Music

Country Singer Chely Wright on Coming Out

OPB | May 23, 2012 8 p.m. | Updated: July 30, 2012 10:12 a.m.

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Courtesy of Chely Wright

Chely Wright became the first major country star to come out as a lesbian two years ago. It took her three years to roll out her announcement to her fans, using a book (Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer) and documentary (Wish Me Away) to tell her story. However, Wright’s struggle to come to terms with her identity had been developing since she was in third grade.

Wright explained to Think Out Loud‘s Dave Miller that even at that young age, she prayed for a different fate every day. “I look back at my life, and it mostly just breaks my heart… I made a pilgrimage every day, several times a day, to the middle of a field to ask, to beg, ‘God, please take this away.’ “

Before Wright sought answers to an identity she didn’t understand, she fundamentally knew one thing: She wanted to be a country star. “I loved listening to the records and reading the liner notes and I played piano and it just felt like that’s what I was supposed to do.”

Wright fulfilled her dream. Her 1994 record Single White Female rose to number one on Billboard. She headlined stages and she was famous. And, although secret, she was in a long-term relationship with a woman she loved. But things slowly started dissolving. The hiding eventually ended her long-term relationship and on the last day of 2005, Wright found herself in a place she never expected.

“I was smacked in the face with my reality. I was unhappy, lonely… and I found myself in the worst place ever. I had a loaded 9mm gun in my mouth.” Wright put the gun down and did something she had been doing since she was a little girl: She prayed. “My earlier prayers were childlike, innocent and ill-informed. And as I grew to be a 36-year-old woman… I had always prayed for discernment and faith, which I had. But I never really surrendered.” It wasn’t immediate, but four years later Wright released an album, a book and made a national announcement, telling her fans, and the world, who she was.

After her announcement, she became an activist for gays and lesbians. Wright’s documentary Wish Me Away recently kicked off Portland’s QDocFest.

You can hear the full conversation with Chely Wright about the film and her life on Think Out Loud.

This article includes contributions from Think Out Loud’s Jaymee Cuti.

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