KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — When country musician Chely Wright was growing up, she had no place she felt she could go for support as she struggled with her sexuality.
Now Wright is opening such a place. The 41-year-old, whose hits include "Single White Female" and "Shut Up and Drive," will be there this weekend for a new community center where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families and friends can meet. The location was chosen, in part, because Wright grew up in nearby Wellsville, Kansas.
"This just gives so much hope to these outlying areas, that your major metropolitan area has a gay and lesbian center," said Wright, who married LGBT activist Lauren Blitzer last summer. "That would have meant everything to me had I been a kid growing up in Wellsville, knowing that there is a beautiful facility in our major city, that that was OK."
The new center, which will be called the LIKEME Lighthouse, is the most ambitious project undertaken by Wright's LIKEME Organization, whose name is a play on the title of her memoir, "Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer." That book and her seventh album, "Lifted Off the Ground," were released when she came out in May 2010.
"The essence was I looked and looked for people like me," Wright said. "When I moved to Nashville, I scoured my industry for people like me. If there were people were like me, they were certainly hiding it."
Wright said some haven't accepted her sexuality but that coming out was worth it, noting she met her spouse soon afterward.
"If you try to find your life's mate in a dark, small closet, you tend to find a lot of unhealthy people," Wright said. "And that was the experience I was having in the closet. It wasn't until I came out that I was able to find a healthy, happy relationship."
Others slated to perform or attend Saturday's benefit concert are lesbian Christian musician Jennifer Knapp, gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, and Tracy Ryerson and Stamie Karakasidis, a couple who appeared on the first season of Showtime's lesbian-focused reality show "The Real L Word."
Work on the new facility has gone smoothly for the most part, with the exception of a subcontractor walking off the job after learning what the center was all about.
If all goes well, Wright would like to create similar facilities in other Midwestern communities.
"It's a pie-in-the-sky dream to think that we could have a prototype and be able to model other LIKEME Lighthouses," she said. "But, yeah, that would be a dream. The good thing about dreams is sometimes they come true."
- Chely Wright