Matt Collum (left) and country singer Ty Herndon Country singer Ty Herndon proudly walked the red carpet with his partner Matt Collum at the TrevorLIVE L.A. benefit this past weekend. The annual event marked 16 years of life-saving work by The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens and young adults. It also marked the first time Herndon made a public appearance with the man who has been his partner since 2008.
"So many times in my life and career I've had to do these things alone, and leave the person I love at home sitting on the couch because I wasn't brave enough to bring him and I wasn't out," Herndon emotionally tells The Advocate. "So this is monumental for both of us tonight."
Herndon helped LGBT visibility in country music take a monumental leap forward when he revealed he is a gay man in a November interview with Entertainment Tonight. The 52-year-old singer says he immediately received support from several country music artists, including LeAnn Rimes -- who recently spoke to GLAAD about why she's proud to be an LGBT ally.
"When I watched him come out on TV, I texted him right away and said, 'I'm the proudest son of a bitch there is,'" says Herndon's partner, Collum. "I was, and still am. I am so proud of this man."
Since coming out of the closet, Herndon says his life has changed for the better now that he's able to live his life openly and honestly. And he's thankful that he's able to see the way his honesty is having a positive effect on others.
"At my very first show after coming out, I had a young man who was 19 years old come up to me and tell me, 'I came out to my family this week, and I brought them all to this show,'" Herndon recalls. "Man, when he told me that, I just burst into tears because it was such an emotional moment for me."
"Then at that same show, there was a 65-year-old man who told me 'I'm coming out to my kids on Thanksgiving and you helped me to do that,'" he continues. "I was so moved, I just had no words."
Herndon performed his song "Journey On" from his 2010 album of the same name on the TrevorLIVE stage, noting that the track holds a special place in his heart because of lyrics which encourage people to push through dark moments for a brighter tomorrow -- a perfect complement to The Trevor Project's message.
"Before I even thought about coming out, I was writing it in my music," says Herndon. "It's a song about being brave and finding your brave heart. I'm so proud be doing that here tonight."