The first time I became familiar with the name Chely Wright was not in 2010 when she came out as the first openly gay country music star. Chely Wright was first introduced to me in 1999 when my mother brought home Chely’s album titled Single White Female
. I grew up listening to the music that my parents enjoyed and their love of country music had carried over to me. At that time I was a junior in high school and just coming to terms with the realization that I was gay. At 16 years old I just wanted to fit in with my friends. They all listened to hip-hop music and I would have been the odd man out listening to country. Due to my insecurities around being gay, I didn’t need any help feeling like an outcast. So for the sake of fitting in I kept my love of country music a secret. When left home alone I would take the CD with the woman in the red dress on the cover, put it in the stereo in the living room, and sing along. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. It was just another country album by another country star that I enjoyed in solitude. It’s funny as I think back on it now; I was hiding, listening to the music of someone who was hiding the same secret that I was. I came out to friends, my family and myself shortly after graduating high school in 2000. Even though I openly came out ten years prior to Chely Wright, her journey to liberation has struck a chord with me and provides a sense of comfort, reassuring me that I was never alone even all those years ago.
My interest in the Wish Me Away
documentary grew from my love of Chely’s memoir titled Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer
. To my surprise I found her story extremely relatable. What I most connected with was Chely’s relationship with God, her relationship with her sexuality, with the people around her, and unfortunately her “deep down low” moment. As a young child I found myself praying to God to not let me be gay. In my teenage years I planned to come out once I gained financial independence from my parents and didn’t need them anymore. I even made plans to develop a demanding career in my adult life that would excuse not having a girlfriend or wife. And when all of the praying and planning grew tiresome I decided that simultaneously drinking alcohol and taking drugs was a risk I was willing to take to end the static in my head.
For most of my life I felt like an outsider. When I finally came out and made friends who were gay I was able to feel comfortable with my newly accepted self. Even though I had gay friends, their stories about their time in the closet never seemed to match up with mine and I still felt like all of the coping mechanisms from my youth were irrational, silly, or dramatic. Reading Chely’s story made me feel normal and, more importantly, made me feel that there really are people like me. Wish Me Away
is not just about a country music star coming out as a lesbian. Yes, that is obviously a big part of the film but the even greater part, and what I feel the film really showcases, is the emotion, the experiences, and the road traveled by many of us in the LGBTQ community. No matter what our life experience is, I think that we are all bound together by certain reactions to our own truth. Thankfully, in this day and age there are many more celebrities using their voices to create a positive platform for gay youth than when I was growing up.
Fortunately for me Chely Wright’s voice was heard the loudest both in speaking and in song. I admire her tenacity and courage to share her whole truth with the world in the hopes that she can help even just one person accept their reality. If you’re scared, struggling, “ok,” straight, uneasy, or un-phased you cannot help but walk away from this film more enlightened and more hopeful than when you sat down to watch it. My hope is that Wish Me Away
will spark organic conversations between people who may be avoiding the topic, hiding their sexuality, or unsure of how to start the conversation in the first place. I am grateful to the filmmakers and producers for bringing this story to fruition and of course I am grateful to Chely Wright for choosing to live her life openly and honestly. You have all made an impact on OUR lives.
*Wish Me Away
is currently available on iTunes and available on DVD October 16, 2012. http://www.wishmeawaydoc.com/pre-order-chely-wright-wish-me-away-on-dvd-now.html
At some point between junior and senior year of high school I quit; I gave up. I couldn't keep pretending that there wasn't something wrong with me. I was defective. I just wanted life to stop, everything to stop! I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I was tired of being the main character in this ongoing nightmare of my life. I began to act recklessly, preferring to numb my confusing reality with alcohol and drugs, usually simultaneously. Throughout the duration of my careless behavior I made an extra effort to maintain the facade of the respectful and disciplined catholic boy that I was raised to be. I couldn't allow my defect to inflict disappointment on my family and friends and I was certain that the people closest to me did not approve of homosexuals. I certainly knew God didn't, after all, I was a respectful and disciplined catholic boy.
Copyright (c) 2012, David Galea
This is an excerpt from a memoir I'm working on. Just thought I'd share . . .
