Chely Wright: Gay and Religious, Yes We Are!

Chely Wright: Confessions of a Gay Christian Country Singer

As a young girl, there were the obvious messages about what girls could and couldn’t achieve. And to compound the limitations I felt being leveled upon me, I realized at the age of nine, that I was gay.

I also realized at a young age that I was attracted to other girls. I didn’t really know what that meant for me or have the vocabulary to describe it. But even from that early age, I knew it was something I had to keep secret and couldn’t share my innocent crushes at school like everyone else did.

So began the most difficult chapter of my life which would last more than 25 years; and the storyline was me, committing repeated crimes against myself — against my emotional, physical and spiritual self. Those crimes would take their toll.

I understand the high toll exacted by hiding and being in the closet. Sometimes, I wish to come out of the closet just so that weight can be lifted of my shoulders but I’m afraid of negative repercussions as I’ve wrapped my identity and built so much of my life around conservative Muslims.

I knew that I would never get to have what everyone else gets to have — love, real love — so my resolve was that these “door prizes” would have to be enough. I wanted them to be enough, I really did. And then I fell in love.

I had to change my strategy a little bit. I went from “I’ll go without love” to “I’ll hide my love”. That’s pretty tough to do when, at the very root of who I am and at the core of what Country Music seems to be about — is honesty, openness and accessibility. But I had to close myself off in order to survive. I kept going, working hard in my career, reaching those milestones of success — tours, hit records, hit videos, TV, radio, nominations and awards. Still, I hid. More and more people in the world were knowing my name, yet no one really knew me.

Me, too. Not the country music star part but the part about love, first trying to accept that I’d never have that personal love to finding that love and having to hide it.

I could no longer make sense of these crimes against myself. I had lost the relationship that had once meant so much to me — the secrecy had torn us apart. When one hides such a critical part of one’s self, everything becomes hidden. It’s not like I could have real and meaningful friendships, but just leave out the “gay thing”. Imagine your straight, married friends having a substantive friendship with you while never mentioning their spouse — ever. You just can’t pick and choose parts of yourself to share and expect any real degree of validity.

I know, I’ve been there. If we have to hide does that mean we’re doing something wrong, are we wrong? In a twisted way, lying and deceit becomes a virtue when you’re in the closet. Meaningful relationships are difficult because you can’t share your love and hopes and dreams or your sorrows with anyone outside of that relationship with your partner. You could be reeling from a breakup or you might feel your life is spiraling out of control but you can’t talk to anyone about it, can’t seek advice or help without outing yourself and maybe the other party involved. So, I’d suffer in silence and alone, turning to my faith, prayer, reading the Quran, fasting, and immersing myself in religious studies.

I had long understood, since my late teenage years, that God had made me exactly as I was supposed to be. And may I add what a huge comfort that has always been to me. The reason I was ready to end it all was because I didn’t know how to be me in this life that I’d carved out — this gay, Christian, farm girl from Kansas who sang Country Music. I just didn’t know how to make those pieces fit.

That is a comforting thought, not sure I’m fully there, yet. I’m still trying “to make those pieces fit” and to make peace with understanding the life I believe God wants me to live.

I didn’t pull the trigger.

I’m glad, your story has been and continues to be a source of tremendous support for me and countless others. Thank you for being you and for being brave and courageous enough to share that story with us. I think I’d like to share my story one day but I’m not there, yet.

I like analogies; perhaps it’s the songwriter in me, so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll offer this one. I liken the notion that we (the LGBT community) are a Godless people to a scenario on a grade school playground. Remember when you were in 3rd grade, when it was time to choose teams for a game of kickball during recess and all of the favored, obvious players were chosen first? This left the same players to be chosen last or to never even get a chance to kick or take the field — essentially giving a message to that kid, “You’re never going to get to play. You’re not good enough. You don’t belong.” Remember that happening to the same kid over and over? Well, eventually that kid would stop hoping to be chosen for either team. And eventually that kid would probably develop an aversion, perhaps even a life-long, deep loathing for the game of kickball. It’s a protective mechanism that humans employ to preserve the most tender parts of their psyche. That’s what it feels like for an LGBT kid in a place of worship. That kid is repeatedly given the message that he or she will never, ever fit in and be acceptable to God or to the congregation. Why would anyone subject themselves to that kind of spiritual rejection and spiritual violence on a weekly basis? Why would that LGBT kid grow up to seek out the same type of negative messaging as an adult?

