Coming Out Country

There are plenty of openly gay rock and pop stars with thriving careers, but a recent revelation begs a question: Can the genres of country and Christian music embrace openly gay artists?

Chely Wright is about to find out.

After rumors surfaced that a female musician was set to come out on the cover of People magazine, the media was on high alert.

When it turned out to be Wright, who’d scored several country hits in the late 1990s and early 2000s and was set to release her first new album in five years, publicity-baiting accusations arose.

But the singer said it was simply the right time to acknowledge who she really was.

“Country music has been described as being about God and family and country and for some reason people think that you can’t be gay and have those beliefs,” she said on the “Today” show. “That’s why I have to do this. I have to be one to step forward.”

Wright isn’t exactly the first openly gay country artist. K.d. Lang came out in the ’90s and an openly gay Lavender Country released an album in the ’70s.

However, she may be the first gay country act to have served as a champion for the troops, going so far as to release “Bumper of My S.U.V.,” a song about her support of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Wright explained she hopes country fans can stick by her despite their differences.

“I’m not giving the finger to country fans,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “By all measure, they already like me. They voted me ‘most philanthropic,’ ‘country star with the biggest heart,’ People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful, Kansan of the Year.

“I’m still all those things. I just happen to be a lesbian. And I have been the whole time. I wasn’t confused. I’ve been gay the whole time.”

Still, she holds no illusions that the genre will continue to suit her music, adding that the album will likely be dropped from many country stations.

“In three weeks’ time, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be ending my career in country music,” she said “There’s one thing about a country music career: When you have a hit record, you can pretty much enjoy that success for the rest of your life. You can make your living. You can put food in your belly for the rest of your life, because of the love that country music fans have for you.

“I’m offering that back to the country music fans with an honest heart, saying, ‘Here’s this back. If you want to give it back to me, I’ll gladly take it.’”

Wright isn’t the only female artist to come out in recent times.

Christian singer Jennifer Knapp, who’s set to release her first album in several years, recently announced she is a lesbian and has been in a same-sex relationship since 2002.

Knapp told CNN she wanted to tell fans the truth about her life before the album dropped.

“I’m aware that the evangelical community has problems with divorce and many other facets of their artists, let alone homosexuality,” she said. “The last thing I wanted to do was to have someone go out and buy a record and feel like they had been hoodwinked.”