According to Faith in America, “LGBT kids raised in non-affirming religious families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGBT peers from accepting homes. Also, nearly half of America’s homeless youth are LGBT.”
But it does not have to be this way.
In response, the new Center for Wellbeing at The Congregational Church of Manhasset is welcoming singer Chely Wright to address these issues this Oct. 15, at 10 a.m. with a question and answer section.
Named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist in 1995 and one of New York Magazine’s “20 People We Love in 2010,” Wright has released nine studio albums, charted more than fifteen singles, and sold over 1,500,000 records in the United States alone.
However, her music is not the primary reason she was invited to speak at the Congregational Church. Instead, she was invited to speak since she is the first major country artist to officially come out as gay.
Upon the release of her 2010 album, “Lifted Off the Ground,” and her memoir, “Like Me,” Wright stunned the country music world when she came out. She told her story on the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and on Ellen.
Wright followed this up with a 2011 documentary, “Wish Me Away,” chronicling her decision to come out. “Wish Me Away” won numerous awards including the Best Documentary Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Centerpiece Award at New York’s Newfest Film Festival.
Coming out took a major toll on Wright’s career, including a serious drop in record sales, vicious hate mail, and the loss of people she considered friends in Nashville’s country music establishment. However, she has never regretted coming out, only wondered why it took her so long.
Wright has cited among her reasons for coming out a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward LGBT people, particularly LGBT youth, and the damage to herself from leading a double life.
Now Chely Wright is a role model serving as the national spokesperson for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. She also founded the LIKE ME organization, a nonprofit that provides assistance, resources, and education to LGBT individuals and their families and friends. Wright lives in New York City and is married to activist and author, Lauren Blitzer-Wright, who is currently Director of Marketing for Sony Entertainment. In 2013, the two became parents to twin boys.
“There is something positive happening in communities of faith regarding LGBT issues and it’s exciting to witness. In addition to LGBT clergy, we have straight allies in the clergy who are championing our freedoms too,” Wright said. “Their efforts and the work of so many others is the very reason I’m so proud to be a board member for Faith In America, a non-profit dedicated to ending religion-based bigotry and the harm that bigotry does to LGBT people. LGBT people of faith are strong in numbers. We implore those who practice acts of religious-based bigotry to realize that God is not theirs — God is for all of us.
“It is my deep belief that someday I will meet my Maker and I will be asked who I am and what I did for others. Every day, I am working hard, preparing my answer to be, ‘I am a gay, Christian, farm girl from Kansas who sang Country Music and I did the very best I could do — to know God and to share God.’”
The truth of Chely Wright’s story resonates with many people, both gay and straight. The event is being co-sponsored by The Congregational Church of Manhasset and the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock.
The Congregational Church is located at 1845 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset across the street from the Apple Store. For more information, call the Rev. Jimmy Only or the Rev. Lori Burgess at 516-627-4911 or visit the church’s website.