LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 23: Amanda Shires arriveat the Los Angeles premiere of HBO's "Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed" at The GRAMMY Museum on March 23, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
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Amanda Shires on Advocating For The LGBTQ+ Community: 'Everybody Should Get To Be Who They Are'


Amanda Shires walks the walk when it comes to her socio-political beliefs. In 2020, she raised funds for abortion rights organization the Yellowhammer Fund with "The Problem," a collaboration with her spouse, Jason Isbell. At a time when they're Record Store Day's ambassadors, the Nashville-based couple is using its platforms to further their longtime support of LGBTQ+ causes. Specifically, they both performed at Love Rising, a star-studded March 20 benefit concert at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena that raised over $500,000 for Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, OUTMemphis and the Tennessee Pride Chamber in partnership with Looking Out Foundation.

"It came about when the horrible, awful Bill Lee, who happens to be a representative from our state, started doing legislation that in general hurts LGBTQA+ folks but specifically targets trans folks and drag queens," Shires told Wide Open Country about the show's origin. "The idea was to combat the hate with love. Started talking to folks, and then Allison Russell was already thinking the same thing, so we combined efforts. She is the magician wizard that made that happen because we were on the road. Her backing band was phenomenal, and the spirit was all joy."

The night included not just Brittany Howard, Yola and other Americana notables but such mainstream heavy-hitters as Hayley Williams, Sheryl Crow, Hozier and country superstar Maren Morris.

"The way it's set up for Top 40 country and there being such limited spots for people, for her to make the decision to put humans first over her career and any potential earnings and how that might positively or negatively affect her just shows her as a person and her character being genuine and the real deal," Shires said of Morris, her fellow Highwomen member. "It's a little easier for those of us that don't also have to deal with the limited spots on the chain. We can say what we feel and have less death threats."


(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Better yet, trans and nonbinary artists got booked, with the likes of Adeem the Artist, Autumn Nicholas, Mya Byrne and Swan Real bringing true diversity to the stage. Add an audience of community members and their allies, and you've got a welcoming environment for all.

"It's for people to know who their friends are, who they can look for and look to," Shires said. "Everybody in that room is here for each other."

Beyond making the LGBTQ+ community feel seen and safe, Shires hopes that Love Rising and similar efforts change hearts.

"I 100 percent believe in everything that we're doing," she explained. "I believe that everybody should have the freedom to be themselves to their fullest self and they should be able to dress how they want to dress and express how they want to express and be what they're supposed to be. Everybody should get to be who they are, whatever that means to them. Whether it's trans, nonbinary, anything. Just be a person. My main point is this: you don't need to understand any of it. Just accept that a person should be a person because so many people get caught up in the not understanding part. That's not really where you need to be. First you've just got to accept. Understanding isn't the question. It's acceptance first. That's the main thing people don't understand. They're just like, 'I don't understand it, so it's scary!' Well fuck that. Try accepting it first."


READ MORE: Reba McEntire Speaks Out on Tennessee's Anti-Drag Bill