Do you wanna cry tonight? I know I did, but my contacts are acting up, so there you go. Regardless of my ocular issues, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away is a tearjerker. It’s a documentary of country music sensation Wright and her decision to publicly come out in 2010. The film follows the months leading up to her national announcement on the Today Show and we get to follow every up and down, as she consults her spiritual advisor, family, best gay and a whole slew of of other supporters on what was inarguably the greatest decision of Wright’s career.
The film takes us from Wellsville, Kansas to Nashville, Tennessee, tracing Wright’s trajectory as the child of an unhappy midwestern family through her rise to fame as a country bombshell. (Homegirl has a sweetass midriff and we are exposed to a fair amount of it in this tight hour forty.) There are some strange omissions in between. How did she make it from bumfuck to the Grand Ole Opry? Who is the mysterious partner she alludes to, the “love of her life” she admits, and how did they share a home all those years she was making her ascent?
Some of this lack of sensuous detail can make the film hard to chew on. How do we absorb coming-out narratives that seem utterly lacking in manifestations of concrete desire? Wright is an ardent Christian, an all-American girl. She’s almost too sweet to jerk off to – I feel like a dirty bastard even making that assertion. But what is resonant is her fear. As a genderqueer person struggling with what will potentially be my second coming-out – as a transgender individual – I understand the apprehension and unmistakable need to feel loved and understood by those most coveted. Wright’s greatest concern throughout the doc is how she will be perceived by her fans when she reveals her true identity. Most professional sources interviewed in the film agree that Wright will need to ready herself for rejection because country music will not accept this deviation. And soberingly enough, the final credits of the pic reveal Wright did in fact estrange herself from this community, trading in her wholesome popularity to become a major LGBT activist; she married another in 2011 and goddamn if lipstick don’t sometimes look good on lipstick. (Happy flashbacks to one of my first girlfriends, blonde and buff and Malibu: I never had the guns or the hair, but I did love to look at you.) Despite this, latter footage of Wright portrays a woman finally come into her own, an advocate for outsiders and a gay done good.
Here’s to Chely. If you ever slow danced by yourself on a back porch to the strains of Reba McEntire or wondered if fringe and faggotry could actually mingle, this is a must-see for you. And an important reminder that it only gets better when we are proactive as a community in that mission – because we don’t all live in New York and not all circumstances are comfortably equal.