To his throngs of loyal fans, singing star Clay Aiken can do no wrong.
"My mother doesn't defend me as much on some days," says Aiken, who debuts his Tried & True concert tour Thursday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
For five years after he won international American Idol fame in 2003, fans stood by Aiken as mean-spirited bloggers taunted him as "Gaykin." Then, weeks after the birth of son Parker in August 2008, Aiken appeared on the cover of People magazine beside a screaming headline, "Yes, I'm Gay."
"I still love you Clay and think you sing like an angel. You are still the same person inside today as you were yesterday!" a woman posted to fan site ClayManaics.com just after People announced the news.
Two years later, Aiken is an anti-bullying spokesman for GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
"I didn't choose to be gay. I choose to be out," Aiken, 32, tells The Miami Herald. "I'm also respectful of people who choose not to be."
Aiken says his decision to come out publicly had nothing to do with becoming a single dad.
"The tipping point was not because my son was born. Because of the position I was in, I pretty much had to," he says. "I was out to everyone I was working with. I wasn't out to people I don't know. All of my friends who are gay aren't out to people they don't know."
Aiken's public declaration cost him some fans, he acknowledges. "I would be remiss to say it didn't have any effect at all."
Still, Aiken's life is better today. "To say I'm happier now would imply I was unhappy before. I definitely see now there is a certain amount of freedom ... I didn't have before. I also see the fears I had before didn't come to fruition.''
Aiken's Tried & True tour -- based on his current album of the same name -- contains such '50s and '60s standards as Can't Take My Eyes Off of You and Unchained Melody.
"We're doing it very intimately," Aiken says. "The songs are lushly arranged but the orchestrations will stay big. We'll try and pull the instrumentation down a bit. There's something that gets lost when there are as many people on stage as in the house."
Aiken says the down side to playing a 22-city, four-week bus tour is being separated from 2-year-old Parker.
"Technology helps," Aiken says. "We Skype and all that.