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Lesbian Life Interview with Chely Wright

The First County Music Star to Come out as Lesbian


Out Lesbian Country Music Singer Chely Wright

Out Lesbian Country Music Singer Chely Wright

It's been just about a year since country music singer Chely Wright announced to the world that she is a lesbian. She released her autobiography Like Me and started a foundation with the same name. She has come a long way since that day in 2006 when Chely Wright went into her room and pulled a gun out of her closet and put the barrel in her mouth and contemplated pulling the trigger. Chely talked to Lesbian Life about that day and answered a question no one had ever asked her before.

In our interview Chely Wright also talks about what she is doing to help change the religious bigotry in our country, why she didn't make an "It's Gets Better" video and the new love of her life.

Lesbian Life: It's been about a year now that you've come out. Congratulations.

Chely Wright: Thanks.

You've been on a Olivia cruise, you've sang with the Indigo Girls and now you're going to Dinah Shore, can you get any gayer?

(laughs) Well, Olivia and Dinah Shore, yes, I wouldn't say singing with the Indigo Girls makes me gay. They do a lot of non gay things. (laughs) But as far as doing the gayest things one could imagine, I'm doing them. It's been great. I've been remarkably embraced by the gay community. It's been amazing.

How has that been for you, as someone who really shied away from that community?

I'd known who I was for a very long time. I was very comfortable being gay. I was very uncomfortable with being known to be gay because of the industry that I was in. I was afraid of losing my job, essentially. I was not afraid of embracing that part of myself.

Okay, that's a big difference.

Yeah, big difference.

So, how has the country music community reacted?

In all earnest, not so great. I wish I had better news to report. I've heard from a few of my friends who didn't know I was gay. No one other than Mary Chapin Carpenter made a public statement of support. And to some degree, it was a shock to me. Not a big shock. I kind of imagined this, Kathy, but I thought that a few would publically say, "Hey way to go, good for her." Because a few artists in the recent years had made statements in the press and did interviews with the gay press and said how much they loved and support their gay fans. I really thought that they would take that opportunity to further galvanize their relationship with the LGBT community by walking the walk and talking the talk. That's been particularly difficult for me when I do an instore or a book signing and I do a Q&A after. Fans will stand up and say, "Who have you heard from?" And "Have you heard from Blank." I don't want to throw anybody under the bus. It's hard to say, actually, I haven't, I have not heard from them.

Has anyone picked up the phone and called you?

Tricia [Yearwood] did. In fact she did my charity event after I came out. She wasn't slated to play my event, which we do every year called Reading, Writing and Rhythm. We put musical instruments in the schools nationwide. It's in June every year, and of course, I came out in May. She called me up and left me a message that said, "Make a spot for me, I'm coming." That spoke volumes. That was a big statement of support and friendship.

But Mary Chapin Carpenter took to her Twitter the day after I came out and said, "What Chely Wright did took courage and she should be commended for her integrity and her truth." And she's not my buddy. She's not my pal. That meant a lot to me.

I'm curious, have you heard from anyone who is in the closet? Did anyone reach out to you who felt like they were in the same predicament?

Well, that's a tricky question because that would cause me to have to engage in a conversation that would initiate speculation. I don't want to cause founded or undue speculation about anyone's sexuality in country music because it can be career-ending. There's a reason no one's ever come out in country music. It causes your record sales to drop to a third, which mine did.

Coming out is a very personal choice. I don't know what the situation is in your life, but I know that everyone hides something. There comes a point where your balance sheet becomes irreconcilable. Where you just say I can't hide this particular thing any more. A lot of people thought they knew about me. But once I came out, some of my peers, I know one in particular was asked about it. And this artist's comment was, "Oh, we all knew. It's no big deal." Well, there is a big gap between people privy to the rumor mill and the kid sitting in a small town who feels like an alien, who finds out that someone that he or she admires is like them. It's a big, big difference.

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