Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Chely's Gun Will Mean

I wince as I post this because it is an upsetting topic, but it has been on my mind for a while now.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the call for artifacts to go in the National LGBT Museum. Honestly, I'm not even sure how to say this--I think it would be really powerful if Chely Wright's gun was in the museum. I'm referring to the gun she put in her mouth with the intention of taking her life, and then (thank God) she changed her mind.

That gun represents the thousands of gay people who have contemplated suicide over the centuries. Gay suicide has been so prevalent that, as recently as 2003, scholars sought to research gay men who didn't contemplate suicide--here's a link to the study.

Down the road, Chely Wright's ugly, ugly gun will embody not only our currently unthinkable statistics of gay suicide, but also the discomfort within the LGBT community shortly before equality is legislated. Perhaps the pistol will be displayed with a description of her life at the time--her money in the bank, her awards, her achievements, and the strange reality that her anguish and distress rendered her life unlivable.

In 200 years that gun will remind people that Chely Wright was embraced by the demographic most resistant (and often hostile) to LGBT equality. She found herself uniquely positioned either to entertain or to influence this powerful voting bloc. She knew she could not do both. In choosing influence, she redefined a stunned country music industry and caused an entire segment of the population to rethink their assumptions. History may well remember her courage and her isolation, but I want them also to understand the agony that brought her there.