Stephanie Miller Thanks ‘Coming Out Coach’ Chely Wright
Laurie K. Schenden
Stephanie Miller was my girl in the 1990s. She was a star on Los Angeles radio and even had a late-night TV show for a while. I didn’t know then that she was gay, I listened to her show because she was funny, smart and entertaining.
I was writing for the LA Times at the time so I believed that some day our paths would cross. Then she moved back East and except for guest spots on MSNBC, sort of fell off my radar until a few weeks ago when she came out on her current radio show.
“We now have Stephanie Miller as part of the gay community and this matters,” said country singer Chely Wright.
Apparently, when Wright recently bared her soul to fans about her sexuality (wouldn’t that make a great country song?) she and Miller became fast friends. After some long conversations, Miller announced on her radio program on Aug. 13 that she wasn’t just going to bat for gay rights all these years. She was actually playing for the team, baby.
Miller admitted that she feared being a “token.” You know, the token lesbian radio host, the way that Wright might be the lesbian country singer or Wanda Sykes the lesbian comedian.
But as long as sexual preference is a divisive issue up for public debate, it’s important for women like Miller, Wright and Sykes to stand up and be counted.
What I mean by women like them is that they didn’t have to come out. They don’t fit the lesbian stereotype and could have successful careers and adoring fans while living privately as lesbians.
They all chose to kick the secret identity to the curb.
In an on-air phone conversation after Miller came out, she joked that Wright was her “coming out coach.” They both came to the decision for individual reasons but, like Sykes, part of the reason they came out was the hate, anger and disgust with which gay people in America are regarded today, as exposed by the Prop. 8 gay marriage debate.
The controversy has pissed off thousands of otherwise dormant gay Americans--those living not necessarily in the closet but inactive when it comes to gay issues. In general these are the “I refuse to put a label on myself” members.
Once the political attack began (which we all now know was orchestrated with the help of Ken Mehlman, George Bush’s gay campaign manager) it put a label on their lives anyway, with a campaign of misinformation and accusations that labeled them by association. I think that’s the worst miscalculation made by conservative groups behind the Gay Oppression Movement, that even those who have no intention or desire to get married are taking the issue personally.
Miller admitted that she feared losing her career if listeners found out about her, and reminded us of what Wright said of her early career: “If you think I could’ve gotten a record deal, you’re wrong.”
But Wright also recounted what it was like being “held hostage” by a couple of people who knew. “I was terrorized by my secret,” she said, adding that she felt forced to keep those people in her life. “You’re going to be a better everything when you walk in your truth,” Wright said. “My life is in color now where before I felt stifled.”
Wright is currently working with songwriting stage/producer (and out lesbian) Linda Perry, who has nothing but praise for the singer.
“Chely and I already started writing,” Perry tells me. “She is awesome…a very talented woman and extremely funny. [I] love working with her.”
Can’t wait to hear the results of that collaboration; maybe we’ll get a sneak preview on Miller’s radio show.
Blogger Bio: For more than a decade Laurie Schenden has covered the entertainment industry for Curve, the Los Angeles Times and Germany's Spotlight magazine. Her cover stories for Curve magazine have included Sharon Stone, Melissa Etheridge, and the cast of The L Word. She’s also an award winning documentary filmmaker and one of the co-creators of the Laughing Matters film series, seen on Logo.