A dedicated fan has launched an online petition that hopes to get one of the first openly gay singers in country music back on the stage of the famed Grand Ole Opry.
Chely Wright came out of the closet in 2010 after rising to stardom in the late '90s. According to the petition, Wright first sang on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 1989 and was a staple in its rotation of performing musicians -- until she identified herself as a lesbian.
After coming out in 2010, Wright's career was reportedly put into a tailspin. The singer reportedly lost a large portion of her fan base and her relationship with her mother suffered -- the two reportedly no longer speak. She also stopped getting invited to play the Opry.
"I was kind of an Opry darling," Wright previously told People magazine. "I’d be called to perform at least every 10 weeks, until my coming out. Since then, I’ve not heard a peep." Now, openly gay country music fan and musician David Dilsizian is trying to change all of that.
“Chely Wright has worked very hard to establish herself in country music and I feel that just because she came out as a lesbian doesn't mean she can't be part of that community," said Dilsizian in a statement. "I have heard people say the country music industry doesn't feel an openly gay person will be accepted. Now’s their chance to let the fans speak, and show that the country music industry isn’t made up of stereotypes.”
Though country still has some work to do to catch up when it comes to accepting, promoting and celebrating LGBT musicians, things do seem to be slowly be changing, with individuals such as Wright and openly gay Steve Grand helping to redefine the image of a country music singer/songwriter.
Interested in helping Wright return to the Grand Ole Opry stage? Head on over to Change.org to sign the petition.
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When asked by <em>Out</em> magazine if <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/2009/03/15/martina-mcbride-shines" target="_hplink">she feared a backlash from conservative fans</a> if she supported the gay community, the country singer, nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year, replied: <blockquote>"Honestly, I just have to do what's right for me, and what I would tell people is what I believe, which is that I feel like tolerance is very important. I have three daughters and that's what I teach them. I think we should all be tolerant of each other and embrace each other's strengths and differences and uniqueness and beauty."</blockquote>
When the country singer recently dropped by "CMT Insider" and was asked about gay marriage, Keith said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/01/toby-keith-weighs-in-on-g_n_990404.html" target="_hplink">he didn't doesn't see any reason</a> to get into people's personal lives. When asked about the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," he offered that anyone with the training and passion should have the right to defend the country and added, "Somebody's sexual preference is, like, who cares?"
When <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20365936,00.html" target="_hplink">the country star came out in 2010</a> she told <em>People</em> magazine, "There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality... I wasn't going to be the first." But Wright changed her mind and revealed, "Nothing in my life has been more magical than the moment I decided to come out." But it hasn't all been magic -- <a href="http://www.autostraddle.com/chely-wright-country-music-gay-interview-72366/" target="_hplink">in an interview with Autostraddle.com</a>, Wright revealed that since coming out she has received death threats and her record sales have dropped by 50 percent.
<a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/blakeshelton/status/65999662171172865" target="_hplink">After tweeting</a> "Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song.. Any man that tries Touching my behind He's gonna be a beaten, bleedin', heaving kind of guy..." earlier this year, the country singer, nominated for five awards including Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year, was met with outrage and demands for an apology from GLAAD and angry fans. Shelton <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/05/blake-sheltons-homophobic-tweet_n_858042.html" target="_hplink">quickly tweeted a series of apologies</a>: <blockquote>"Hey y'all allow me to seriously apologize for the misunderstanding with the whole re-write on the Shania song last night... It honestly wasn't even meant that way... I now know that their are people out there waiting to jump at everything I say on here or anywhere...But when it comes to gay/lesbian rights or just feelings... I love everybody. So go look for a real villain and leave me out of it!!!... @glaad hey I want my fans and @nbcthevoice fans to know that anti-gay and lesbian violence is unacceptable!!!!! Help me!!!! And DM me..."</blockquote>
Parton has long been a supporter of the LGBT community. In July of this year, when asked <a href="http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=32900" target="_hplink">how she feels about her gay fans</a> by the <em>Windy City Times</em>, she replied: <blockquote>"Hey, a big shout-out to them! We have fun with my gay crowds and we always have them. In fact, we are going to California and be in L.A. for two days at the Hollywood Bowl, then in San Francisco. Already, so many of my gay fans have said they are going to be there and be on the front row. I love it. I have always loved my gay fans. They accept me and I accept them. We get along just fine. I am very proud and honored when they dress up like me or whatever they want to do!"</blockquote>
In 2009 the country music trio, nominated for Vocal Group of the Year, released "Love Who You Love," which many in the LGBT community interpreted as a supportive move by the band. Regarding <a href="http://blog.cmt.com/2009-03-23/rascal-flatts-encourage-gay-fans-to-love-who-you-love/" target="_hplink">the reaction to the song</a> Rascal Flatts said: <blockquote>"We actually have some gay people that work with us, and we have a lot of friends that are gay, too, and I know that this song has inspired them... I know that coming out was tough on their parents and on them and the whole entire family. For a long time, some of them didn't get to hear 'I love you' from their dads or be accepted in that way. ... It's helped a lot of our friends... We don't judge anybody's lives..."</blockquote>
Though the country singer, nominated for five awards including Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year, has never specifically (to our knowledge) spoken out about her LGBT fans, she did include a scene in her "Mean" music video that featured a boy in a purple sweater reading a fashion magazine while being bullied by a team of football players as Swift sings, "You -- picking on the weaker man..."
Christian country singer Amy Grant, and wife of Vince Gill, spoke out about her gay fanbase while promoting her latest record "How Mercy Looks From Here" in 2013: "Even when I was discovering my own sexuality and meeting people that had a different experience, I didn't categorize then, and I don't categorize right now ... When you don't understand something, you can either default to judgment or you can default to compassion."
