Country singer Chely Wright comes out, tells her story: All I can say is, 'wah, wah, wah'

Posted on 07 May 2010 at 1:10pm

ChelyAfter Chely Wright announced she was a lesbian, I was annoyed when I heard some of the circumstances. On Joy Behar’s show on Wednesday, she talked about deciding to come out after having a loaded gun in her mouth.

To me, that’s not a role model. That’s someone who needs psychiatric care or should sue her parents and ministers for malpractice for putting her in that position.

I was also annoyed that her announcement coincided with the release of her first CD in five years.

But then I decided that maybe the message she delivers on Behar’s show is actually more helpful to many people than mine. Or maybe it’s at least a good counterbalance to mine. Certainly, more people who struggle because of family and religious issues will relate to her than they will to me. And hey, at least they were talking about the issue of religion driving the LGBT community to suicide on CNN.

Lance Bass was a “surprise guest” on Behar’s show and he talked about his coming out and how hard it was for him growing up in Mississippi.

Oh, wah, wah, wah.

I’m sorry but I don’t understand it. My family — not just my left-wing New York family, but my left-wing Alabama and Mississippi family as well — never thought twice about my being gay. The only time I get grief from them is if I don’t bring a date to a family event.

And yes, I have left-wing Jewish Alabama and Mississippi relatives.

But other people do have family and religious problems.

Wright claims she decided to come out when she had a gun in her mouth and she talks about her religious faith.

Well, she’s not the only religious gay person. And there are religions that don’t gay-bash out there.

In my family, I’m the religious one, so I always get called to the Torah at bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs since they know I’m the one who knows the Hebrew blessings. I get called to lead Kaddish at a funeral because, again, I’m the one who knows the prayer.

Funny how my family understands that sexual orientation has nothing to do with learning and chanting a few lines. They get it. Others don’t. I know, I’m lucky.

I had good gay role models as well. When I came out in 1973 (God, I’m old), my role models were professors and deans (yes, plural) at my school who came out in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

My friend Jack, chairman of the French department at my school, worked in the translation and decoding department of the Army during World War II. That office was filled with gays then, just as it is filled with gays now. The difference is that the U.S. government had the sense not to throw them out then. Translation and decoding seem to be things the gays do well.

Joe, another role model, was a professor in the counseling department. He bought an old brownstone in Center Square in downtown Albany and we turned it into the first gay and lesbian community center in the country in 1974.

And my first partner Jon’s parents were one of 10 couples that attended a Parents of Gays meeting in Greenwich Village in 1975. Their little group expanded — with branches around the world — and it’s now called PFLAG.

So I wish Chely well. Sorry she had to go through all that in 2010. I didn’t go through any of that when I came out in 1973. Jack didn’t go through any of that in 1940. So when anyone tells me how hard it was to come out back then, my polite answer is that it would have been harder not to come out.

Sorry if I don’t sound more sympathetic or enthusiastic.

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