NAHSVILLE, TN - At first glance Julian looks like your typical country music star. He's got the cowboy hat pulled low, the sleeves of his Western shirt rolled to his elbows, and his boots brightly polished. On further inspection, however, one notices the subtleties that set him apart from his peers - the artfully plucked eyebrows, the moisturized hands, the manicured nails, and the rainbow bumper sticker on his Chevy pickup. That's right, Julian's not your regular country star, he's Nashville's first openly gay country crooner, and he's one of a kind.
"Growing up in the South was hard for me with my lifestyle," said the singer/songwriter. "People like me aren't really accepted, and for a long time I was ashamed of who I was. Country music was my savior through the hard times. I found a way to express my true feelings through music. Now I just want use my music to send that same message of staying true to yourself to others."
Nashville labels, however, haven't been very receptive to the idea of an openly gay country singer.
"Gay country music!," exclaimed legendary country producer Gus Nelson. "Songs about a man lovin' another man! Uhhhhh! Country music shouldn't be about such immoral things. It's supposed to be about drinkin', and brawlin', and shootin' the woman who done you wrong."
Country fans haven't been very open to Julian and his music either.
"There ain't no way in hell I'm gonna play that queer boy's music in my fine establishment," said Earl Warren, owner of Big Earl's Bar and Steakhouse. "Can you imagine the type of people that it would attract? No siree, I don't want no gay business goin' on in here. It's line dancin' and tight Wranglers only!"
"It's like this country's gone and got itself the gay bug," said country fan Moe Warren. "Gay country music. C'mon, what are they gonna come up with next, a gay cowboy romance movie? Man, the day I hear something like that is comin' up next on HBO is the day I saw off my own balls."
Many cowboys are fearful that if Julian does breakthrough into the country mainstream, the strong association between country music and cowboys could lead some people to question their sexuality, and destroy their iconically tough image.
"Man, this boy's gonna make us cowboys look like a bunch of book readin' New York homos," said cattle rustler Bobby Lee Jones. "Bein' a cowboy is about bein' tough. It's about throwin' down a three hunnert pound steer with your bare hands. It's about ridin' hard across the plains for an entire day, and beddin' down on on the solid ground for a cold night under the stars.
"And let me get this straight. If on one of them cold, lonely nights I should seek warmth and comfort in the arms of my ranch-hand, that don't make me no faggot."
Despite the initial hostility, Julian has managed to find a few fans.
"Yeah that Julian guy ain't half bad," said country fan Earle Haggard. "I saw him playin' at this this funny little bar last night. Strange thing is there was only fellas in there. Probably a guys night out you...what's that? It was a what bar? So you mean to tell me that the guy I was slow-dancin' with was a...awwww shit!
"Totally hypothetical question, but if kissed a homo does that mean I'm gay now too?"