Chely Wright has two major projects hitting the shelves this week: her album, Lifted off the Ground, and her memoir, Like Me. While most musicians and authors would be focusing on their releases, Chely decided to get a little more personal.
In the new edition of People Magazine, Chely comes out and admits she’s gay.
At 39, Chely has waited a long time for this moment. She’s lived her life hiding her sexual preference from the public spotlight.
Chely was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1970 and spent her childhood in rural Kansas. She was raised in the south – also known as the ‘Bible Belt’ – where conservatism and religion rule everything. Homosexuality is not only frowned upon, but those who dare come out are cast out.
Even today, teens who come out are harassed not only by their peers, but also by the adults. Constance McMillan is just the most recent case of discrimination based on sexual preference that has occurred in the south, and certainly is not the last. She was sent to a fake prom, put together by the school, students and parents of students in order to prevent her from attending the real prom – simply because she wanted to bring her girlfriend with her. In the 1970s things were even more backward, so Chely would have faced far more ridicule and rejection had she attempted to come out then.
Now that Chely is an adult and no longer living the small-town lifestyle, she is comfortable enough to share her sexuality with the world. But her main audience for her music is the same group of people who are still discriminating based on sexual preference. Country music fans are mostly those small-town, conservative, Christian people that Chely was afraid to share her secret with before.
There are famous people who have helped pave the way for Chely. While she is the first country singer to come out as a homosexual, she is not alone in the music industry. The most notable lesbian who has come out is Melissa Etheridge – a very talented and famous musician who remained popular after she revealed her sexual preference. Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell both felt a sting when they first came out, but Ellen has an increasingly popular talk show, a spot on American Idol and a huge fan base. Rosie removed herself from the limelight to raise her children, but still pops up every now and then to share her opinion on hot-button issues.
Chely’s fans may accept her, as Melissa, Ellen and Rosie’s did. But her audience is notably more conservative than any of the other women’s fans were.
Whatever the outcome, Chely will be more comfortable with herself, since living a lie can really take a toll on a person mentally.
“Country Music Artist Chely Comes Out”, People.com
“Chely Wright Biography”, CMT.com