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Chely Wright’s appearance on Oprah this week serves as a powerful life lesson for all – gay and straight

Chely WrightI’ve watched Chely Wright’s appearance on The Oprah Show several times because it is so rich and so powerful.

With her honesty and hard-earned strong sense of self, Chely could end up becoming one of the most effective activists in the LGBT movement. She’s articulate, emotionally intelligent, and might be able to reach a lot of people out there who are not being reached.

I think she is most magnificent and a gift to us all.

She talked to Oprah about growing up and realizing she was a lesbian: “I was told in church that there were building blocks of sin and evildoing, and these words were strung together to scare me—drunkard, thief, adulterer, homosexual. I thought, ‘That’s what I am,’” she says. “I prayed every day for God to change me. And it was: ‘Dear God, please don’t let me be gay. I promise to be a good person.’ I said that prayer every day, multiple times a day.”

Chely WrightDespite her professional success, Chely was haunted by her closely guarded secret. “I was never able to fully absorb the joy of my accomplishment. With each rung of the ladder I climbed, people wanted to know more,” she says. “Had you told me in 2000, had you said, ‘You’re going to be the first chart-topping country music singer to step forward and acknowledge her homosexuality,’ I would have laughed in your face. I knew it would ruin my career.”

Chely WrightAt one point, she began dating fellow country singer Brad Paisley even though she knew she could never be satisfied: “Doing anything with someone you shouldn’t be doing something with—having sex with him, kissing on him, going into a movie and holding hands with a man when you’re a lesbian—feels wrong,” she said. “When you want to be with someone else, it’s wrong. I wronged him.”

When people hide from their truth, Chely points out that they wreak havoc on themselves and everyone around them. “I damaged [Brad], and I hope he forgives me,” she says. “I hope this fills in some emotional gaps for him. I don’t assume he’s pining over how Chely Wright hurt his feelings a few years ago. I’m assuming he’s happy and moved on, but I would welcome any chance [to talk to him].”

Chely WrightWhen a decade-plus relationship with a woman ended in 2006, a heartbroken Chely began to have a breakdown and ended up putting a gun to her mouth: “I couldn’t find a way to get the pieces of my life to fit, and [I thought]: ‘I’m trapped. I can’t come out because there’s never been an openly gay country music singer,”’ she says. “I decided on that night I was done. I was tired. I couldn’t do it anymore. I said a prayer to God to forgive me for what I was about to do, and I began to cry.”

“There was not a cataclysmic event that had led me to that night,” she added. “It was layers of a lifetime of hiding and lying. … [I thought], ‘I’m a successful country music singer, and I’m a lesbian.’ Those two things had historically never co-existed, and I had painted myself into this corner.”

Chely Wright's father, StanOnce she decided to live, Chely knew she had to come out to her family. She recalled calling her father, Stan, who had said “Chel, what have I done? Are you mad at me? Is there something wrong? Why aren’t we close?’”

She told him her truth: “[I said]: ‘I have to tell you something I’ve needed to tell you my whole life. I’ve been afraid, though, to tell you because I’m afraid you won’t love me, and I’m afraid you’ll be ashamed of me. … I’m gay.’”

Stan was in the Oprah audience and shared his reaction and feelings now: “I grabbed her, and I put my arms around her. I told her it was all right. It would be fine. … I knew her heart. I knew her mind. I knew her soul. You hear a lot of times unconditional love. Well, in this old man’s world, it’s true.”

“The simplest thing I can tell anyone is, do not close the door,” Stan says. “Open the heart.”

Chely WrightIn addition to her father’s comments, this quote is my favorite from the interview from Chely on taking her power back by coming out: “I’ve been whispered about in country music for a long time. … The word ‘lesbian’ has been used as an insult,” she says. “[Now], you can say I’m ugly. You can say my songs are stupid, but I won’t allow the word ‘lesbian’ to be used as an insult toward me anymore.”

She indeed wants to make a difference in the lives of other people and God bless her for it: “Young people in every corner of America are being told by their churches, and their parents are echoing what the churches are telling them, that they are damaged goods. And they are not,” she says. “I have to stand up. I’m uniquely positioned in my culture of country music. … Country fans know me. They already think I’m a heck of a gal, a patriot, a good girl, and I am a lesbian. I have been the whole time.”

Love you Chely!!!

FILE UNDER: Lesbian, Out Stars


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One Remark

  1. WOW! How moving and amazing Chely is! I’ve been through that Hell and it’s hard to get through it. I’m still not out to my very religious family and I’m even older than Chely. It’s never easy when you are brought up as a Christian and told that you are going to Hell for something that you have no control over (I totally believe that . . . ) I tried living “straight” and could not do it without alcohol! It is amazing once I admitted who and what I was and realized that this is who God made . . . I no longer felt the need to drink. What an amazing feeling! Still working on the family . . . But never once have they inquired as to who I’m dating. I figure it is their loss! But still working on it! My life has always been a “work in progress” and it continues to be.

    THANK YOU Chelyl Wright for coming out and being a wonderful and articulate spokesperson! Many kudos and hugs to you! THANKS!

    :-) :-) :-)

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