Now, at first glance Chely might not trip anyone’s gaydar – I mean, not even one tiny ping. She is not any of the standard stereotypes of what a lesbian looks, sounds or acts like. But I think the country music trappings (i.e. makeup, big hair, twang) are just throwing us off. If we look closer, we can see that the signs are indeed there.
Extra bonus points for the hands tucked gayly in her pockets.
And then there’s the 2002 People magazine feature about her glamorous look.
Her sister Jennifer says of their childhood in Kansas:
“We were such tomboys. We swam in the pond in our shorts and had mud fights. Beauty was never anything Chely strove for.”
Her friend and singer Keith Urban:
“She can kick your ass whether it’s on the golf course or softball field. I wouldn’t get near her – unless she was on my team!”
Her own words:
“For a long time I had a chip on my shoulder: ‘What about the music? I’m a writer. I’m a producer. I’m a singer. But then I started working with all the tools on my toolbelt.”
Tomboys. Shorts. Softball. Playing on the wrong team. Chips on shoulders. TOOL BELTS. Come on, people.
allegedly) pending announcement brings a new, delicious layer of irony to her biggest hit, “Single White Female.” She’s looking for a man like you. And by you, she means the woman sitting next to that man. And, once again, the visual cues are there. The “man” of her dreams is reading “A Primer to Jungian Psychology.” Psychology! And her little leather-clad backup singer seems awfully enamored with her. Girl crush!
Silly signs scavenger hunt aside, if Chely is the big Cinco de Gaymo it doesn’t have to be a letdown. Sure, we all had fun dreaming about one of the Mega (Again, Allegedly) Closet Gays coming out – your Andersons, your Latifahs, your Oprahs. And then for a hot second we thought it might be Shelby Lynne (who I knew was gay the minute a friend showed me her
first breakout album cover). But Chely would still be the first major maintstream country star to come out – like ever. She would be coming out in a genre not know for its inclusiveness or acceptance of gays – gay rodeo aside. And she would be coming out to a fanbase who I would suspect live in some of the reddest states in the union – we’re talking Palin country. These are all big fucking deals that Joe Biden would certainly give his blessings.
Like Jennifer Knapp, whose coming out sent a jolt through the Christian community, Chely’s revelation could be that initial Toby Keith-esque boot in the ass to the country establishment. How will they embrace an openly gay performer? How will country radio treat her? How will her fans react? So much of what we do in this fight for gay rights is just preaching to the choir. You can give as many impassioned speeches as you want, but if the only people listening are supporters you’re not really making any headway. But for someone like Chely to come out and face what will surely be a backlash is something else. If, say, a Michelle Rodriguez came out I really doubt too many of her fans would say, “You mean that tough chick in the tank top likes other chicks? I’m shocked! I hate her now!” But that’s exactly (minus the tough chick stuff, or not – ask Keith Urban) what some of Chely’s fans might be saying to themselves tonight. This is exactly the audience we need to reach.
And then, on a big picture level, this revelation has thrown the rules of celebrity coming outs on their head. I mean, in the old days celebrities ran from gay rumors until either 1) someone caught them down or 2) they just got tired of running. Now, by all appearances, Chely is using her gay announcement as a way to generate positive publicity. I mean, who ever heard of announcing your coming out beforehand as a way to build buzz? This whole thing is timed perfectly with the May 4 releases of her new CD, “Lifted Off the Ground,” and her new memoirs, “Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer.” Press material for her memoirs calls it “a book of revelation: honest, inspiring and true.” Like me? Revelations? Honest? Shorthand: Yay Gay!
Other interesting tidbits about Chely:
- She has kept a video blog since about 2007.
- She performs overseas for the troops with the USO.
- She moved to New York in 2008.
- She is loved by Kristin Chenoweth.
- She is going to be on the “Today” show Wednesday.
- She looks amazingly cute in glasses.
Hello sexy librarian, rawwwr.
if indeed you’re the one we’ll be welcoming, Chely. I just met you, but I know you’ll make a lovely addition to the family. Though, and I mean this just as a bit of friendly advice, you’re going to want to cut those nails. Ye-and-Oww.
Also, and I mean this sincerely too, thank you for the tank tops.
p.s. What’s in the water out there in Kansas, ladies? Melissa, Jennifer and now Chely. Behind wheat and tornadoes, gay gals with big voices seem to be your state’s chief export.
p.p.s. Chely also did an interview with The Advocate talking about her coming out. I think this quote sums it up pretty well:
“I grew up feeling like there was no one else, no one that I could relate to. I felt like there was no one else like me, which is why I called the book Like Me. Even though this process has been incredibly difficult, I’ve still enjoyed a very fortunate life. Even if my career in country music ends, I know I will be OK. But I think about that girl in a small town in Louisiana who is too afraid to come out because she knows she won’t be safe. I think about that 15 year old boy living somewhere in Kansas, feeling scared and alone. If a country singer that he knows comes out of the closet, maybe that makes him feel a little less alone. And what about his parents? Maybe his mom knows my songs, or maybe his dad saw me perform for the troops in Iraq. If my coming out of the closet makes them rethink their ideas about gay people, then I’ve done something good. After finally coming to terms with my own life, I just felt like it would be irresponsible for me not to be honest about it.,”
p.p.s. Oh, and she has apparently never asked a girl out before. May I humbly offer my services as a test case.