Singer Ty Herndon comes out, making him the first openly gay country chart-topper

Twice-married singer kept sexuality secret to protect his career

Country singer Ty Herndon has come out as gay after nearly two decades as a performer, making him the first openly gay man in country music to have topped the US country music chart, Billboard reports.

The 52-year-old country star opened up about his private life in an interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner, during which he discussed his former drug use, his failed marriages and his current relationship.

“I have an awesome relationship that I’ve been in for a good number of years,” Herndon said. “[I] love him very much and he loves me.”

Herndon implied that both his marriages were for show and that his ex-wives were aware of his sexuality, which he felt he had to keep a secret in order to have a career. “I had a lot of people around me that I trusted at a time and I was like, ‘Hey, you know this about me but the world doesn’t. So I’m gonna need to call on your services for a little while.’

“It was unfortunate that I had to do that, but I felt that’s what I had to do to have my career.”

The ‘Lies I Told You’ singer also told People magazine that an Anthony Robbins seminar gave him the courage to come out and help frightened young gay people. “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. 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.”

He added in the Turner interview that he’s thrilled about the increasing levels of acceptance in Nashville, which is changing as a community. He stated: “Traditionally in country music, we don’t see a lot of support for the LGBT community, but that’s changing so much… It gives me a lot of hope that Nashville is ready for this. I get to be free today. I’m born again today, and I feel like I’m not gonna have any trouble sleeping tonight.”

Ty Herndon rose to fame in 1995 with his debut single ‘What Mattered Most’, which went to Number One in the US country charts. Rumours surrounding his sexuality first emerged in 1995, when an undercover male police officer alleged the star exposed himself in a park. The charges were later dropped.