Clay Aiken is joining the ranks of the out and proud.
The unlikely heartthrob, whose Southern gentlemanliness has made the young'uns love him and their moms want to pinch his cheeks, has revealed that he is gay in an upcoming cover story for People magazine, on newsstands Friday.
So whether you're saying "Huh?!" or "About time!" this is the new state of the Claynation.
The magazine's cover, leaked Tuesday afternoon, boasts the pullout quote: "Yes, I'm gay."
"It was the first decision I made as a father," Aiken says inside the magazine. "I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn't raised that way, and I'm not going to raise a child to do that."
The 29-year-old pop star's sexuality came under increased scrutiny when he admitted to fathering a child with fiftysomething Jaymes Foster, sister of famed music producer David Foster.
Parker Foster Aiken was born Aug. 8 in North Carolina, with Aiken writing on his blog that all families involved were "thrilled."
The born-again crooner acknowledges that revelations regarding his sexuality may be difficult for some in his fanbase.
"Whether it be having a child out of wedlock, or whether it be simply being a homosexual, it's going to be a lot," he says.
Aiken, who last week reprised his role as Sir Robin on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot, adds, however, that he hopes his fans know he "never intended to lie to anybody at all": "But if they leave, I don't want them to leave hating me."
As for how his own family dealt with the news, the onetime American Idol runner-up admitted dropping the bomb on his mom four years ago when they accompanied his younger brother, Brett, to camp Lejeune before the latter deployed to Iraq.
"I started crying in the car," Aiken recalls. "It was dark. I was sitting there, thinking to myself. I don't know why I started thinking about it...I just started bawling. She made me pull over the car and it just came out."
And while it took some time, he said his mom eventually learned to accept her son's sexuality.
"She started crying. She was obviously somewhat stunned. But she was very supportive and very comforting," Aiken notes. "She still struggles with things quite a bit, but she's come a long way."
The singer stressed that it was necessary for him to own up to what everybody kind of already knew for Parker's sake, so his son can be raised in an atmosphere that is "accepting and allowing him to be happy."
Says Aiken: "I have no idea if he'll be gay or straight. It's not something I'll have anything to do with, or that he'll have anything to do with. It's already probably up inside the code there...No matter what the situation you're in, if you're raised in a loving environment, that's the most important thing."
(Originally published Sept. 23, 2008, at 3:35 p.m. PT.)