Country singer Ty Herndon came out as gay on Thursday after spending decades in the closet, sharing his story of learning to be proud of his sexuality.

Ty Herndon Comes Out

“I’m an out, proud and happy gay man,” Herndon, 52, told People magazine.

Herndon reveals that he’s known since he was a child that he’s gay, but that he long struggled to reconcile his sexuality with his faith. By coming out, Herndon hopes he call help children who are feeling like he did realize that it can all be okay.

“I was 10, sitting in church and horrified that I might be a homosexual. Whatever that word meant, I knew that I probably was one,” Herndon recalled. “And I know there’s a lot of those kids still out there. Telling my story is an opportunity to help just one of them.”

Herndon started coming out to family and close friends in his 20s and found a lot of support at home. “My mother probably knew I was gay before I did. I remember sitting down with her and having the conversation,” Herndon told People. “She was more concerned about me having a happy life. You have to be able to do that in your own skin, and [my family] has seen me struggle with being gay my whole career.”

Despite coming out to select people, Herndon went on to marry two women, who knew he was gay, while pursuing his career in country music. In 2009, one year into a relationship with his longtime partner Matt, Herndon decided to allow himself to one day be more open about that part of himself.

“I realized I had an incredible story that could possibly help someone’s son or daughter or grandchild’s life not be as difficult as mine has been,” he said. “Maybe they wouldn’t have to go through as much pain and suffering. It’s time to tell my truth.”

As for how his revelation will affect his career in country music, Herndon believes that the genre has made strides in acceptance – most notably with Chely Wright and Kacey Musgrave’s song “Follow Your Arrow.”

“There’s never been a song more affirmative of that in country music, and it’s our CMA Song of the year,” said Herndon. “I felt so proud of my city. I hope that trend continues; I pray it does.”

Herndon added, “[Being gay] is just an addendum. I’m a gay man, and I’m looking forward to living the rest of my life authentically and happy.”

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