Who is Chely Wright?:
Chely Wright is the first country music star to come out as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Wright had a #1 hit with "Single White Female" in 1999. Her first album came out in 1994 and she won "Top New Female Vocalist" from Academy of Country Music Awards that year. She has put out seven studio albums and won numerous other country music awards.
Chely Wright: Coming Out of the Closet:
Chely Wright decided to come out in an autobiography entitled Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer.
Chely Wright: Hiding Her True Self:
Chely Wright reveals in an interview with The Advocate that she was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family and struggled for many years with her attraction to women, praying that her feelings would go away. She almost took her own life in 2006, so distraught she was after a failed relationship and years of struggle with reconciling her sexual orientation and her faith.
Music Saved her Life:
In The Advocate interview Wright says, "It was really songs that saved my life. The process of writing songs—and the experience of writing down my story—that really carried me through it. When I finally knew that I could no longer go on living a lie anymore, it was over. Everything had to change. The experience of writing a book…this record, coming out I doubt I’ll ever have another experience in my life that is so dramatic and intense. It’s just been this incredible, dynamic journey for me. I’m thankful for it, but I’d never want to go through it again.”
Coming Out in Country Music:
No other country music star has come out. And perhaps with good reason. The industry is more conservative than pop music. Will this end Chely Wright's career? She fears it will. In The Advocate interview she says, "It would break my heart if I were to lose my career in country music because of being gay, but I fully expect to. I had to finally come to realize that there was more to me than just country music. I had to figure out a way to become a fully-realized human being, or I wasn’t gonna last."
The Importance of Chely Wright Coming Out:
Cathy Renna, a national public relations professional specializing in LGBT issues has this to say about Chely Wright's coming out. "Chely Wright's coming out is important in a number of unique ways. Chely reaches an audience that a lot of people in our community often write off, but we must have the courage to be visible in and talk to the Bible Belt. As a country star Chely's coming out will make a lot of her fans realize they actually know a gay person, they just didn’t realize it."
Coming Out to Help Queer Youth:
If recent events in Mississippi have taught us anything, it's that it's hard to be queer in small town America. Chely Wright said in The Advocate interview, "I think about that girl in a small town in Louisiana who is too afraid to come out because she knows she won’t be safe. I think about that 15 year old boy living somewhere in Kansas, feeling scared and alone. If a country singer that he knows comes out of the closet, maybe that makes him feel a little less alone... If my coming out of the closet makes them rethink their ideas about gay people, then I’ve done something good."
Chely Wright, Christians and LGBT People:
Cathy Renna also talks about the importance of reaching people of faith. "As important, she is an out lesbian who is true to her faith and wiling to talk about the pain caused by the closet and the religious bigotry she has experienced. Our community has a lot of its own 'coming out' to do, and LGBT people of faith must be more visible to combat the stereotype that it is 'gay vs. God' when in fact many of us are people of faith. Chely's coming out will be a wake-up call to a lot of people and prompt more 'ah-has' and 'I never thought about it that way' moments than some other coming out by a celebrity."