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Chely Wright: The cost of coming out
Chely Wright wrote a memoir about her experiences as a country singer who came out as gay.
July 3rd, 2012
07:49 AM ET

Chely Wright: The cost of coming out

Editor’s Note: Singer-songwriter Chely Wright is the author of the autobiographical book "Like Me." Her coming out process was filmed in the documentary "Wish Me Away." This is an edited version of her conversation with CNN about Anderson Cooper’s announcement, why she came out, and what happened after.

by Chely Wright, Special to CNN

I’m happy about Anderson (coming out) and that he didn’t allow himself to be a whisper.

It’s inspiring.

Opinion: Thank you, Anderson

I hid for 16 years of my career.

It became worth it to hide - until it is not worth it anymore.

Video: Chely Wright on coming out as a lesbian

I was afraid.

Singing is not my hobby, it is my job. I was afraid of losing my livelihood.

I hit my rock bottom in 2006, when I realized no one really knew me. I had very detached relationships with human beings, and no one really knew much about me.

That is how it is when you are burdened with fear - you never know.

Love doesn’t grow in a dark closet. It can happen, but it won’t survive.

I made the decision to come out in 2007. My life got easier the moment I decided to come out – I knew that freedom was on its way.

I had steeled myself as best I could for negative fallout. I had a feeling that some tour dates would be cancelled and records would not be sold.

From the day that I officially came out, on May 4, 2010, many people that had been fans aren’t anymore. My mother did not take it well at all and we don’t speak, and that was a cost.

Many people are very misinformed about people like me. I am a Christian. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. People had it in their head that there is no one gay in country music.

LGBT is a unique minority in which we have to identify. Straight allies have to be out too.

I am a storyteller by nature and songwriter, and I thought it would be a tremendous honor to advocate for LGBT youth in particular.

My whole objective in coming out was to challenge the stereotypes.

When you are a public person with public capital, I say those who are safe and able should look themselves in the mirror and say, can I make a difference? There is no definitive indictment when they don’t come out, but I know something is going on, something is keeping them from coming out - when you know that by standing up and saying "I’m gay," it might make (some young kids) feel less alone.

I would like to see those young people enjoy the very diverse communities that America provides.

Change and equality only happens when people stand up and identify.

No civil rights movement has ever been progressed on a whisper.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chely Wright.

soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. steve

    I don't understand how parents can cut off contact with their children. If one of my children told me they were gay I would be saddened but only because I know that their lives are going to be made more difficult by this fact. Nothing could make me love them less. In fact I believe this is true for Chely's Mother too. It is the sadness coupled with guilt that somehow we as a parent failed to protect our child from an unhappy fate, that makes a parent turn away from their child.

    July 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Martin

      I agree that it is very sad for a parent to turn away from a child that has come out. In my own family, my mother did not, when my sister came out. Looking back on that, I'm very proud of my mom. I think the main reason a parent would do this is fear of the unknown, or a lack of understanding that this is not a choice, or a "lifestyle" ( I detest hearing people refer to the "gay lifestyle"). I admire people in public or private lives who take the risk of coming out, knowing they will suffer consequences. They are paving the way and forcing tolerance and change. Good for them!

      July 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. reds

    Do I care if you're gay, black, red, white, disabled, etc. etc.? Why do gays feel that they have to announce themselves (come out of the closet)? Are they that narcisstic that they think people care? Seriously, this is getting tiring. I guess people who are bipolar, schizo should announce to the world too. Jeez, how about just living your life and not boring others with the details......

    July 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian from DC

      Don't blame Gay men and Lesbians for your hatred issues, of which there are many.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in NJ

      Because a large number of people still think there is shame in being gay. And unless prominent people stand up and let people know that its' not just 'wierdos' and 'those kind of people' that are gay, that 'normal' people are gay, people who are sucessful and respected and 'real', gay people may continue to be marginalized. That is why.

      July 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
      • Heather

        What if a person was severely injured and needed care and the avail. dr. was gay. Would that person say "don't touch me or help me, you're gay"? I think that would be funny, everyone gay on this side of the room, everyone straight on that side, and see where we'd be. Talented people from all walks and all persuasions, just live and let live, be happy.

