"I'm very comfortable being gay," TJ said. "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."
Though there are multiple openly gay Americana, folk and country acts (including, but not limited to, Brandi Carlile, Chely Wright, Billy Gilman, Brooke Eden, Orville Peck, Lil Nas X, Ty Herndon and songwriter Shane McAnally), TJ's announcement makes him the most prominent LGBTQ artist currently signed to a major country label.
TJ and his sibling John Osborne have scored seven Top 40 hits, including crossover smash "Stay a Little Longer," across three studio albums (the Jay Joyce-produced Pawn Shop, Port Saint Joe and Skeletons).The Deale, Maryland-born brothers have also collaborated with fellow Nashville stars Dierks Bentley and Maren Morris.
Along the way, the duo's scored three Grammy nominations and won Vocal Duo of the Year honors from the CMA and ACM.
TJ came out years ago to John, their supportive family and the rest of the Brothers Osborne crew.
"If I had to have all my money and success erased for my brother to be truly fulfilled in life, I wouldn't even think about it," John said. "Not for a second."
Once Brothers Osborne can safely tour on 2020 release Skeletons, crowd reactions to TJ as he sings the duo's blue-collar hits may tell how far country music has (or hasn't) come in the 21st century.
"I don't think I'm going to get run off the stage in Chicago. But in a rural town playing a county fair? I'm curious how this will go," TJ adds.
Despite those apprehensions, there's hope that Brothers Osborne will point more ears to country artists that defy negative stereotypes about the genre.
"Others will now feel invited to the country music party for the first time," Kacey Musgraves told Time.
TJ's been moved so far by the outpour of support from fans, friends and peers.
"Right now I feel so incredibly loved ... I'm like, 'God, I wish that I could share this love with other people, and to feel this way,'" he said during an appearance on Ellen. "And then to have people that I never expected to say anything reaching out to me, people that I think personify masculinity and straight culture to the nth degree who are coming out with a lot of pride for me."