Tyler Glenn, 30
For Neon Trees front man Tyler Glenn, life didn’t simply get better after coming out — it became a rock concert. Of course, as the lead singer of the New Wave-pop powerhouse, Glenn was no stranger to performing in front of crowds of adoring fans. But since coming out publicly earlier this year in an issue of Rolling Stone days before the band was scheduled to release its third studio album, Pop Psychology, the Mormon-raised singer says he’s experienced an outpouring of support he did not expect.
“It’s been awesome,” he tells The Advocate. “I’ve felt an increase of love that I never knew I could feel.”
With his sexuality now revealed, Glenn says he has been able to be his true, authentic self onstage for the first time in his life. He feared his coming-out would bring rejection from some Neon Trees fans who had followed the band since its early days, but that failed to materialize. It’s a revelation that crystalized the moment Glenn stood before thousands of screaming fans shortly after the band’s current tour, Fame Is Dead, kicked off in July, and he addressed his coming-out onstage. The subject elicited cheers and thunderous applause from the crowd.
The outpouring of love and acceptance is especially encouraging for younger LGBT fans of Neon Trees who may be seeking their own voices. Though Glenn insisted he came out for his own sanity, he has been mindful of the reach he has and has used his moment to encourage others to accept who they are, as seen especially in an uplifting message on the Neon Trees Facebook page shortly after the Rolling Stone news.
“If you're like me, a wanderer, a questioner, a soul searcher, a dreamer, or misunderstood for any reason at all: Come out," he wrote. "Come out as a wanderer. Come out as a questioner. One day it won’t matter. But it still does. Come out as YOU. That’s all I really can say. That’s what I’d say to me at 21, the scared return Mormon missionary who knew this part of himself but loved God too. You can do both. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t."
It’s this commitment to spirituality that makes Glenn stand out all the more as an emerging role model. Rather than badmouth the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which spent approximately $22 million battling same-sex marriage in California in 2008 — Glenn insists that people do not have to choose between their faith and their sexuality. “I consider myself Mormon, I believe in Mormonism, I believe in the Book of Mormon, and I try to follow the teachings. ... I don't always attend church on Sunday, but I wasn't going to throw away my faith,” Glenn said in an April interview with the Associated Press.
The singer has quickly become a virtual lighthouse for other young people of his faith who have felt lost. While some LGBT people in the public eye have shied away from the label of role model, Glenn embraces it, revealing he’s “totally down” with not only speaking up about LGBT acceptance from people of faith but also being a role model for young LGBT Mormons.
With the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the infancy of its evolution on LGBT equality, a celebrity of Glenn’s status embracing both his faith and his sexuality could be the spark that ignites the fires of change. It’s an ember the singer has already witnessed growing. “I was surprised at how many Mormon Church leaders wrote me messages saying, ‘This is great that you're doing this,’” he told the AP.
For those who are struggling with reconciling their faith with their sexuality, Glenn hopes his story will encourage them to accept who they are, come out, and lead happier lives free from the confines of a closet. “I’ve never really associated being gay with being happy before,” he tells The Advocate. “But the minute I did make that shift of self-acceptance, everything followed and it’s been really cool.”