By kissing a man — who many will recognize as a famed LGBT activist — in his new music video, American Idol finalist Rayvon Owen is coming out. And he’s hoping to charge up conversation in the black church.
At the end of “Can’t Fight It,” released on Valentine’s Day, Owen finally meets the mysterious man across the room, Shane Bitney Crone. His well regarded 2013 documentary, Bridegroom, is about the discrimination Crone faced when his parter, Tom Bridegroom, died and the family kept him from the funeral.
Crone said on Facebook that he’s “incredibly proud” of Owen. “He is using his platform to help and inspire others,” said Crone, “especially young LGBT people.”
Owen never came out while on Idol, finishing season 14 in fourth place. Other well known former contestants — Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken — also hadn't come out while in the singing competition. Owen tells Billboard that he never lied, “but the truth had been omitted.”
“I was afraid,” he told the magazine in an exclusive interview timed with the release of the video. “Here’s a show that reaches so many people, including a lot of small town, conservative people, who grew up in the same environment I grew up in. I was afraid that if I shared this part of my life, would people vote for me? It’s sad that I had to think that.”
Part of the reason Owen was afraid of rejection is because he grew up in the church.
“I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had in the church, especially as an African-American,” he told Billboard. “There are so many LGBT people in the black church who are either leaving because they don’t feel welcome or they’re afraid to be who they really are. These are the people who are running the church, the worship leaders, the piano players, the singers, the choir members -- a lot of them are gay but don’t say anything. They can’t talk about it because they’re afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. Or get kicked out of the church or be seen differently.”
Owen said he’d “tried to pray the gay away” until he learned that “there’s no sense in fighting anymore.”
That’s the theme of his song, singing “I’ve never been good at pretending like this” and “We know we can’t fight it.” In the end, “it’s worth it, so worth it.”
Watch the video below: