was not indicted.

Image via Thinkstock


On Nov. 25, 2014, (the day after the announcement that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, would not be indicted — a day of massive civil unrest in our country), Garth Brooks announced via his Facebook page that he had cancelled his Thanksgiving appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show." He said, "To spend the day promoting our stuff like nothing was wrong seemed distasteful to me." While that's really the only hint we've got as to what his reasoning was, I think it's safe to say this was a pretty bold and respectful move on his part.

So what do ya say? Is it finally time to admit to the world that country music has stolen your heart (and radio)? I'd say so.

And finally, there's no way I covered every awesome thing about the 2014 country music scene. Know of any big progressive moments that I missed? Get at me! I'd love to hear about 'em on Twitter, @meganhazel.


via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."