Gay Men on the Radio

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Last week, Elton John headlined the biggest music festival in Morocco, despite protests of his appearance from the largest orthodox Islamic group. The group objected to Elton John's openly gay stance. The performer ignored the protests and played to fans without incident.

Here in the US, we like to think we are far more open-minded about our entertainers. After all, we have hit TV shows like Modern Family, Glee and Entourage. Each have openly gay male characters. We have two gay television networks: Here! and Logo. Our movies portray gay themes. But there's one area of entertainment that avoids homosexual references. That is hit radio. American pop radio has never been gay-friendly.

How many pop hits suggest a man falling in love with another man? Not one. While rock and rap music describe sexuality in detail, songs outlining homosexual love are not allowed.

How could it be that gay musicians don't write about their loves in pop music? They do, just not in specificity. Many play "the pronoun game" with their lyrics, to keep sensitive radio programmers on their side. "The pronoun game" describes the ambiguous way of referring to a love, without identifying the gender. For instance, the lyric "I've always loved you" is meaningful without describing the gender of the person you're singing to. The pronoun game keeps gay artists on charts. Could it be chance that no openly gay male song has ever been a hit? No way. Gay artists believe or are told to tone down their sexuality or risk losing popular audiences.

But why should gays be afraid of who they are? Pride means positive self-reflection. June is Gay Pride Month throughout the country. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York are all staging major events in celebration of the gay community. As President Obama so eloquently said in his Gay Pride pronouncement last week, " let us remember that if one of us is unable to realize full equality, we all fall short of our founding principles."

Let's only hope Pop Radio was listening.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.