Former Idol Finalist Helton Says He's Gay

10/20/2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

Former Idol Finalist Helton Says He's Gay
Helton in September
Charles Harris/AdMedia
Former American Idol contestant R.J. Helton, 25, announced that he is gay while on SIRIUS Satellite Radio host Larry Flick's show "OutQ in the Morning" on Wednesday.

During the on-air interview, Flick asked Helton – who'd been in the top five on the first season of the hit FOX show – why he was no longer performing inspirational music.

Replied the singer, whose full name is Richard Jason Helton: "I can have a faith but can't be who I want to be. So a lot of it was just personal things I needed to overcome and just be proud of who I was. … Just because I am gay does not mean I can't love God." (Helton's 2004 Christian music album Real Life sold more than 20,000 copies.)

"Well there you go," said Flick. "Congratulations. "This is something that I wasn't sure you were going to talk about on the air today, so what made you decide to come out?"

Said Helton: "Today, this morning, three seconds ago … I've never even said that. It feels good."

Expanding on that, Helton said, "It does feel great. It feels good. I'm just really comfortable with who I am now. I'm very proud of who I am."

Helton's announcement made news on the same day that Grey's Anatomy star T.R. Knight, 33, told PEOPLE exclusively, "I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I'd like to quiet any unnecessary rumors that may be out there. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me."

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