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Aiken’s Coming Out Matters


Clay Aiken’s coming out really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. We’ve all known for many years that the crooner goes for the guys. Nor is Aiken’s lavender revelation the most revolutionary. Scores of celebs have come out before him – Ellen DeGeneres, George Michael, Lance Bass and Martina Navratilova, a tennis player who came out far before it was fashionable – or advisable.

None of these outings were that surprising, but they have all slowly changed gay acceptance of Hollywood and, in fact, the world. Aiken’s outing differs, however, in two notable, intrinsically entwined ways. And the aftershocks could help change the State of gay play.

First, as a Southern Baptist, Aiken’s long been a friend of the Jesus lovers. The singer even performed a few Christian tracks while on tour, and recorded a Christmas album. He wasn’t proselytizing, but his right-of-center background helped build Aiken’s fan base in middle America. In 2004 and 2005, at the height of his post-American Idol fame, Christian Music Planet ran two stories on Aiken. As for Aiken’s own public beliefs, just consider the opening flap of his inspirational memoir, Learning To Sing, which reads:

My mother prophesied years ago that my voice would take me places. She was certain there was a reason I was able to sing. I am still discovering what that reason is, what it is that God wants to have happen.

Though he may have lost some hardcore Christians following gay sex allegations in 2006, Aiken still found fans throughout the nation’s heartland. How else does one account for the millions of naive “Claymates” who voraciously defended charges of Gayken?

Yes, some of those Claymates still refuse to believe Aiken’s words – one even decried it a “conspiracy,” whatever that means – a quick look at fan site Clay Board shows that the majority of Aiken’s fans support their leader. One follower writes, “I’m really proud of him for having the courage to do this. It can’t have been an easy decision.” Another offers this God-loving good will: “May God always be with you and may you forever and always feel the never ending love of your fans and their unending prayers and support for you, Jaymes & Parker!” Parker, of course, is Aiken’s new son, whom he had with the aforementioned Jaymes, his platonic lady friend. And it’s that son who makes Aiken’s outing even more groundbreaking.

It’s not unusual for gay celebrities to have children – Melissa Etheridge had a very public pregnancy, a tabloid bonanza fueled in part by the fact that a. she’s a lesbian and b. the singer refused to name the child’s father. [It would later be revealed that the legendary David Crosby donated his seed.] Another public lesbian, Rosie O’Donnell, makes no secret of her domestic ways – she and wife Kelli Carpenter have four children. They also appear regularly on the entertainer’s eponymous family cruises. B.D. Wong, a gay actor, also has children, although he’s not nearly as well known. Regardless, same-sex partners have children has become old hat in media land – and, we hope, among the general population.

Aiken’s story adds a new angle to the discussion because his outing is intrinsically tied to his son’s birth. Little Parker’s even featured on the People cover, on which Aiken declares: “I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things.” The implication, then, is that Aiken had the baby because he wanted it. He is, like millions of others, a man looking to raise a child. And now he’s a gay man looking to raise a child – a relatively radical concept for many Americans.

The reproductive context in which Aiken has come out will no doubt resonate with those Americans still hesitant to embrace the homos, the people who fight for “family rights.” Aiken’s a talented – yes, he’s talented – young gay man who has declared his equality, however rhetorically. This Christian gay father’s coming out may change the way people look at queer celebrities – and, in fact, their fellow Americans.

When John McCain invited Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to join his ticket this year, the Republican presidential candidate successfully reignited the culture wars. Palin’s family life and fundamentalist Christianity turned the election on its head and brought the conservative masses back into the spotlight. Those masses, we imagine, are the same people in Clay Aiken’s fan base.

If the people end up accepting his gay ways – and his queer family – Aiken could in some small way counter Palin and her peers’ efforts to exploit gay fears. Now, he probably won’t decide the election, but Aiken’s a well-known with common familial goals – and seeing oneself in the “other” can be quite persuasive. And a little persuasion goes a long way.

