Last week on NBC's hit summer series, America's Got Talent, contestant Jonathan Allen began his performance by announcing that he is gay, and ended with a standing ovation from the live, tear-stricken audience.
Before delivering a striking rendition of Con te Partirò, Allen announced that his parents kicked him out of their Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, home on his 18th birthday for being openly gay.
In an interview before his performance, Allen confessed, "in my darkest moments I can escape through music," he said. He said he decided to compete on America's Got Talent to make his parents proud.
Before he began singing, Judge Howie Mandel encouraged Allen, "show [your parents] what you got, and show them what they're missing"
The judges and audience demonstrated that Allen's sexual preference was irrelevant; rather, they embraced the contestant's unbelievable performance and his voice that shook the room. The cameras zoomed in on listeners moved to tears by Allen's emotional performance. When Allen finished singing, the judges joined the audience on their feet for a standing ovation, showing their support for the musician's bravery and jaw-dropping voice.
"You seem like a good person, and you have a dream, and a talent, and your own family disowned you, but with your talent, this show has become your family, and we'd like to say 'welcome home.' We love you, we accept you, and we are so proud that you came here," Mandel said to Allen in front of the audience.
"I don't know if your parents are watching tonight, but I would like to say to them what a wonderful son you have," Judge Howard Stern added.
Judge Heidi Klum said to Allen, "I'm in love with you," a comment that most likely made millions of Americans incredibly envious.
The way that America's Got Talent's reacted to Allen's confession is becoming the norm. The judges and the audience were blind to Allen's sexual orientation; they fell in love with his voice and accepted him for his talent. After his performance, Allen must have understood that while his family may not accept his homosexuality, others will. The example set by NBC's hit show is an example of how society is encouraging its members to be themselves and show their true characters.
Earlier this week, a young man named Mitch Anderson took the stage at his high school graduation at Bell County Expo in Belton, Texas. In the middle of his salutatorian speech, Anderson admitted something he had never said before; "I feel the moment has arrived for me to be publicly true to my personal identity," he said. "So now, I can say, I’m gay," Gawker reported.
Unlike Allen's parents, Anderson's parents were incredibly accepting of their son's announcement. He told local Texas radio station KTEM that when he saw his parents after the graduation ceremony "[My mom said], 'I love you' ... Dad hugged me."
The important takeaway is that more and more young people are gaining the confidence to come out of the closet publicly, with pride and without fear. Unfortunately, the whole world will not accept homosexuality, at least not any time soon. Allen's parents are an example of this unfortunate reality. Nonetheless, society is becoming more and more accepting of alternate lifestyles. Young people are becoming aware that they will be accepted for who they are, and as Mandel put it, they will always find somewhere they can call home.
The crowd's reaction to Allen's performance on America's Got Talent is both a reminder of the progress society has made in terms of accepting different lifestyles and an optimistic message about the tolerant place that the world may someday become.