When Chely Wright was nine, she made a deal with God.
“God, country music is what I want. I’ll go without love, I’ll go without anything, just give me music and success.”
Well, as an adult, Wright felt the full impact of this bargain. Recently, she became the first country singer to ever openly claim her homosexuality, a fact she felt compelled to hide for the duration of her successful 16 year career. She hid her truth to protect her fame, and it cost her the love of her life. It also undermined the love and respect she had for herself.
Country music has always been a genre big on telling stories of love and heartbreak, ones that often reflect the simplicity of small town hearts and American values. When you comply with these ideals, those that are successful earn followers of legendary loyalty. However, going against them can put an artist out on a limb where acceptance is precarious. This is where Wright finds herself now.
When asked what made her find the courage to come out, she describes her life as becoming a balancing sheet.
“The amazing goals I had accomplished were no longer filling up the holes in my life. I had allowed what people may think of me to take up too much rent in my head. I had gotten to the point where I could no longer reconcile where I was. I had reached my tipping point. I was ready personally, socially and spiritually. In fact, when I told God that I was finally ready to come forward, it was like he said ‘I told you it would be alright.’ It was my total submission to God that gave me the strength to go forward.”
Wright knew coming out to the country music community was a big risk. However, she was finding herself compelled to take the whispers that had been circulating about her in the industry and make a declaration.
“Whispers and rumors don’t make it to the folds of small town America. Somewhere out there is a 14-year-old who is scared and feels like a complete alien. I want them to know they are not alone,” Wright said.
Also, Wright has been pleased with the amazing outpouring of support she has received. “It has been a busy and chaotic time, but it has also been the most peaceful for me. I no longer have to hide such a fundamental part of who I am.”
Standing up to claim and embrace this fundamental part of who she is led Wright to Lansing. On June 12, she served as the Grand Marshall of the Michigan Pride Parade.
“I am a Midwestern girl. I am so glad that I was in Lansing for my first parade (she would go on to D.C. and Chicago in the following days). Being in a smaller community I think helped me from becoming too overwhelmed. I got so emotional. I cried.”