BY Ross von Metzke
March 22 2010 6:50 PM ET
Do you think a lot of your need to escape had to do with the fact that you sensed you might be gay?
You know, I think for me, more so than just thinking I was gay, it was more just feeling incredibly, incredibly different. There are a lot of Mormon guys, I can guarantee you, who don’t even know that they’re gay ... because it’s not even on the table. It’s just not talked about. I was unhappy on so many levels, it would have been hard for me to have an aha moment about it.
So did you have to leave before you figured it out?
I just had to go. I didn’t know why I was going. I just went.
When you finally did figure it out, and you came out to your family, how did that go?
My mom’s pretty cool ... that’s the thing about Mormons, though. Everyone knows, it's just not talked about, you know? I think a lot of people in the community don’t quite understand the language in which Mormons speak to each other. It’s not a culture of confrontation whatsoever. Obviously the agenda they have should be challenged and fought, but they don’t confront each other on things. I don’t think they even realized what they were getting into with the Prop. 8 stuff. But that’s what I’m excited about with this HRC dinner. I’d like to encourage people who are also from small towns or religious environments to go back and be ambassadors in their towns. I think one thing that happens is a lot of people grow up in these hostile environments and they run off to cities, to other places where they feel like they can have some sense of normalcy. But the problem is, these people in these small towns then have no reference point for what a positive gay influence is. These people tend to leave these environments that are already not even diverse, and because of that, these people in these small towns don’t have any positive role models. So that’s what I’d like to do ... to be an ambassador for people being a positive influence ... or just making their presence known.
There are a lot of positive things about Mormon culture too — the emphasis on family, helping the little old lady cross the street. And I think because I speak that language and understand that, as my career progresses, I’m excited to be an ambassador between these two communities and help build a bridge.
Was there any hesitation for you being an out artist?
Oh yeah, I think its still a really big deal. It’s a challenge for a lot of my friends still to do it. The record industry is not doing well, so I think any variable or challenge for them to sell you and not just do the typical, matinee idol, Jonas Brothers thing makes it a detraction ... at the very least, not a good business move. I think that’s one of the really great things Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang have done, is to blaze the trail and hopefully get it to the point where it’s like mentioning my eyes are brown. What I do, the causes I’m behind, that’s what’s important. Who I am, unless it is particularly relevant, has no place in my music.