As Tennessee’s legislative agenda continues to target LGBTQ+ people, people are responding, from local organizations protesting to the state’s famous music community. On March 20th, a full slate of stars will perform at the Love Rising benefit as an effort to stand in solidarity with queer and trans Tennesseans. The concert was coordinated by musicians Allison Russell and Jason Isbell and a number of others across the music industry. Proceeds from the show go to local groups the Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, Out Memphis, and the Tennessee Pride Chamber. Headliners include Hayley Williams, Hozier, Sheryl Crow, and many more.
The minds behind the event are clear that they’re sending a message in response to the messages sent out by the Tennessee GOP. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to perform circles of protection in our vulnerable communities,” Russell, who is queer and lives in Tennessee with her partner and child, told Rolling Stone earlier this week. “It’s time for allies to step forward, and it’s time for us to link our arms and be in our powers together.”
Teen Vogue interviewed some of those involved in Love Rising to hear how the recent legislative moves inspired the project. “I think the governor is trying to make as big a media statement as he can by signing these bills into law quickly, so they can continue to disrupt other avenues where people who are different from them might actually be treated like humans,” Jason Isbell tells Teen Vogue. “I think it's a bigger picture thing on the Tennessee GOP's part: I think what they're trying to do in the long run is, really, make people feel bad for being different. And that to me, is disgusting.”
“Making a bill that is attacking an entire culture and making a bill that is so clearly targeted to stop a specific group of people from accessibility to self expression: That's what this is,” Julien Baker, an artist on the bill, tells Teen Vogue. “It's not because it's disruptive. It's not because it's dangerous. You don't want to see us in public enjoying ourselves, so you will try to quiet and erase our joy.” Baker is struck by how, honestly, tired these conversations feel.
“We already have talked about why this isn't okay like 5 million times,” Baker continues. “There were riots about it. There's a parade for it every year – sometimes more than one! And then you're like, you can't have the parade. And I'm like, ‘No, but the parade is about us not getting to have the parade.’”
In a moment of such tension and fear, for the performers who are just as impacted by these issues, Love Rising is an effort to stand tall in resistance. “I'm really honored to be part of the concert, and also there's a lot of mixed feelings,” Americana singer-songwriter and fellow performer Mya Byrne tells Teen Vogue. “It's both an incredible pat on the back for my talent, and then also it's hard to know the reason why we're doing it. So many of my friends are scared, and I'm scared. But [the show is] wonderful. It's just an odd emotion to be holding at this time.”