Country superstar Dolly Parton has long been a friend to the LGBT community and her many gay fans. In a new interview with People, Parton gets candid about accepting her gay and lesbian family members from a young age.
“I didn’t know they were at the time!” Parton, 70, said of her gay family members in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. “We were just mountain people, and I did not know at that time – I sure did not.”
“In my early days we did not know [what gay was]. It didn’t take me long to know that people were different and that was always fine with me,” Parton went on. “I was different too, and I embraced and accepted them and I knew them. I knew them well.”
Parton also shared that she’s become the “go-to” in her own family for anyone struggling with sexual identity, a sequined shoulder to cry on. “Later on, I did find out I have many gays and lesbians in my own family. We accept them, we embrace them.”
“Actually, I’ve had many people through the years who I have helped to feel good about themselves. I say, ‘You need to let people know who you are and you need to come on out. You don’t need to live your life in darkness – what’s the point in that? You’re never gonna be happy; you’re gonna be sick. You’re not gonna be healthy if you try to suppress your feelings and who you are.'”
Some of the singer’s family members, she went on to say, “don’t know quite what to make of it,” but it doesn’t deter her from lending a helping hand to a family member in need. “… They’re ours and they’re who they are and we know they’re wonderful and they’re like us,” Parton said, continuing, “We love the fact that they are who they are and we nurture that. We don’t try to make them feel separate or different. We embrace it.”
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