When former country music star Ty Herndon announced on Thursday that he's coming out as gay, fellow country singer Billy Gilman joined in with a similar revelation about his own sexuality. But it's the wording of Herndon's announcement that has many Christians uneasy.
"I'm born again today," the singer proclaimed in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight. "And I feel like I'm not gonna have any trouble sleeping tonight."
Herndon, 52, explained in the interview that his sexual identity was concealed for decades as he believed it wasn't possible to be gay in country music. "I've dreamed about being in country music since I was 6 years old," he told the outlet. "It's my life, it's what I do, it's who I am, and I went to great lengths to cover up that fact to be to be a country star."
Not to be outdone, 26-year-old Billy Gilman then released a video confessional of his own the same day explaining that he, too, is homosexual. "A fellow country artist and friend made it easier for me to make this video ... and I wanted my fans who have stuck by me for many, many years to know," he said in a YouTube video. Gilman, who hasn't had a hit song since 2001 when he was 12 years old, blames his sexual identity as a barrier to getting his latest music heard in the industry.
But it was the "born again" line in Herndon's interview that really struck a personal nerve with many in the Christian community as the term is normally used for someone who discovers Christ and rededicates their lives to His service.
"That's NOT what "born again" means," one commenter on The Blaze's Facebook page wrote. "DON'T use a Christian term for your anti-Christian activities."
"I think he should check into what it really means to be 'born again'," another said.
Ty Herndon gained popularity in 1995 with his debut number-one single and album "What Mattered Most." His second album, released in 1996, produced his second number-one hit with "Living in a Moment."
The singer had 17 chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including three number one songs. But Herndon's personal life took a dive in 2002 when he was no longer producing hit songs, divorced his second wife, filed for bankruptcy, and was the subject of several lawsuits concerning unpaid bills and a breach of contract. In 2004, Herndon entered a drug and rehab facility for the second time.
Billy Gilman is most famous for his double-platinum record "One Voice," released in 2000. He was given an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest singer to hit number 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and was nominated for a Grammy award that same year. His last album release was in 2006 with the self-titled "Bill Gilman."
While the country singers have both expressed concerns that their sexuality announcements may hurt their careers, others believe that this was done to promote a resurgence in popularity and attention in a time when coming out as gay is praised in the mainstream media -- especially the entertainment industry.
"It's difficult for me to make this video, not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist, or a gay artist, or a gay person," Gilman said during his video clip. "But it's pretty silly to know that I'm ashamed of doing this knowing that, because I'm in a genre, in an industry that is ashamed of me for being me."