Pop star Clay Aiken defends the southeastern U.S., saying homophobia is more a national problem than a regional one, while
discussing difficulties faced by Southern LGBT teens.
Aiken, who resides part-time in North Carolina, answered questions posed to him during a conference call to promote his appearance on the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva. Aiken guest-stars in an episode inspired by Constance McMillen, a Mississippi teenager who sued her high school for refusing to allow her to attend her prom with her girlfriend.
Asked if it's tough to be a gay teenager in the South, Aiken responds, "You can argue that there are areas in the country where it might be a little bit easier, but I think that it is a national issue. It’s not necessarily just a Southern thing."
"I get slightly defensive because I know that there are lots of challenges in the Southeast that still need to be met, but I do see a lot of progress," Aiken says. "And it is kids like Constance, shows like Drop Dead Diva that — and plenty of other shows and plenty of other individuals who have stood up."
Aiken does admit that attitudes toward LGBT people have evolved since he began his career. "I think about the fact that ... from the time that I started in this business, if you want to put it like that, in 2003, the lengths that the entertainment industry has come, the lengths that the country has come in just that short — less than 10 years, is amazing," he says.
The episode, titled "The Prom," also features guest appearances by other out performers, including Lance Bass and Wanda Sykes. It will air Sunday at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.