The Cost of Keeping a Secret is the Freedom to be Yourself

by Angie Engles

Why would someone risk the love and admiration of friends and family by coming out in a community that is more old-fashioned and conservative than most?  And how on earth could a celebrity memoir truly be considered life-saving or related to Well & Wise?

“I almost died. The hiding almost killed me. I had pretty masterfully…painted myself into a corner. I’d made a deal with God early on that I’d go without love in my life, just give me music, but when you’re 9 years old and brokering deals with God about what you will and won’t do, and you don’t realize the importance of love and companionship in your life—one really shouldn’t be held to those deals.” So writes Chely Wright in her memoir, Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer.

And what does this exactly have to do with health? Peace of mind, for one thing.

Many gays and lesbians have tried to get “cured,” often to disastrous results. Studies show that gays and lesbians who go through “ex-gay therapy” often experience suicidal thoughts, and tragically, sometimes act on them.  Prominent anti-gay figures have implied gays and lesbians face higher rates of depression than straight people because of their homosexuality, not the horrific bullying they face on a daily basis and the “ex-gay therapy” they are often forced into by family members.

Sadly, we live in our world where preconceived (and false) ideas about gays and lesbians make coming out as relevant and important as ever. Ms. Wright breaks a lot of the stereotypes about gay women both in her appearance and her strong Christian background and I am amazed by her honesty and sincerity as she describes the pain that she’s lived and kept hidden (’til now), making her story almost too real and raw.

Just ask anyone who is still in the closet (hypothetically of course since they are, after all, in the closet) and they most likely will speak of the heartache and loneliness and inner shame of being gay.

Until we live in a world where homosexuality is understood to be just as real and vital as heterosexual love, books like Ms. Wright’s will always be needed and read…my soul aches for anyone who has known the excruciating struggle to be “normal” in a world where same gender love is so often met with hate.

I am so glad Chely Wright wrote Like Me. I can’t even begin to imagine the good that could have been done if books like this one had been written in earlier decades when there was no one to look to who could show (and tell) us that who you happened to fall in love with did not determine whether you were a freak or not.

Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 17 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She currently works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, and old movies.




  1. Jinelee De Souza

    Angie, I completely agree with what you’ve said. I have not read Ms. Wright’s memoir, but as a lesbian woman myself, I have first hand knowledge of how hard it can still be for gays and lesbians. I disagree with and despise the very notion of “ex-gay” therapy. I do, however, support the idea of people educating themselves on homosexuality, and recognizing that same gender love is not a choice. Kudos to Ms. Wright for having the courage to embrace who she is, and for being such a great role model!

  2. Thank you so much for commenting, Jinelee!! I also support the idea of people educating themselves on this issue. There’s still such a need for realizing what courage it takes to be gay while facing hardships (even hatred) in a world that is often not very friendly to gays and lesbians.

    Your insight and openness are much appreciated!

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