        July 5, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. drc239

    I stil think Chely Wright has a terrific and unique voice. I'm still a fan of her older music, just not her new music. Her being gay has nothing to do with why I haven't bought a CD lately. The new stuff just isn't country at all and (clean & twangy) country is what I prefer. Be true to yourself Chely! When old fans waiver, new ones will come. Life goes on ...

    July 3, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      Interesting. I used to love, LOVE Melissa Etheridge's music. Did not bother me she was gay. It did change a little how I perceived her music. Was it written for a man, for a woman, etc? It's so subjective...Then her personal lissues in the press – gf's, and kids, breakups just seemed to overtake her music and talent....I stopped seeing her as the songwriter and more a celebrity. I'm sure she never would have intended this as a backdrop to her coming out. Still consider her one of THE best songwriters in the world, but sorry to see her personal issues taking the forefront.

      July 5, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Come as your Are!

    Jesus Loves you. Not Sin.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Not Justyet

      well said.....thank you but for me and my friend...Not Justyet

      July 3, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael B.

      Jesus loves everyone. Including rapists, murderers, and child abusers as well. That doesn't mean he approves of the lifestyle. What it means is He loves everyone, even if they aren't living the standards he requires in order to return and live with Him again.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
      • pwmmc

        Michael B., I don't know which God/Jesus you are referring to but the Jesus that I know, the only son of God sent to die for us all, and was resurrected as promised 3 short days later, so that I could return to live with them, had no such "requirement" for all to be able to do exactly that is as the Bible clearly reads to "BELIEVE Jesus is the Son of the Living God whom God sent to die on the cross for our eternal sins so that we CAN and WILL live for eternity". TO NOT BELIEVE THAT is the only thing that will keep us from doing exactly as the Lord Our God promised. THAT is MY God, His SON and my brother, with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and experienced TOO MANY miracles NOT to believe... and it breaks my heart that there are too many who don't know Him and live their lives without "HOPE" because they believe otherwise. Living in THIS world, especially in THIS day and AGE, without His UNCONDITIONAL LOVE MERCY, and FORGIVENESS, is almost unbearable to me and I KNOW that if He WASN'T GOD, it would be unbearable to Him. Praise His Holy Name...!

        July 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
      • scoobypoo

        Your 'god' is no better than this woman's intolerant mother.

        Your god will send me to burn & suffer horribly for all eternity if I don't profess my love? How compassionate.

        July 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • cindy

        Maybe you read the part in the Bible about the consequences of sin. And the part about repent and be baptized and go and sin no more. You left out a BIG chunk about God.

        July 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
      • Heather

        I simply cannot believe//trust WHATEVER in any person, real or imagined who would love anyone that is a rapist or murderer or child molester. I suppose that's why I could never get with the religious crowd.

        July 5, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike in NJ

      Wrong. The Jesus I know loves EVERYONE, regardless of your judgements. It is NOT A SIN to be gay. Get that through your rotted heads.

      July 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • Elizabeth in Cape Cod

        You're absolutely right. Jesus loves all regardless of their lifestyle. The hatred just keeps going on and on.

        July 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • JJ

        You can deny christianity but don't say it's not a sin according to the Bible:

        Romans 1:25-27
        English Standard Version (ESV)

        25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

        26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

        July 3, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • Josh377

        Don't forget about the old testament Leviticus. The whole man lie down with a man... abomination etc...

        July 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • cindy

        Jeses does love everyone but he does not and will not condone sin as spelled out in the Bible.

        July 3, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
      • Josh377

        It's curious cindy about what is actually defined as "sin." Given all of the negative attention that usually hits openly gay people, I think it's safe to say that people don't choose to be gay just as much as straight people don't choose to be straight. The idea of sin implies a choice, and an action and although I am acutely aware that the descriptions in Leviticus, Acts and Romans are all actions, consider the ramifications of what your actually asking. It is it honestly fair for these people, who have no control over what their feeling much like you and I, to live a lonely life and a lie? I am not disagreeing about what the bible says, merely over our interpretation on the idea of sin...

