Chely Wright is one of The Advocate's Women of the Year. View the full list from the current issue of the magazine.
It was about six months shy of a decade after country star Chely Wright fearlessly came out as a lesbian that the "mother church of country music," as she calls the Grand Ole Opry, finally asked her back to a venue where she'd been a beloved regular -- before she publicly announced that she was gay.
Just last week marked the 11-year anniversary of Wright's pioneering move to come out as a popular country musician.
Through dark times when she felt pressure to remain deep in the closet, the Opry was her solace. But after she came out, she wasn't asked back for nearly 10 years until, in the middle of washing the dishes for dinner she'd made for her twin sons with wife Lauren Blitzer-Wright, she received a message alerting her that the Opry wanted her back.
"I've been doing the Opry since even before I had my first record out. It's been important to me and I was kind of part of the Opry family in that regard, which as an aspiring country singer from Kansas, dreaming of just being on the Opry stage is a big deal," Wright told The Advocate.
"For the first few years after I came out and I didn't get invited, it broke my heart, frankly," Wright said. "As the years went by, I guess it's like having a partner, girlfriend, or boyfriend who breaks up with you. After a while when they're not calling you, you're kind of like, 'Well, I don't want them to call me.'"
"Had I been invited to do the Opry a year before I actually was invited to do it again, I'm not sure I would've said yes," Wright said.
Still, the Opry called at the right time, and Wright returned on August 10 of last year to a cheering audience and spoke openly about her life on the Opry stage.
"I'm a lesbian, I'm a wife, I'm a mom," she said about the identities she touched on between singing hits for the crowd.