The American Idol Season Two runner up and heartthrob of old ladies around the world tells the Georgia Voice:
After much speculation about his sexual orientation, Aiken came out as gay to People magazine in 2008. Ironically, another musician, Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block, came out recently by saying he was never in. Aiken understands that. He disagrees with the notion that a public figure should come out when people expect it.
“There was this misconception that I was not out,” he says. “I was in ‘Spamalot’ and everyone knew, but I don’t necessarily want to sit at a table with strangers and tell them. When you come out, you do it with people you are comfortable with.”
Sigh. Mr Aiken has a point…LGBT people DO have the right to determine how, when and where they tell the world of their sexual orientation. No one required Michael Strangeways, or Joe Blow, or Jane Doe to put an ad in their local paper declaring “Yes, I am a big Homo/Dyke…Get over it.” But, the fact of the matter is, I don’t recall Mr Aiken, or Mr Knight, or Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes (another member of the “I was always out” Club) ever correcting anyone publicly when asked a question that indicated they were HETEROSEXUAL. At some point, in the careers of ALL these gentlemen, someone; a reporter, a fan, a moderator or host, has asked them questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Who are you dating?” or “Who did you have a crush on when you were a teenager?” And, I don’t recall any reportage that any of them answered honestly when asked those kinds of questions. I think we would have heard if Clay or Jonathan or Sean had answered such questions from Jay Leno or Regis Philben with HONEST answers like, “No, but I have a BOYfriend!” or “I’m dating Bruce LeCock, a party planner from West Hollywood” or “I had a huge crush on David Hasselhoff when I was 15!” Being evasive and deflective or hiding behind, “I don’t discuss my private life” is not being “Out”. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new co-worker or neighbor asking the question, or David Letterman. If you don’t answer a normal, albeit slightly nosy, question with full honesty, just like a HETEROSEXUAL person would, then you are not out and you are not being very proud.
I’m thrilled that Mr Aiken, Mr Knight, Mr Hayes and other celebrities are “officially” out and while I sympathize with them for having to publicly make such a statement to be considered “real” I can’t support their claim that they were never “in”. To be truly out and honest, you can’t hide behind any kind of opaque veil of privacy. Does that mean you have to walk into a new job or social situation with a flapping rainbow flag and a Scissor Sister’s bumper sticker on your ass? Of course not. But, keeping quiet about an assumption that you’re heterosexual with people who know your name, isn’t something to be proud of…and, it doesn’t matter if it’s the people in the break room at your job, a picnic table full of relatives at a family reunion, or your 1.2 million Facebook fans. We can’t change people’s minds about queer people until they know who we are and the space we occupy in their lives as co-workers, friends, family, or public figures.