The 30-year-old Las Vegas native is profiled in a new HBO documentary, “Believer,” which explores his efforts to reconcile his passion for LGBTQ causes with his Mormon upbringing.
He told DeGeneres that his interest in queer advocacy work began after he was expelled from Brigham Young University after being caught having sex with his girlfriend of four years.
“That was a really devastating moment for me ― a lot of needless shame and guilt,” he said. “I felt like something needed to change. ... I grew up and had a lot of friends who were gay and Mormon. They couldn’t come out to their parents. They couldn’t even come out to me, because we just wouldn’t talk about it.”
“Watching their struggle, for me, was awful,” he continued. “And then feeling a bit of shame in my life over something I shouldn’t have been shamed about helped me to kind of identify, to some degree, with what our LGBTQ youth face all the time within orthodox religion.”
Later in the interview, the “Radioactive” and “Demons” singer explained why he still identifies as a Mormon even though he disagrees with various aspects of the religion.
“If you ever want to make real change within your community or your religion [or] your family, you have to be a part of it,” the father of three said. “You can’t be from the outside yelling.”