When Renee Zellweger stated the reason she was divorcing Chesney, nominated for three awards including Musical Event of the Year, was due to fraud, many were quick to assume that the country star was gay. <a href="http://www.cmt.com/news/news-in-brief/1604902/kenny-chesney-talks-candidly-in-playboy-interview.jhtml" target="_hplink">Chesney responded to the accusations</a> in a 2009 <em>Playboy</em> interview by saying: <blockquote>"That is the most unbelievable thing in the world. ... What guy who loves girls wouldn't be angry about that shit? I didn't sign up for that. I think people need to live their lives the way they want to, but I'm pretty confident in the fact that I love girls. (laughs) I've got a long line of girls who could testify that I am not gay."</blockquote>
Jennifer Nettles Of Sugarland
Jennifer Nettles, one half of Sugarland nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year, <a href="http://chicago.gopride.com/news/interview.cfm/articleid/146169" target="_hplink">praised her gay fans</a> when talking to <em>Chicago Pride</em> in 2009: <blockquote>"I am aware of that, and interestingly enough, I've been aware even before Sugarland. I've actually performed at Gay Pride in Atlanta three times in my career. I've always had a large gay following, particularly in the lesbian community. I am grateful for that. To me, it means my music transcends categories. It also means that I'm a cute girl singing a rock song in an alto voice... I had a friend write me that our music was being played at Gay Pride in New York, which is a big compliment. In the biggest city in the country with the most culture and the most grit -- I love it... It makes me feel proud."</blockquote>
Brooks, who has a lesbian sister, released the song "We Shall Be Free" in 1993 which included the lyrics "When we're free to love anyone we choose." The song was pulled from some radio stations' playlists because of its perceived pro-LGBT theme. <a href="http://www.thegavoice.com/index.php/aae/music/516-the-road-to-country-musics-first-openly-gay-star" target="_hplink">Speaking about LGBT rights</a>, the country singer told <em>George</em> magazine: <blockquote>"I can't see love being a bad thing. Lust is different. But if you're in love, you've got to follow your heart and trust that God will explain to us why we sometimes fall in love with people of the same sex. Judgment Day is coming, and I ain't going to be the one standing over people up there."</blockquote>
Wynona spoke with The Advocate magazine about when she received hate mail for performing on a gay cruise. Her response? Classic Wynona: <blockquote>Honestly, when that mail started, the first thing [I thought] was, Fear is a terrible thing,” she said. “I’m a Judd, not a judge. My job is to lighten the spirit and love the heck out of people who feel really unloved.</blockquote>
Court Yard Hounds
The Dixie Chicks have long supported their LGBT fans, but when the group went on (an indefinite?) hiatus and two-thirds of the band, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, formed a side project in 2010 known as Court Yard Hounds, fans were treated to a song directly inspired by some members of the gay community. Of the song "Ain't No Son," <a href="http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1632294/two-dixie-chicks-talk-about-their-court-yard-hounds-project.jhtml" target="_hplink">Robison said</a>: <blockquote>"I turned the TV on, and it was A&E or one of those documentary kind of shows about these poor teenage kids who are devastated that their parents won't let 'em stay in the house because they found out they were gay... The lines, 'You ain't no son to me/Eight pound baby boy I bounced on my knee' were around from the very beginning. That idea, how can you have kids and love them so much and one day decide not to -- it just boggled my mind."</blockquote>
The country singer "Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently (Fond of Each Other)," which he unveiled in 2006, was timed to coincide with the release of the gay cowboy film "Brokeback Mountain." The song was originally written in 1981 by Ned Sublette. Nelson's manager David Anderson, who came out in 2004, noted, "<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4715822.stm" target="_hplink">This song obviously has special meaning to me</a> in more ways than one... I want people to know more than anything -- gay, straight, whatever -- just how cool Willie is and ... his way of thinking, his tolerance, everything about him."
When asked by <em>Out</em> magazine about <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/2009/08/17/reba-stands-her-gays" target="_hplink">her gay friends and fans</a>, the country singer responded: <blockquote>"I just try not to judge. Don't judge me, and I won't judge you. And that's what it says in the Bible -- 'Don't judge.' Keep an open mind. That would be my voice. I have gay friends. I have a lot of straight friends. I don't judge them. I take them for what they are. They're my friends, and I can't defend my feelings for them, other than I like 'em."</blockquote>
Before the Canadian singer jumped the fence to the pop world -- and before she came out of the closet in 1992 -- she was a country singer. In fact, she <a href="http://www.autostraddle.com/7-lesbian-country-musicians-whove-been-out-44213/" target="_hplink">won a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals</a> in 1989 for duet with Roy Orbison on "Crying" and received a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her 1989 album <em>Torch & Twang</em>. In 2002, she ranked #26 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music.
Vince Gill Confronts Westboro Baptist Church Protestors
In September 2013 Gill stepped outside at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., to face down some Westboro Baptist Church members gathered on the sidewalk. The hate group purportedly decided to protest Gill's concert because he is a divorced man who remarried, Country Music Television noted. The 56-year-old musician was once married to Sweethearts of the Rodeo singer Janis Oliver. After their 1998 divorce, he married Christian singer Amy Grant in 2000. Grant, who has offered support to her gay fanbase, was previously married to Christian musician Gary Chapman.
She was raised as Baptist with a strong Christian upbringing, and once Underwood was a married woman herself she couldn't understand not being able to marry who you loved: <blockquote>"As a married person myself, I don’t know what it’s like to be told I can’t marry somebody I love, and want to marry. I can’t imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love."</blockquote>