By:           Andrew Belonksy
On:           Sep 24, 2008
Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • 27 Comments
    • Tim in SF
      Tim in SF

      “First, as a Southern Baptist, Aiken’s long been a friend of the Jesus lovers. The singer even performed a few Christian tracks while on tour, and recorded a Christmas album. He wasn’t proselytizing, but his right-of-center background helped build Aiken’s fan base in middle America. ”

      Southern Baptist does not equal “right of center.” The former is a religion, the latter is a political leaning (or orientation, if you like). Although there often is a correlation, it’s not a rule. There are plenty of liberals and plenty of democrats in the Southern Baptist church.

      Sep 24, 2008 at 6:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ohplease
      ohplease

      My elderly, rural, white, poor, fundamentalist (that’s how my mother describes herself and my father) Southern Baptist parents are lifelong Democrats who have supported Obama since the primary.

      Stereotypes are ugly no matter what the source. Just because one is poor or undereducated or belongs to a certain religion does not make one stupid. My parents labored their entire lives and wouldn’t trust a Republican as far as they could throw him.

      Sep 24, 2008 at 7:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cat
      Cat

      Melissa Etheridge had a very public pregnancy, a tabloid bonanza fueled in part by the fact that a. she’s a lesbian and b. the singer refused to name the child’s father

      Melissa’s never given birth. Her first two children, fathered by David Crosby, were carried by her partner at the time, Julie Cypher; Melissa’s wife Tammy Lynn Michaels gave birth to twins a couple of years ago after IVF and an anonymous donor from a donation bank.

      Sep 24, 2008 at 7:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eminent Victorian
      Eminent Victorian

      Total rubbish. This fool’s coming out does not matter one whit. He should have been out from the get-go. I resent being told I should now somehow consider his sniveling “revelation” anything but a sad, weak attempt to reinvigorate some (any) interest in what he does.

      Sep 24, 2008 at 8:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gayvirgo
      gayvirgo

      Yes, it would have been nice if he had come out long ago.

      But this lack of support (no matter the timing of the coming out) is exactly why more ‘visible’ gay people don’t come out. No, we don’t need to bow down and kiss their feet, ignoring all else. But we should show some support and encouragement.

      If gay celebrities, be they musicians, athletes, politicians, or astronauts, fear the loss of their fans/supporters AND condemnation from the very community to which they are now alligning themselves, why WOULD they take that risk.

      I know that it takes bravery for every gay person to come out. We all risk rejection. I know that I did. And because I know what that feels like I will be there to encourage those who (finally) find that bravery. And perhaps my welcoming heart will inspire them to inspire someone else to come out earlier, be even braver.

      Sep 24, 2008 at 9:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • scott
      scott

      @ gayvirgo.

      BRAVO!!!

      Sep 24, 2008 at 10:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CHURCHILL-Y
      CHURCHILL-Y

      Right on Gayvirgo.
      Every time I see that pic of his baby my heart gets all warm and tender, and I feel all fatherly. I mean how cute is the baby!

      Sep 24, 2008 at 10:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dizzyspins
      dizzyspins

      Im really stumped about why Aiken came out now. Yes, we could take him at face value–that he wanted to be an open and honest man for his son.
      But lets face it: who in Hollywood is open and honest? And this is a guy who’s career was literally engineered on a TV show, who followed a carefully orchestrated arc to appeal to Christian Middle America. He has a solid fan base and is appearing on Broadway (again). So why upset the apple cart? The cynical answer is that someone had dirt on him–that’s pretty much the only reason a male star comes out before they’re a senior citizen. Aiken got busted using Manhunt once; its entirely possible someone had even more damnable evidence.

      Its also possible he went into having a kid for the wrong reasons, but couldnt go through with using his child as a prop, as so many other celebs have done. I guess I’d classify that as slightly more noble.

      Regardless of the reason, Im not of the camp that gives a warm welcome to any celebrity who comes out, no matter how long they take. If you deny and deny and deny, you don’t get a “bravery” prize when you finally get around to admitting something everyone already knew. I wont attack a celebrity who’s late to the game, but I wont cheer them on either. And i certainly dont think they deserve accolades from the gay community.