I like this analogy, yet, I keep coming back to mosques and to the community seeking to commune with my Lord and with my fellow Muslims. It’s sometimes hard and sometimes painful but often also very enriching for the soul. More than anything, it’s where I feel I’m supposed to be and even where I want to be. Islam gives my life meaning.

LGBT people of faith are strong in numbers; we want our houses of worship back and we would like to implore those who practice such acts of religious based bigotry to realize that God is not theirs — God is for all of us.

Yes, we are LGBT people of faith are strong inside and are around in our houses of worship and religious organizations even if you’re not aware of us. Yes, we hear your bigoted statements and may remain silent out of fear but more and more of us are finding our voices to speak up and challenge. We are here, we’re not going anywhere, and we want our faith respected. God is for all of us.

I read that sales of Wright’s albums dropped by 50% after she came out, which is even more inspiring that she continues to take a stand even though it’s hurt her professionally. But don’t worry just like Ellen who lost her show after coming out and is now thriving, I’m sure Chely Wright will come out on top.

Good Gay Marriage/Rights Articles Roundup

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin: A Muslim American’s Thoughts on Gay Marriage

As someone that is part of two minority groups in the United States (Muslims and African-Americans) I feel that this ruling is a victory for all of us. Majorities in the country have attempted to define the American experience in limited and controlled terms. To be American means you need to be white, Christian, and of course, straight. There is nothing further from the truth. To be American and to enjoy the rights and privileges therein you simply have to live here and pay taxes. This is a diverse nation and to limit the rights of one group opens the potential to limit your rights.

Melody Moezzi: Muslim States Must Support LGBT Rights

Finally, the LGBT Muslim community, along with their many heterosexual allies such as myself, will not let bigots and homophobes define our religion for us or for the rest of the world. We have scholars and imams in our ranks, and we refuse to be considered “less Muslim” because of our sexual orientation, gender identity or our choice to acknowledge that such distinctions are in fact God-given.

Marianne Mollman: Gay Marriage: The Issue is Respect

Of course, those who oppose same-sex marriage in New York State and elsewhere are not saying they support violence against LGBTQ people. Nevertheless, the same basic proposition lies at the root of both: the notion that you are somehow a different — lesser — type of human being if you are not, or are not seen to be, straight, and that society is justified in rejecting you.

LZ Granderson: Obama’s dodge on gay marriage: I get it

And while it’s hardly dignifying to applaud — at $1,250 a plate — the president’s strategic rhetoric of second-class citizenship, that rhetoric beats the hell out of the frothy mix of genuine bigotry and hate toward gays that some would prefer woven into the Constitution…

There was a moment during Obama’s speech where he was talking about equality in such a compassionate way that you literally could see the 600-plus bodies in the crowd lean forward, drawn in by the possibility that he was about to say he supported marriage equality.

And then…

“I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal right as everybody else.”

Oh, so close. Close enough for some that they stood up and cheered.

And yet so far.

Far enough that quite a few remained seated with disgust.

Boston Review:  No Objections What history tells us about remaking marriage

Marriage persists as simultaneously a public institution closely tied to the public good and a private relationship that serves and protects the two people who enter into it. That it remains a vital and relevant institution testifies to the law’s ability to recognize the need for change, rather than adhere rigidly to values or practices of earlier times.