        July 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Andre

        To you Bible nuts and "Christians" out there: YOU ARE NOT JESUS. It doesn't matter if you condone sin. And if you will recall, Jesus would sit down to eat dinner with all manner of people, including those you would classify as "sinners." Remember the dinner at Matthew the tax collector's house? I think that showed more about Jesus' character and desire for a loving world than any other story of the Bible. Your version of morality implies that you think you're Jesus and can pass judgement on others; what they do is between them and Jesus, and you have NO SAY in their lives.

        July 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • chefdugan

        Gee you actually KNOW Jesus. What does he look llike? What kind of voice does he have? How tall is he and how much does he weigh? You and your kind are pathetic creatures that delude themselves constantly.

        July 7, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarahfalin

      But what about my magic man in the sky? He loves me bunches. 🙂

      July 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Not Justyet

    I have watched A C for as Long as I can remember and will continue to do so for as long as I live. I am in the closet and have a relationship with a buddy that started 4 years ago and we get along great. He is married as well with a couple of kids. Are we gay? YES ...are we bi? YES..are we straight? YES.
    To hear about Anderson today says alot about who I am ...we will stay in the closet but when a celebrity like A C comes out , it makes us feel that we are doing nothing wrong except living a lie. We compare ourselves to the movie, Brokeback Mountain. We will live our lives in secrecy. Its why we are happy. Thank you Anderson Cooper

    July 3, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • elusively2

      But Not Justyet, you are carrying on with a married man. The gay part is OK but the married man part is a waste of your time. He's committed to another lifestyle for now. How about finding yourself a guy of your own to love?

      July 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
      • Li

        Yep. Gay doesn't matter. Married is wrong. More people than just you and he can be badly hurt by that.

        July 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • evie

      I agree with the others. If this man is married he SHOULD NOT be cheating on his wife. He made a commitment to her. If he cannot kept that commitment then he needs to divorce her. It's not fair to her.

      July 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. torqueflite

    Gay people are coming into the light for the first time as they start winning legal equality as well as hearts and minds. Visibility is at the heart of equality.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. afreeman

    this is hillarious, basically chely wright hopped on the gay band wagon, and look, now she gets to write a blpog for CNN. Talk about exposure! Look, gays will be gays, they are humans like yhe rest of us, but for goodness sakes, it is getting boring as hell reading about them, seeing them in movies or tv etc... what are they 3% of the population at best? And how much 'airtime' do they get? Too damn much.

    July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Not Justyet

      easy buddy...so what...we are all human

      July 3, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
      • Diogo

        In Grand Prairie, Tx the show was wonderful! Sitting in the bnoalcy I was worried we wouldn't get the full effect of the dancers but although the venue was good, the whole experience came in very clear! I thought the lighting was blinding at times and over powered the dancers but over all a very pleasant time!The video expression with the numbers/dance were timed and very eye appealing! The finally was tremendous! My wife and I have followed the show every season and love how they give good ordinary kids (not stinking celebrities who receive more than they deserve already) opportunities to use their God given abilities to entertain us!! Nice going dancers and the crew! God bless! Jesus is Lord!!!

        October 15, 2012 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike in N.O.

      Mike in NJ, touchet! I agree with everything you've posted here. Incidentally, Anderson never did make a big deal of coming out. He said he has always lived his life openly to his friends and family and co-workers. All he did was give permission for others to publicly acknowledge it now. It's the rest of us making a big deal of it, and I think that's great. When the public as a whole truly IS bored enough to stop noticing such "comings-out," then the act will have fulfilled its purpose and no longer be necessary. Thanks again, Anderson, Ellen, Rachel, and the rest!

      July 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • bri in sd

      Easy buddy, indeed.

      I wouldn't hold too tightly to that "3%" figure. Keep in mind that not everyone is out; we can only hope that more people will feel comfortable being so with the honesty of highly esteemed people who are LGBTQI or A. That is the purpose of this airtime.

      July 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessie

      Chely didn't "hop on the bandwagon" she started coming out in 2007 (5 years ago) and officially came out 2 years ago. Also, she didn't write this blog. It is excerpts from an interview she did. Sorry to see that your lack of reading comprehension is on par with your idiocy. Please do the rest of the world a favor and not breed.

      July 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |