Coming Out: Lance Bass Tells His Story

By: Brandon Voss

Former 'N Sync heartthrob Lance Bass came out as gay — "I'M GAY" — to the public in an exclusive 2006 interview with People. "The thing is, I’m not ashamed — that’s the one thing I want to say," he told the magazine about his decision to come out. "I don't think it's wrong, I'm not devastated going through this. I'm more liberated and happy than I’ve been my whole life. I'm just happy."

Due to some unfortunate choices of words — for starters, he referred to himself as a "straight-acting gay" — Bass's public coming out didn't go over like gangbusters with everyone in the LGBT community. He discussed the gaffe the next year in the 1000th issue of The Advocate

"When most people come out, they deal with it out of the public eye, and they start getting educated about it. Me, I had 24 hours to say what I had to say on a subject that I had no clue about... I knew last year that when I came out, if I said, 'OK, I’m going to lead every parade and I’m going to speak at every engagement,' half of the community would say, 'Screw you! Who are you to come out and start speaking for everyone?' That’s why I held back and was like, OK, I said my piece now; I’m just gonna lay back and get way more educated about myself, about the community, and not pretend I know what I’m talking about.'"

Recalling the period when his budding relationship with Reichen Lehmkuhl was attracting the unwanted attention of the media, Bass went into greater detail about coming out to his family in his 2007 autobiography Out of Sync:

No matter how big the band had gotten, I'd never forgotten for a second that I was born and raised in the Bible Belt, in Mississippi, the heart of the South. My parents were Christians, Southern Baptists, and the worst possible thing I could ever do was hurt or embarass them in any way. I knew this was going to be a very difficult thing for them to deal with, and for my eighty-year-old grandparents as well — almost as difficult as it was going to be for me... All I wanted to do was try and see to it that my family wasn't devastated by my coming out. I knew that the day I was eventually found out by the media, even if I got pats on the back from many for being brave and not denying myself, my family would receive condolences from others for my having "sinned."

Bass goes on to describe first coming out to his sister Stacy. After being met with shock and tears, he decided to hold off on telling his parents. Unfortunately, his mother put two and two together via the Internet after first meeting Lehmkuhl — posing as Bass's realtor — and then Googling him. Bass recalls the incident:

My mom dropped everything and went immediately to Stacy's to confirm what she already knew. She asked her if I was gay. Stacy bit her lip and nodded her head yes.

"Does that mean they're together?"

"Yes," Stacy said.

With that, my mother completely broke down in tears.

As soon as my mom left, Stacy called and told me what happened. I immediately e-mailed my parents, told them that I loved them, and asked them to please call me as soon as possible. My dad responded by writing, "I love you too, son." My mom's e-mail said, "I can't talk to you now. I will call you tomorrow. I love you."

This was far worse than I'd imagined it could ever be. My parents had met very few and gotten to know even fewer gay people. For my mother, though, this was going to be a total nightmare. Not too much earlier the son of one of her neighbors had come out and the whole neighborhood had found out. With me it was going to be the whole world.

Both my mother and father did call the next day. They told me they loved me and would always be there for me. Mom then said she wanted to ask me two questions. The first was, "If you died today, would you go to heaven?"

"Yes, Mother," I said, without any hesitation, "I would." I still believed in God and felt that God loved me, not despite the fact that I was gay but because He had made me that way.

The second thing she asked was if there was any way to keep this from my grandparents. I was, after all, my grandparents' pride and joy. They kept scrapbooks of me from every time I appeared in any paper or magazine. I told her I'd try. My dad, having been in the medical profession for so many years, was very concerned about my health and my getting HIV. I assured him I was being safe.

Then, of course, the People magazine thing happened and all hell broke loose...

Bass most recently revisited the subject of his coming out as a guest on an episode of The Ricki Lake Show. Bass explained to the daytime talk host that he was essentially "asexual" while touring the world as a boy band icon because he feared that coming out as gay would "completely ruin 'N Sync if anyone knew my deep, dark secret."

Although he was aware that he was gay since he was 4 years old, the Dancing With the Stars alum told Lake that he went along with the homophobic lessons he heard in the church and community in which he grew up. He even played along with antigay jokes — "It eats you away," he said — and prayed nightly that he would "wake up straight."

"Coming out has definitely completely changed my life, and my career, and everything," he told Lake. "For good and bad. When you look at my career right after 'N Sync, I had a lot of things I wanted to do, and then coming out completely changed everything I wanted to do, but to me, in a good way. I would rather be in a position where I can help other people than be the biggest superstar in the world and pretending I'm straight."

Bass can currently be heard on his two-hour daily call-in chatfest, Dirty Pop with Lance Basson Sirius XM Radio's OutQ channel.

Watch video of Bass on The Ricki Lake Show below.