Some Imams Don’t Get It – Compassion Trumps Bigotry – Love Overcomes Hate

Al-Maghrib instructors, Mohammed Faqih (far left) who also serves as the Imam at the IIOC mosque in Anaheim, California and Abdulbary Yahya (next to Faqih) who also serves as the Imam at Masjid Jaamiul Muslimeen in Seattle had this to stay about the recent passage of legislation in New York state legalizing same-sex marriage:

Faqih on his facebook page and twitter: “Nauseated and feeling sick! Couldn’t give tonight’s lecture and had to ask for a sub… I thought it was the sub I had for lunch, turns out to be the “new law” NY has just passed.”

Yahya on his ironically titled blog Nourishing the [Straight] Mind, Body, & Soul:

“Please don’t call it marriage. Dear New York and those who follow your path,If you are going to legalize the union of two people of the same sex, please don’t call it marriage.  Find another word for it.  Marriage from the time of Adam and Eve till now has always been: “The formal union of a man and a woman.” I can help you with some words if you want…like “Gomorrahiage”, “Soddomiage”, and I can go on but I know you guys are smart enough to make one up yourselves.

Oh and please don’t go protesting in front of Websters, Oxford, Cambridge, dictionary,com and other such companies and institutions to force them to change their definition for you.

I once heard Riad Ouarzazi mention his time as a taxi driver in California and his dislike and disdain for picking up gay passengers complete with full affected facial and hand gestures. Once he picked up two gay men and they embraced inside his cab so Ouarzazi made sure to break suddenly at least once or more so their heads would painfully bump against each other and their ride would be as unpleasant as possible. Compassion and mercy FAIL.
To sit in Al-Maghrib Institute classes where bigoted statements about gays and lesbians are normalized is difficult but to their credit not all of the teachers express such bigoted statements publicly. Men who wear dresses and affectionately hug and kiss other men hoping for multicultural understanding shouldn’t throw stones.

New York, New York, New York – Thank You!!!!

On Friday, New York became the sixth state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriage. I’ve had that refrain of Alicia Keys belting out the “New York!!!!” refrain from Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind single since the news was announced.

New York!!!!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There’s nothing you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York

Mildred Loving on Gay Marriage

“It seems only fitting to reference a quote from Mildred Loving, the iconic plaintiff in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, which made race-based marriage restrictions unconstitutional. Loving, a black woman who fought for the legal validation of her marriage to a white man, stated poignantly that marriage equality for gay couples is “what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

Read more at The Root: Marriage Equality How Blacks Paved the Way

Nepal Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage and Gay Men in America (Photos)

According to Gawker, two American women became the first same-sex couple to marry in Nepal.

Two American women were married today in a Hindu temple outside of Kathmandu, marking Nepal’s first public lesbian wedding. One of newlyweds hailed Nepal’s recognition of same-sex unions and said, “I hope the US will follow Nepal’s example.”

Gawker also has a photo slideshow with short profiles from the upcoming book Gay in America, which dispels the “looks gay” stereotype, one picture at a time. Dispelling another stereotype, can you spot the Muslim?


Reconciling between Religious Identity and Sexual Orientation

The New York Times magazine featured two articles, My Ex-Gay Friend and Living the Good Lie: Therapists Who Help People Stay in the Closet that moved beyond the usual “gay and proud” arguments to reveal a segment of the community who struggle with reconciling their religious identity with their sexual orientation.

In Living the Good Lie, writer Mimi Swartz takes us into the complicated discussions happening in American psychology over how best to offer support to people that may identify as gay but fear losing more than they will gain if they come out of the closet. Since the American Psychiatric Association (A.P.A.) removed homosexuality from its lists of disorders in 1973, conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that mental health practitioners should help their clients affirm their sexual orientation. But what do you do when sexual orientation and religious identity collide. Which one takes precedence?

For many gays and lesbians, it’s an either-or question. In affirming sexual identity, a former religious identity is often lost or modified. Or along with affirming one’s religious identity comes the resolve to either remain closeted or celibate. Currently, I fall in with the latter group. I’d like to have the burden lifted by coming out but fear the consequences of affirming a life that may not be in accordance with my religious beliefs and one that some of my family and friends will not support.

My religious identity trumps my sexual identity. I’m aware of the inconsistency and contradiction in that position but that’s where I am in the struggle to reconcile, though I’ve stopped trying to “pray the gay away.” Some days are harder than others, I’d like to be in a relationship and I find myself more attracted to women than to men but I don’t want to violate a religious doctrine which I believe is based in core Islāmic texts and which in almost every other aspect gives meaning to my life and worldview.

By 2007, there was enough confusion and dissent about what had come to be known as “sexual-orientation-change efforts” that psychologists were clamoring for guidance. The American Psychiatric Association formed a task force of gay and straight members to investigate and develop guidelines. A small brush fire erupted when no members of the evangelical community were asked to serve, but they needn’t have worried. “Over time we evolved,” said Lee Beckstead, a task-force member and psychologist who works with Mormons conflicted about their homosexuality. “We were trying to integrate the psychology of religion with the psychology of sexual orientation.” They wanted a client-centered approach that was also based on scientific research. “The science says that being gay is not an illness,” Beckstead told me. “You don’t need another treatment model, because there’s nothing to treat. The important thing is meeting where the client is — honoring them, validating them, supporting them, giving them the ability to decide for themselves.”

In the final document, the A.P.A. clearly stated its opposition to conversion therapy and unequivocally described homosexuality as normal. But it also offered a nuanced view of religious gay people who did not want to come out. The A.P.A. considered the kind of identity therapy proposed by Throckmorton and Yarhouse to be a viable option. No effort needed to be expended trying to change a client’s religion or sexual orientation. Therapy, in fact, was to have no particular outcome either way, other than to guide the client closer to self-acceptance, whatever the client believed that to be. The difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity was microscopically parsed. “Acceptance of same-sex sexual attractions and sexual orientation may not mean the formation of an L.G.B. sexual-orientation identity,” the report stated. “Alternate identities may develop instead.” It further stated that acting on same-sex attractions might not be a fulfilling solution for everyone. “I called up Mark, and I said: ‘Can you believe this? Am I reading this right?’ ” Throckmorton told me.

The chairwoman of the task force, Judith Glassgold, remains pleased with the outcome. “People might want to adopt an identity that fits with what their religion proscribes,” she explained. “Or they might want to be celibate rather than identify as a gay person. Some people prioritize their religion over their sexuality, like priests and nuns. That’s an identity.” The goal was to help the client come up with an identity that worked for them. “The dialogue has changed in the last decade,” she continued. “Among therapists — both among gay activists and the religious — we can have a discussion. We all agree that arousal and orientation are not under someone’s volition. What we can work on is self-acceptance, integration identity and reducing stigma.”

Clinton Anderson, director of the A.P.A.’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office, put it another way: “The task-force report is more of an acknowledgment than was true in the past that not everyone who is coming to this dilemma with a strong religious background is going to find an adaptation that is positive with regard to their sexuality. There may be people who are just not going to get there.”

In My Ex-Gay Friend, writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis profiles his former friend Michael Glatze who after nearly ten years of  living “in the life” with a partner and advocating through his magazine XY for gays to be out and proud renounced homosexuality altogether. Glatze has since joined the ex-gay movement and writes for the right-wing WorldNetDaily where he speaks out against accepting the “cage” of homosexuality. Glatze now lives in Wyoming, “the only state,” Denizet-Lewis informs us, “without a gay bar”  and is attending a Bible college.

Another former friend and colleague of Glatze, Peter Ian Cummings doubts whether he was ever really gay:

I told Michael about a recent conversation I had with our former boss at XY, Peter Ian Cummings, who surprised me by wondering aloud if Michael was ever truly gay. “In retrospect, more than you or me or anyone else who worked at the magazine, his sexuality almost felt more theoretical than real to me,” Peter told me. “At a very young age, he had all these very well thought out theories about identity and sexuality. Maybe this gay or queer identity that fascinated him, and that he had taken on, wasn’t really true for him. It doesn’t explain why he says such ridiculous things about gay people now, but maybe, just maybe, he’s not in denial about his own sexuality.”