Clay Aiken: How 'American Idol' Gave Him The Courage To Come Out

Clay Aiken at the 2006 American Music Awards Clay Aiken at the 2006 American Music Awards

Clay Aiken told the world, “Yes, I’m Gay,” on the cover of People magazine this week, in a portrait with his son, Parker Foster Aiken. But his coming out journey has been five years in the making.

In his first television interview since opening up about his sexuality, Clay sat down with Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, where he said being selected for “American Idol” helped him find the courage to open up about his personal life.

“I grew up never caring what people thought about me. I got picked on relentlessly for everything — not just the obvious — when I got on ‘Idol’ and people were actually cheering me on and being supportive…there you are in an environment that is more open and more accepting, you don’t feel like such an outcast,” Clay told Diane.

The acceptance he received from his fellow “Idols” helped him tell someone about who he really was — and the first person he told was a fellow “Idol” contestant.

“I didn’t tell but one person, I told Kimberly Locke, she was the only person I ever told, first person I ever told,” Clay said. “She kept it to herself for years and years and years.”

In making the decision to come out, Clay said he sees his public reveal as more a necessity than choice.

“I’m not making an announcement of any kind. I’m not coming and telling anybody anything. I’m speaking about it so people will stop asking questions about it…so they’ll know to hush,” Clay said of his decision to reveal that he was gay.

The birth of his son, Parker, in August with friend Jaymes Foster also fueled his desire to come out.

“In this day and age, people in my position don’t really have an opportunity to keep anything of theirs personal,” he said. “It was kind of a decision that I made along with Jaymes and along with friends and family to say, ‘I can’t raise a kid and teach him how to lie, I can’t raise a kid and teach him how to hide things, I can’t raise a kid and teach him to keep secrets,’” he said. “I also don’t ever want to raise him in an environment where it’s not okay for him to be exactly who he is — no matter what!”

Now that Clay is being exactly who he is for the first time, he believes his fans will have a variety of reactions.

“I don’t have any designs on the fact that every single person is going to be perfectly okay with it,” he said of the Claymates. “I’m sure that there are people who will grapple with it, I’m sure that emotions will run the gamut from people who already knew to people who really believed that it wasn’t true.”

As for the rest of the world, Clay says coming out to his own family has given him hope that the world is moving to a more accepting place when it comes to people’s sexuality.

“I looked at people like my brother and his friends, who are really the stereotypical tough guy Marines, who all know [about my sexuality], and none of them care.” Clay told Diane. “It’s taken a while for me to have faith in society to accept the fact that people are more accepting and more open-minded and more loving and caring and less interested in your personal life than I initially thought.”

Coming out to the world has not stopped Clay from doing what he does best — performing. Clay returned to the hit Broadway musical “Spamalot” on Tuesday.

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