For country artist Chely Wright, the situation is clear: 'Either you believe in freedom for all, based on real human equality, or you don't' 

Do the Wright Thing

Do the Wright Thing

Page 3 of 3

And did you gain any fans who came to your music because they were inspired by your coming out?

I gained a lot of people who visited my Facebook page to hit the "Like" button in support of the social statement that my coming out has made. But there's a big divide between that "Like" button and becoming a fan of the music. Many in the LGBT community have stayed away from country music because they felt that it didn't speak to them or accept them. Music is emotional, as we all know, and we must, as fans, feel connected to it. Some in the LGBT community have had every reason — for a long time — to feel unwelcome and disconnected from our genre.

Was there any specific act, incident or oversight that you took as a slap in the face in the wake of your coming out?

I wouldn't call it a slap in the face, but when I hear that someone in the industry says, "What's the big deal, we already knew she was gay," it frustrates me. My first reaction is that they didn't "know" I was gay, but they'd heard the rumor enough to believe it. And my second reaction is that it's such an arrogant thing to say, and it tells me and everyone else that anyone who says that has a lack of comprehension in regards to the rest of the world and how social change actually happens. Change doesn't happen unless people stand up. I actually refused to be one of Music Row's whispers anymore, and anyone who can't recognize the challenge and the value of my doing that ... well, I don't imagine that those people make it a practice to consider anyone other than themselves too often.

What's the most encouraging thing anyone's done for you or said to you since your coming out?

When someone tells me that my coming out changed or saved their life ... that's pretty strong stuff. That might not be the kind of encouragement you were referring to, but that's the kind that keeps my compass pointed north.


How long did you live in Nashville?

20 years.


Where do you live now, and where did you get married? And did Tennessee's laws against gay marriage encourage you to leave?

I live in New York City, in Manhattan. And no, the current anti-LGBT legislative policies that exist in Tennessee didn't cause me to leave. 

Would you consider living in Tennessee again?

I remain very connected to Tennessee. I still own many properties in Nashville. I began investing in real estate early in my career, and it's become a passion of mine. Nashville is a wonderful city — filled with great art, great music, sports, universities, cutting-edge medical facilities, communities of faith and just some really nice people. As easy as it would be to glean from the headlines that "Nashville has broken my heart," the truth of the matter is that Nashville, Tennessee, is also the town that made my dreams come true. I'm still pretty involved in the happenings of Tennessee, although most might not hear about it.

As far as my residing in Nashville again — I wouldn't be able to do that right now. My marriage to my wife Lauren is legally recognized in New York, and until Tennessee's laws provide that right for us, we'll be staying put here in NYC. I do miss Nashville and my bike rides on the Natchez Trace with my bike-riding friends. There's so much to miss about Nashville.

What does country music have to say to GLBT audiences?

Well, had I answered these questions yesterday, I'd have to say "not a lot." But times, they are a-changin'. It seems that Carrie Underwood stepped forward in an interview she gave in London and endorsed marriage equality. This is huge. This is what I was longing for from my industry. Someone that would say something beyond, "I love my gay fans, I don't judge." To that point — I'm sure they love their fans who have been convicted of crimes, but don't judge them either. That's quite different from the statement that Carrie just gave. You see, if you're a country music artist and you say things like, "I love my gay fans, I don't judge" or "I love my gay fans, they're so crazy and fun"... well, that's insufficient, and at some point, it becomes offensive. LGBT people are not a novelty, and by virtue of your saying that "I love them even though" or "they're fun and crazy," it doesn't make you cool and progressive. No. It makes you look ill-informed and out of touch. LGBT people are not a novelty, a Beanie Baby to be collected, if you will. Either you believe in freedom for all, based on real human equality, or you don't. If you do support it ... say it. Say it clearly and unequivocally, with no caveat. And if you don't support the LGBT community and our rights for full equality — well, just keep doing what you're doing. We'll hear you loudly and clearly, whether you're saying anything or not.

Carrie Underwood's beautifully articulated statement of support is profound. It will do so much for the LGBT community, but I have to say that it will do as much for the country music community.

We must remember — societies are known by their majority, but they are defined by the way they treat their minority.


What are you doing now? Do you have a new record coming out? What's going on with the documentary?

I am currently writing, and I should begin recording this year. I'm also writing a screenplay. And of course, I am heavily involved in advocating for equality on local, state and national levels. My days are full, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Wish Me Away, as of June 1, 2012, has marked the milestone of having a nationwide theatrical release, which is a huge accomplishment. It's also now available on other viewing platforms, such as Video On Demand, iTunes, Amazon and others. And beginning in the month of October (National Coming Out Month), Wish Me Away will be on Showtime.

The ability for people to view this film at home is a really important component of this film's potential to create change, in my opinion. Not everyone will feel compelled or safe to go to a theater, so I'm thrilled that folks can see this film at home.

The filmmakers, Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf, have had a great run so far with Wish Me Away. It was on the film festival circuit most of last year, and I think it won more than a dozen awards. We're all so proud of this project, and we're thrilled that the film is being seen during this critical juncture of social change in our nation.

Continue reading...

Nashville churches are embracing LGBT congregants, and the spiritual questions and challenges they raise
Is the state legislature waging a jihad against the LGBT community? Consider the evidence.
Tribe looks back on 10 years as the hub of Nashville's Church Street gay district
A guide to Music City's LGBT bars, whether you're looking for love, leather or just a game of darts

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