While many people already know Steve Grand by the title "first openly gay male country singer" (in truth a misnomer), few are aware that Grand's Catholic upbringing and faith remain essential parts of his identity and image. A member of a tight-knit Catholic church in the Chicago suburbs, Grand maintains in an interview with The Huffington Post that his close relationship with the Catholic community is 100% compatible with his life as a gay man in the media spotlight.
Grand said he has been both surprised and moved by the reactions to his first video. Fans have declared him a "hero," while critics have accused him of betraying the gay rights movement – both by expressing support for the Catholic Church and by refusing to condemn the Christian therapist he was sent to by his parents to be "cured" of his homosexuality.
"A lot of people have criticized me for playing at Catholic churches, where I made a lot of money, and I was shocked by that," Grand said. "In my mind, I think it could only be a good thing. Ten years ago, I was sitting in those same pews, and if I'd seen an openly gay musician leading the songs of worship in church, that could have really changed my life and saved me many years of feeling that I was somehow wrong."
It what may seem like a surprise to many, Grand's church has been nothing but supportive of him, his identity, and his career. Grand received a standing ovation from his church last month when he stood in front of the congregation and said, "You know, I'm gay. And I think that's okay and I really believe that God loves us for who we are, gay or straight."
Father Kurt Boras, the priest at the church, holds Grand up as a model Catholic and says Grand's visibility has sparked new discussions and dialogue within his congregation about faith and sexuality.
"I've never seen this before. It's opened up conversations with me that are unbelievable, really" he said. "A lot of folks have come to me and said, 'I have a gay daughter, a gay son.' This young man has really opened up some conversations that maybe I would never have had as a pastor and they're coming and saying, 'Can we talk to you?'"
You can check out Grand's newest video, "Stay" right HERE.