Musician Chely Wright to Open LGBT Center in Mo.
When country musician Chely Wright was growing up in Kansas, she had no place she felt she could go for support as she struggled with her sexuality.
Now Wright is opening such a place in Kansas City. The 41-year-old whose hits include "Single White Female" and "Shut Up and Drive" will be there this weekend for the opening of a community center where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families and friends can meet up. The location was chosen, in part, because Wright grew up 40 miles away, in Wellsville, Kan.
"This just gives so much hope to these outlying areas, that your major metropolitan area has a gay and lesbian center," said Wright, who married LGBT activist Lauren Blitzer last summer. "That would have meant everything to me had I been a kid growing up in Wellsville, knowing that there is a beautiful facility in our major city, that that was OK.
The new center, which will be called the LIKEME Lighthouse, is the most ambitious project undertaken by Wright’s LIKEME Organization, whose name is a play on the title of her memoir, "Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer." That book and her seventh album, "Lifted Off the Ground," were released when she came out in May 2010.
"The essence was I looked and looked for people like me," Wright said. "When I moved to Nashville, I scoured my industry for people like me. If there were people were like me, they were certainly hiding it."
Wright said some haven’t accepted her sexuality but that coming out was worth it, noting she met her spouse soon afterward.
"If you try to find your life’s mate in a dark, small closet, you tend to find a lot of unhealthy people," Wright said. "And that was the experience I was having in the closet. It wasn’t until I came out that I was able to find a healthy, happy relationship."
A series of events are planned around the center’s grand opening, including a benefit screening Friday of a documentary called "Wish Me Away" about Wright’s coming out experience and an open house and benefit concert Saturday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Others slated to perform or attend the concert are lesbian Christian musician Jennifer Knapp, gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, and Tracy Ryerson and Stamie Karakasidis, a couple who appeared on the first season of Showtime’s lesbian-focused reality show "The Real L Word."