The concept behind Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys seems to confuse a lot of women when they first hear it. "Does that mean girls who are in love with a gay guy?" a leggy blonde may ask, squirming at the thought. But in fact, it's just the conceit for another reality show that tries to suss out the relationship between one of the most lasting bonds--between a gay guy and his gal pal.
The first season of the Sundance original series was set in New York City and, while some of the couples displayed some fascinating face-offs, it never seemed to quite gel since the different groups never seemed to need or know each other (much like New York!). So, for the second season the producers chose Nashville or, as the tagline of the show keeps reminding viewers, "the buckle of the Bible Belt," where, we would hope those gays need those female allies even more.
In fact, Nashville is a fairly cosmopolitan place--despite only having two gay bars (next to one another in a sort of dumpy strip mall) in the center of the city. And it offers great fireworks.
While it seems from the first episode, which premiered Friday, Nov. 18, that there will be lots of crazy screentime between cutie Jared and his sassy black friend Tenisha (who says she REALLY is in love with Jared), the cutest pair may be Sherrie Austin and Shane Stevens. She's a successful country singer-songwriter as is Shane, along with being a self-proclaimed "Jesus freak." We caught up with the duo the day after they were both at the Country Music Awards to discuss why they have such a bond, what it's like being gay in the South, and why they would never use the term "fag hag" to identify their friendship, but why they think that the P.C. language police has gone too far in curbing witty repartee.
Out: What went into deciding to be on the show?
Sherrie Austin: When the show came along, I sat down and talked to Shane, and we almost turned the show down a couple of times. I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to go down this road yet because we weren't sure how it was going to be presented. It was important to me--with Shane being my best friend--that it was shown in a good light, because this is a touchy subject in the South. It intrigued me at the same time: I loved the idea that this could start a conversation in the South, because this has still kind of been... Shane thinks that Nashville is a lot more liberal about homosexuality, but Tennessee on the whole has not been. So I kind of had to put my thinking cap on for this one because I've had a career in country music for 15 years. But I loved the angle they wanted to take of it, I loved that they were going to show it honestly--the ups and the downs; the funny side of it, the painful side of it. There's a lot of stories between the eight of us on the show.
Shane Stevens: I was scared to death and excited at the same time. Especially because of the career thing, I found it a bit scary. Just because of being a gay man and being a songwriter--being the first openly gay hit songwriter in Nashville--I freaked out about putting my life out there a little. We had conversations about how no one goes "Oh hey this is the gay song writer Shane." Like, is this gonna hurt me? So far, everyone's been really embracing it and embracing me in the same way they always have. For me, I wanted to kind of show a gay man who is a Jesus freak who loves everybody. And, well, I'm not a catty person, and I wanted to show that type of life within the gay community.
It's cool setting the show in Nashville just because people in New York and Los Angeles have just a different view of the South. What is your relationship to the city, and did you feel any responsibility to show the city in a good light?
SA: I've been here for about 17 years. I'm originally from Sydney, Australia. I lived there with my family. I came to the States because I was doing a television show called The Facts of Life. I moved to Nashville afterward, and I didn't know anybody, but I knocked on a few doors and had a guitar and a suitcase and just, you know, started making my name in Nashville and got signed that first year.
SS: I'm from Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. I was raised in a little fishing town called Calabash right on the state line. My dad was a shrimper. I moved here in 1996, so about 15 years ago. And I moved to New York City in 2001, and I've lived in LA.
First, they seem to be developing a conflict around the way religion figures into your lives. Did you know this was going to be a big deal going in to it?
SA: I don't know how far they've gone with that subject, but there's never been conflict with Shane and me about it. We've just been different about how we talk about it. It's open. I always say, when it comes to Jesus, Shane is all "AHHHHHH!" And I'm very "HMMMM..." Our nature is just very different about how we express that. I'm very, very private about any relationship with a man, including Jesus, and Shane's just a little more open about it.
SS: I'm very out and proud about Jesus. I'm not a religious person, but I'm incredibly spiritual.
Well there's also this whole situation with Shane trying to get you to wear these Bedazzled Jesus T-shirts.
SA: He can get me to do the things that no one else can get me to do. It's ridiculous.
SS: I showed up to her house the other night. She looked like a purple cupcake in this dress with ruffles on it, and I said you're not going out with a dress with ruffles up front, we're going shopping. So we ran over to the mall and I got her this sexy little black dress and these amazing heels and she's fighting me in the store "I'm not putting that on! I'm not putting that on!" And then she put it on, and she was like "OK you're right." The thing about Sherrie and me is, we don't really fight. I have a lot of best girl friends, and we don't fight. We all really communicate pretty well. I'm the go-to advice gay guy.
So are you worried about how the Nashville scene will react to the show. Or how it could affect your music career, Sherrie & Shane?
SA: I've always been a sort of out of the box artist, and I've never quite fit in between the lines of Nashville. I spent a lot of time in my career, while making my first few records, caring what everyone thought and trying to follow rules that never existed, so I'm certainly not about to start worrying about it now. I'm bringing out my first independent record in eight years and a lot of the reason I stopped being an artist was the fear of what everybody would think.
SS: I wanted to just be myself, put everything out there, I'm a pretty fearless person, and I really don't care very much about what people think about me. I just wanted to be honest and truthful and paint Nashville in a great light and show what my what my relationship is like with Sherrie and how well we love each other and support each other. And Nashville is a really beautiful character in this hopefully, the way they've shot it it's a great town, it's got its issues. You know, we're still a red state; you gotta be careful. You can't walk around holding hands with your boyfriend on the street.
I had a final question that I wondered if you'd thought about. There's a word, or phrase, we never used when discussing this relationship between a gay man and a woman but it's there and many people do use it and feel it's offensive. Would you ever use "fag hag" or do you have a term that you use to define the dynamic?
SS: I would never ever call Sherrie a fag hag.
SA: No, we don't have any terms because, like I said before, it's not like here's my gay friend.
Well, what do you think of when people say it?
SA: My mother, her best friend is gay, so I guess it's just in my DNA to have a gay best friend. I mean my mother would say something like that, but no one ever take offense because it's just her relationship with Paul, her best friend. It's not a derogatory term. It's an insult, which means you love them, you know? It's definitely the tone. I think you have to have a sense of humor about things like that because, if we take it so seriously and are so P.C. then nobody can laugh at anything anymore. Everybody's always insulted. You have to have a sense of humor, and I think Shane and I--that that's one of the best things about out relationship--I really think we capture that on the show, how much we actually make each other laugh...