This past week, the online world was abuzz with the coming out of a country star. At first, I thought, who is Chely Wright? After visiting her MySpace page, I then realized that I had actually heard of a couple of her songs, but didn't really know who she was. She is not as big a name as Shania Twain or Dixie Chicks, and I only listen to country casually while scanning through stations on the radio, but she is an artist who has seen a few of her songs on the charts, and is well known by country music fans. And it has been interesting reading the reactions online. I think about 98% of Chely's Twitter and Facebook responses are positive. And the 2% that complained were questioned by the other fans, why are you following Chely on Twitter or Facebook? But there are also bloggers and commenters that speculate that this is all a publicity stunt. After all, it isn't coincidence that she has a CD and book coinciding with her coming out, right? Well, if you are a country music star, I don't think declaring to the whole world that you are gay is what most people would do to sell records.
But beyond the initial reports of her coming out, which mostly seemed like regurgitation of the same news printed on the People magazine website, I did read a handful of her interviews, and I was extremely touched by her story. I cried as I read them because I felt her pain. This is someone who lived so far in the closet, she was in the sheetrock, as she describes it, and was driven to such despair that she almost killed herself. She is someone who tried, like so many others, to pray away the gay. And this touched me.
I knew at a very young age that I was different, but I couldn't put a word to it. As I was going through puberty, I came to the realization that I liked girls. But being inexperienced at life and love as a teenager, I just assumed that I was bisexual. And I knew hiding this would be for my own benefit and survival. I didn't choose this. I didn't really want to be gay, and for a while, I did pray every day for God to take this away from me. I finally realized that God was okay with me as I was. And then I became comfortable with who I am, and being gay. I decided that I would try to be straight and fit in the straight world the best I could. I pretended to have crushes on guys in junior high, and dated a few guys in high school and college. I made the decision that I was bisexual, and I tried to fall in love with a man. But it never worked out, and I never found Mr. Right. It was in college that I started dating women as well, and eventually discovered that I was really, really gay.
I fully came out of the closet as a lesbian at age 37, when I was expecting our son. I've been out to family and close friends for a long time, but I have lived most of my professional life in the closet. Once I got pregnant, my partner and I knew that there was no turning back, that we would be forthcoming to everyone. It was not an easy thing to do, as it was not a political statement for me. There were personal reasons over a whole lifetime, from religion to survival, as to why I stayed in the closet for so long. I think this is something that is easily forgotten by most people. When you actually come out, it is a process that you go through, learning to be honest with yourself, and then you have to have the courage to be honest with everyone else.
Thousands of times over my life, I have come out as a lesbian. I will probably continually need to do this. Unless you are someone really famous like Ricky Martin, you have to come out over and over. Many people assume I am straight, in the same way I assume they are. I don't advertise that I'm gay by wearing pink triangles or waving a rainbow flag, and it is not a main topic of conversation for me. Nowadays, I usually come out during conversations about kids, when people ask me about my husband, or if I'm married. And then I reassure them they shouldn't feel awkward or embarrassed about making assumptions that I'm married to a man. As a mother, I have to fill out forms and cross out "Father" and put "Other mother". Anyone who cares for my son at his daycare knows he has two mommies.
Now that I am out 100%, living truthfully, I do feel much better about myself. It is mentally exhausting to have to lie and hide all of the time. Without that constant mental and emotional drain, I am a much happier person. I hope Chely Wright, and others who have come out, experience this same sense of relief. I watched some of her video blogs on YouTube, and could detect a certain sadness in a few of the older posts. She is so down-to-earth, you just want to give her a hug and tell her it will be alright. Her latest post-coming-out video blog revealed a happier person. Hopefully she also knows that she has a whole new audience and new fans who respect and admire what she has done. I know I am a new fan, eagerly awaiting her new CD and book to arrive in my mailbox.