By Ariana Bacle
Updated November 20, 2014 at 07:59 PM EST
Chris Pizzello/AP

Ty Herndon, a country singer known for hits like “What Mattered Most” and “Living in a Moment,” spoke about his sexuality publicly for the first time in a People interview published Nov. 20. “I’m an out, proud, and happy gay man,” he told People.

Herndon, now 51, says he started coming out to his close family when he was 20—but wants to come out to the whole world now in hopes that he can help others, especially others who are struggling to reconcile their gay identity with religion.

“They can be loved by God, they can be married one day, they can have a family, they can give their parents grandkids,” Herndon said. “And they’re not broken, they’re not sinners, and they’re perfectly beautiful.”

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UPDATE: Following Ty Herndon’s announcement, fellow country singer Billy Gilman also came out publicly in a YouTube video on Nov. 20. Gilman said Herndon speaking publicly “made it easier” for him to speak openly about the subject.

Gilman said he felt he should come out after being spotted by a reporter with his partner. He said this encounter was when he knew that he’d “rather it be from me than [fans] reading it somewhere else and probably filled with, not truth.”