Country star T.J. Osborne capped off a “crazy rollercoaster of a year” at the 55th annual Country Music Association Awards Wednesday, when his band Brothers Osborne won Vocal Duo of the Year and he celebrated by exchanging an on-air kiss with his boyfriend, Abi Ventura. While the ABC broadcast usually targets a conservative audience, the camera did not cut or pan away from the sweet milestone moment.
“It’s been a crazy rollercoaster of a year for us in so many ways, especially for me emotionally,” T.J. noted during his brief but touching acceptance CMAs speech, once he made it to the stage. “And to have you all support me, it really does feel like love wins tonight. Thank you.”
T.J.’s supportive older sibling and bandmate, John Osborne, excitedly added, “Give this boy a round of applause! We love this genre. We love the people. We love all of you so much.”
Later in the evening, Brothers Osborne performed their confessional ballad “Younger Me,” which T.J. wrote after he came out nine months ago. “For many years I would watch this show, year after year, and I always thought how incredible it would be — I would dream of being up here on this stage,” T.J. told the crowd at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. “And there was so many things, there were so many hurdles for me, and I always felt, truthfully felt, like it would never be possible because of my sexuality to be here. And I just wish my younger me could see me now.”
T.J., age 36, then addressed his younger, closeted self, singing, “Younger me made it harder than it had to be/Trying hard to dodge my destiny would get the best of me/Younger me, way too young to pace a bedroom floor/Always dreamed of kicking down the door/What were you waiting for?” and “Hanging out but not quite fitting in/Didn’t know that being different really wouldn’t be the end.”
While those close to T.J. had known for years that he is gay, the country star only came out publicly this past February, via a candid interview with Time magazine. In the article, he said it was “so lonely and isolating” being closeted, and explained, “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. … I want to get to the height of my career being completely who I am. … I’ve kept a part of me muted, and it’s been stifling.”
T.J. acknowledged in his Time interview that coming out was a professional risk given the country genre’s typically conservative fanbase, and he even speculated that “to show up at an awards show with a man would be jaw-dropping to people. It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, cool!’” His televised PDA moment with Ventura, however, did receive support and praise from country fans on social media — indicating that the progress the younger T.J. once dreamed of is finally happening in Nashville.
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