Clay Aiken’s announcement on People magazine that he’s gay will probably not be a surprise to most people. I am sure there will be some fall out within the ranks of his most ardent Clay-mate fans who have traditionally been fundamental Christian Midwestern type women. There will also be some in the gay community who will further vilify him and feel some self righteous satisfaction that the “closeted queen” they have joked about for years has finally come clean. Others will only see it as a safe admission in the midst of waning sales of his last album.
Ever since Clay Aiken entered America’s consciousness as that awkward looking teen on the second season of American Idol with the big voice, he has been picked apart mostly for his looks. Simon Cowell would harass him on air for the way his one eye will squint or for his hair. Aiken usually took it well with self deprecating humor. Whether you like his music or not, the boy had a voice. Quite frankly, he should have won that year.
However, Aiken fits that prototype that society loves to pick on.Throughout his life and even his career, that pattern has followed. He grew up in a single parent home for a while until his mother remarried. He was estranged from his biological father. You always sense in Aiken a strength that comes from a survivor and a tenacity that comes from such life experiences.
After the Idol experience, and as his popularity rose, rumors about Aiken being gay started to float around. Then came a revelation of a one night stand from an on-line hook up with a guy. There were denials from the Aiken camp. Then, of course, there were interviews that followed, with either denials or implied denials.
Clay Aiken’s career was packaged around an all American conservative fan base. A openly gay artist, would by all indicators, mean a career killer. That is why there have been some harsh criticisms from certain corners of the gay community. They wanted him to fess up to the truth and not the image.
I actually see the Aiken story to be an indictment of our society. It is unconscionable that an artist cannot fully be who they are while expressing their talent or working their career without fear of reprisal. We will often go to whatever extreme to crucify someone like Aiken without addressing the real problem. We really have only ourselves to blame for allowing conditions to exist that make it difficult for people to come out of the closet.
I wonder if less criticism would be thrown against Aiken if he were more handsome or fit more of the archtypical manly man look. I especially throw that question to my own gay community. It seems some of the harshest jabs at him are about his looks. Shallow and demeaning.
Clay Aiken has become a father. That is life changing. I know. It changes a man. I believe that he simply has taken stock of his life and it has been the right time for him to be completely honest with himself and his public. Is it a brave move? Yes. He is a better man for it.
I wish you all the best, Clay. Much happiness, brother.
Clay Aiken’s Official Web Site: http://www.clayaiken.com/