I struggled for a long time deciding whether or not to include this part of my life in my story. After much deliberation I chose to include it. My decision was based primarily on the fact that if I was going to write a true, and telling account of my experiences growing up and coming out, then I should not leave anything untouched regardless of how much I’d like to forget it ever happened. I still live with the side effects from the year and a half that I lost myself, but in sharing it with you I hope that we will both find some clarity and peace.
Jared had always told me that he felt like we met at the wrong point in time, that I should date people and experience all the joy and heartbreak that goes along with it. Of course, being the naïve and utterly in love 18 year old that I was, I told him he was crazy and that dating other people was not an option. Moving to Los Angeles, being away from everything I was familiar with, presented a world of opportunity, excitement, and desire. I found a gay fraternity to join through school and was excited about the prospect of making friends, friends like me. Jared was not keen on the idea of me joining a “gay” fraternity. The thought of me being in a fraternity atmosphere with other gay men did not make him feel comfortable at all. I didn’t blame him; I would have been disapproving as well if the tables were turned. As I became acquainted with my new surroundings, the urge to meet and date new people began to trickle into my mind. I couldn’t deny my desires and at the same time I didn’t have the courage to tell Jared the truth. The truth was, he was right. So instead of telling my first love the truth, I lied. I lied to him and I lied to myself. One week after our one-year anniversary I forced Jared to give me an ultimatum; it was him or the fraternity. The choice I made one week after my first anniversary sparked an entire year of shame, isolation, and misery; creating shattering moments that disturb my dreams to this day.
Copyright (c) 2011, David Galea
I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. When I arrived at the meeting I found a spot to sit and as I was waiting for the forum to start, the moderator approached me. We introduced ourselves, she handed me a sheet of paper and asked if I would read the 12 Principles aloud during the meeting. I immediately felt anxious; however, I obliged. As soon as the clock struck noon the meeting got underway. All of the rules were announced in the beginning. I found it interesting that there were such rigid rules for a group of individuals who were there on their own accord. It is my understanding that the structure of the meeting aids in the recovery process. That structure is constant and reliable.
After the reciting of the rules, the moderator asked if there were any newcomers or visitors. After each announcement of a new member of the group there was applause and faces of acceptance. Even after I said I was there just to visit, I received a round of applause. Being in that environment of pure acceptance without, what seemed to be, an ounce of judgment completely put my anxiety to rest and I began to look forward to my later role in the meeting.
Once the “housekeeping” was addressed, the moderator introduced the speaker for that afternoon. I came to find out that each Sunday they have a different speaker that talks about his/her experience in the program and inevitably their experience before and outside of attending AA. This particular Sunday the speaker discussed his relapse, traumatic childhood, and how AA has worked and continues to work for him. The speaker’s story elicited similar stories from the group. Hearing person after person describe the early childhood trauma they experienced was thought provoking to me. It is one thing to read case studies or biographies about the terrible childhoods of individuals but it is quite another to hear it from the person who lived it, seated five chairs away from you. At times I felt overwhelmed with emotion. It was hard for me to imagine being subjected to such horrible conditions at such a young age; however, learning how far they had come kept my spirits balanced. Hearing the experiences of the AA members brought to life the infinite domino effect that childhood trauma can have on one’s existence.
The meeting closed with a prayer in which the attendees formed a circle and held hands. The theme of a God and faith was strong throughout the gathering and the prayer at the end seemed to solidify each attendee’s belief. Going into it, I thought that the 12-step meeting would take a heavily Christian stance. After the meeting I felt that the reference to “God” was really whatever God the individual believed in and the 12 steps were not rooted in Christianity, rather, in the ideas of respect for yourself and each other. I left the meeting feeling inspired, hopeful, and accepted. As I returned the sheet containing the 12 Principles to the moderator, we exchanged a hug and she genuinely invited me to come back any time I’d like. It would be my pleasure to accept her invitation.
Is there anything better than starting a blog with a picture of a puppy? No! So I'm shamelessly trying to draw your attention to my currently empty blog by pimping out my Lab puppy. She was only about two months old in that picture and she recently turned one. I'll try to blog about things with more substance but I thought this would be a nice way to break this baby in.