      Itll be interesting to see what happens next. Will his cheesy romantic ballads starting using male pronouns? Will he still sing Christian songs? Or will he remain a sexless Manilow clone?

      Sep 24, 2008 at 11:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chadnnocal
      chadnnocal

      Wow, Aiken is gay? I would have never known.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 12:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Smokey Martini
      Smokey Martini

      There is no reason in this day and age for an American entertainer like Clay Aiken to be closeted. Z-E-R-O. Unless, that is, one wants to maintain that good ol’ Christian fanbase and forward one’s career — which is just plain ugly.

      PERHAPS, if he were doing it to be queer or ‘post-gay’ like Mika claims he is, then it would deserve a passing grade – if not a full 10 – depending on where you stand with respect to sexual ambiguity. But Clay’s vociferous denial merits little sympathy and support.

      Nevertheless, the more openly gay numbers we can put out there, the better it’ll be for America in general. In this case, we can say the ends justify the means — EVEN IF he had to use his baby as a tool. Minus points there, Aiken… minus points there….

      Sep 25, 2008 at 12:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Smokey Martini
      Smokey Martini

      P.S. I love how Rosie has become the Gay Bishop in all this. Why is it that she always appears with newly-outed celebrities? It’s like she pays them a visit to anoint them with her pussy juice or something…

      Sep 25, 2008 at 12:32 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • NICNYC
      NICNYC

      bravo gayvirgo.

      we gays face hatred and rejection from others on a day-to-day basis. why should we reject one another?? we need to stand together and support each other. i’ve had enough of the gay men who think they’re cool because they’re catty and bitchy – guess what: you’re not cool – you’re foolish and ridiculous. give clay the credit he deserves. embrace his decision to come out and welcome him to our community.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 12:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • no!
      no!

      clay is fugly.

      and so is his baby.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 1:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JJ
      JJ

      Was this blog entry written by a guest contributor? So many ten dollar (with the economic crisis these will soon be thirty dollar) words.

      I don’t think Clay Aiken is doing anything but alienating some of his fans, putting another significant portion in denial, and really feeling better about himself.

      I hope the whole thing is sincere, and we don’t hear about some manhunt expose in few days.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 1:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Walsingham
      Walsingham

      “i’ve had enough of the gay men who think they’re cool because they’re catty and bitchy – guess what: you’re not cool – you’re foolish and ridiculous.”

      But – but – without my cattiness and bitchiness, how else am I going to feel better about myself? I mean, therapy costs real money and, besides, I might be forced to realize some uncomfortable truths about myself!

      I mean, come on, man!

      Sep 25, 2008 at 2:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alexa
      Alexa

      Diane Sawyer just interviewed him on Good Morning America about it. He answered some of the questions people have brought up. He said he didn’t hide it because of his career but because he hadn’t told ANYONE and once he did he was worried how it would affect his mother and grandmother. He’s speaking out now because he doesn’t want his son to have to lie for him, or to be raised thinking it’s not OK to be yourself. He said he knows he will lose fans but didn’t seem to be worried about that.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 8:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ajax
      ajax

      Snaps to Gayvirgo.

      Dizzyspins, may I suggest more spins, less dizzy please? Do you not understand that once you have lied, it’s HARDER to be truthful? Lies feed themselves. Give the man credit for changing the direction and momentum of his life.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 10:09 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • villager
      villager

      smokey that pic of clay/rosie/kelli is from a long time ago.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 12:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alan down in Florida
      Alan down in Florida

      “Smokey Martini

      There is no reason in this day and age for an American entertainer like Clay Aiken to be closeted. Z-E-R-O.”

      What universe do you live in Martini? In America in this day and age you can legally be fired from a job due to your sexuality, you can be kicked out of the military (if, in fact, you can get in), you are unable to marry, you cannot give blood, you cannot bring your life mate from another country to live with you, you can be denied hospital visitation if your partner is ill, you can be refused the ability to adopt a child you have been raising for years in some states, you can be hounded at funerals by wacko right wing pseudo-Christians, you can be beaten to within an inch of your life or even murdered.

      Martini, I don’t know where you live but if none of those things happens there that where I want to live out my life – in gay utopia.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 12:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Smokey Martini
      Smokey Martini

      Uh, Alan:

      I KNOW that you can legally be fired from your job, kicked out of the military, be barred from marrying, donating blood, and having hospital visitations, etc etc if you are a typical American gay male/female. Which is why I SPECIFICALLY made a point to introduce my comment with “There is no reason in this day in age for an AMERICAN ENTERTAINER like Clay Aiken to be closeted.”

      I’m talking about celebrities here, not your run-of-the-mill Mary. Celebrities seem to acquire an “untouchable” aura about them, perhaps due to Hollywood’s less conservative views, the celebrity’s status as a recognizable public figure, or their dough. Whatever the reason, they have it made compared to middle-class, working American gay men and women who, unfortunately, aren’t so lucky to be living in a more liberal part of town, loaded with cash and fame.

      And, since you asked: I am indeed quite happy in my La-La-Land above you. No, silly! I’m not talking about heaven. I’m talking about Canada.

      So, I guess I’ll see you in a month, then?

      Sep 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CastleRock
      CastleRock

      Way too much time and energy expended on this repulsive troll!

      Sep 25, 2008 at 3:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sam
      Sam

      As someone who came out recently & is also from a conservative Christian background, I can testify that it is EXTREMELY hard depending upon your circumstances. The only thing I find repulsive is people in my own community who would judge me for waiting so long (I’m 35 & a grade school teacher) without knowing a thing about what I’ve been through or my personal family/friend/work dynamics. Everyone must travel their own journey & the process is full of obstacles. I relate to the guy because of the things we have in common, so I’m really happy for him. After seeing his interview & reading the People article, I think he is being genuine & obviously adores his child. I don’t think Hollywood has anything to do with it; he lives in Raleigh most of the time, anyway.

      Sep 25, 2008 at 10:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • alan brickman
      alan brickman

      He came out for the cash..and that is what really matters….

      Sep 25, 2008 at 11:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alexa
      Alexa

      No, he didn’t. If it was the cash that prompted it, he could have come out at a much better time, and he could have used both the People article and the Diane Sawyer interviews to plug his CDs and his return to Spamalot, but he didn’t.

      Sep 26, 2008 at 8:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AZgaybe
      AZgaybe

      gay aiken is laughable as is the southern baptist comments. religous people(maybe not your parents) are the most racist homophobes on the planet earth.

      Sep 26, 2008 at 8:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SeaFlood
      SeaFlood

      Here’s my thing: I ain’t buying it.

      When that guy came out and said he had slept with Aiken and had proof… that’s it. Yer gay. We know. End of story.

      But this… linking his coming out with the birth of his child… repulsive.

      Sorry, Marys, but no one has to be understanding or anything about his coming out — err, telling us what we already KNEW. I would have respected him more THEN, but he let that guy get CRUCIFIED and I can’t stomach that… especially because he was right, Aiken is gay, he did sleep with Aiken…

      I don’t like it when gays dump on other gays to protect their stupid, shallow secrets.

      And to be clear: I knew Clay was gay the first time his pasty face crossed my TV set in the American Idol auditions.

      Also, knowing this… I have never liked him because he seems really fake, his voice has no nuance or real warmth — he’s just a belter and his looks make him news because they can’t believe that sound comes out of him.

      No, Aiken… maybe in a year when he has re-tooled himself.

      But doubtful.

      Oct 3, 2008 at 3:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sorry
      Sorry

      SeaFlood,

      Just because he is gay doesn’t mean that the stalker that went to the tabloids is telling the truth. Nobody assumes that David Letterman’s stalker, who claims to be his wife, isn’t crazy just because they are both straight. It should not be automatic that a gay stalker isn’t lying now that Aiken came out.

      Nov 17, 2008 at 12:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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