Sanjaya Malakar says he wants to be involved in the LGBTQ community in a big way after coming out as bisexual ... years after he was advised to hide his sexuality to not lose fans.
The former "American Idol" contestant -- who was a polarizing figure on season six -- tells TMZ ... he wants to help LGBTQ youth who are experiencing the same struggles he faced as a teen, with his main message being, "no one can navigate your sexuality but you."
Sanjaya, now 32, stepped out of the limelight years ago and now works as a pastry chef in Montana. He's ready to come back to Hollywood but is treading lightly, as he's not looking to become a punchline and only wants to focus on positive messages benefitting kids and teens.
He tells us some of the ways he envisions himself helping LGBTQ youth is by working with kids one-on-one, singing at fundraisers dedicated to helping the LGBTQ community and making TV show appearances where he can elaborate on how he navigated his sexuality during "American Idol."
Sanjaya says some of the most rewarding work he's done has been working with kids ... following 'AI', he volunteered at an after-school program helping kids with stage fright.
If you missed it, Sanjaya recently appeared on "The Adam Sank Show," where he explained during his time on 'AI' his publicists encouraged him to keep his sexuality secret, after fans speculated he was gay. Sanjaya says the experience was traumatizing ... but feels compelled to take control of his narrative now that he's comfortable with his sexuality.
Sanjaya says coming out to the public feels like a huge weight off his shoulders ... his family and friends have been nothing but supportive. What's even more heartwarming are some of the messages Sanjaya has received from fans in the past few days, which he shared with us.