Just before the YouTube generation made coming out videos cool, there were few queer figures in the public eye. It was 2006 when '90s boy band veteran Lance Bass came out publicly, a decision that helped push the LGBT movement just a little more forward.
10 years later, Bass is still working hard to ensure equality happens in his lifetime. From attending Pride events all around the country to raising awareness about the states that need change, his role in the LGBT community has been a consistent one.
Out: How was your Pride month in the wake of Orlando?
LanceBass: It was definitely bittersweet of course. It's always fun to celebrate and remember why you're celebrating. Of course after Orlando happened, it means so much more. I remember I was here when it happened, the morning of the parade in Los Angeles. It was sad. At first, I didn't really want to get out of bed. Then I realized that's exactly what people who hated us wanted, for us not to show up. So I immediately put my clothes on, ran to the parade, jumped on the float, and proudly waved at everyone I could. It's definitely been a sad Pride because of Orlando, but it gives us even more to celebrate.
You're riding with American Express at Pride this summer, right?
Yea, their #ExpressLove campaign is great. When I heard about it, I was very excited to be involved because I love helping out brands that really have put their neck out for us for so many years. American Express has been one of those companies that for decades has been supporting LGBTs just internally with their employees and now very publicly with campaigns like this. It's really important that huge companies like that show they support LGBTs because it really does change politicians' minds and it changes people's minds.
I do. I don't know what year it was, but I remember it was Los Angeles. It had to have been like 2006 or 2007. But the first one I went to, it was with my boyfriend at the time. We went to the Abbey because I'd always heard of this Abbey, you know? [Laughs] And I really wanted to go and see what it was like. I'd been to a couple gay clubs or gay bars before, but never as an out gay man. I was always in the closet going to those places, so it was really nice to see for the first time, everyone just having a good time and celebrating who they are.
We recently celebrated a year since marriage equality. How has marriage been for you and Michael since this legal shift?
I didn't think too much would be different once it passed, especially in our community, but what I'm seeing is that the shift has happened inside the LGBTQ community. Just that mentality of wanting to get married, wanting those long relationships, thinking about having families for the first time. For the longest, we fooled ourselves into thinking maybe we didn't want a family or that marriage wasn't for us and that long time commitments weren't a part of our community. Now everyone's seeing that we're just as capable of having amazing relationships and committed marriages and starting families as anyone else.
You're from Mississippi. How would you describe the community there and the struggles they've faced?
Well I think Mississippi has definitely had it the hardest and unfortunately zero support from anyone. Even from our own community, Mississippi doesn't get the support, and it's really sad to see. I've tried tirelessly to bring attention to our state and fight HB 1523, which thank god a judge ruled unconstitutional. But no one even knew about that. People still think that HB 1523 went into effect July 1, but no one realizes a judge struck it down. And we should celebrate that. We should show that we won, that a judge actually had our back and explained in very great detail why it was unconstitutional. I think LGBTQ people in Mississippi have it the worst. There's so much hatred around them, and it's so scary to be who you are because you do feel like such a small, small minority there when it is a huge group. People in Mississippi overall are amazing, loving people. I just think they get really bogged down and confused about certain issues because they're very easily told what to do without researching for themselves and learning and educating themselves. They just listen to their politicians. They listen to their church leaders. They're so brainwashed into thinking that they can't educate themselves.
You were recently planning a benefit concert there. Is there any news on that?
We were trying to do a benefit concert to fight HB 1523 and thank god it did get struck down. But it was hard. Demi Lovato and Cyndi Lauper were the only two artists that I reached out to who said, "Yea, I'm in, whatever you need." Everyone else I asked just said, "Nope, I don't even want to step foot in that state." So it was embarrassing to see how people hate the state. And it's really sad because that's where I'm from. That's where all my family lives. Anyway, that concert went out the window. There are gonna be a few local festival type things that are really gonna be LGBTQ-centered. I know something's happening in Vicksburg with my friends over at The'SipMagazine. So hopefully they'll get something off the ground and I'll be able to go to it.
I loved your documentary, Mississippi:IAM. Are you planning to do any kind of follow-up to that?
I love filmmaking, especially documentaries. I think it's important to always have something in the works that just helps educate people. Documentaries are a terrible business. [Laughs] But you do it for the love, for sure. So far, I've had some really great documentaries I've been able to be a part of. KidnappedforChrist was one of my favorites that showed you all those 'pray the gay away' Jesus camps that really affect and destroy children. And then with Mississippi:IAM, I wanted to do a documentary which showed us what's happening right now in Mississippi with the young kids. These kids don't want to leave their home. They're slowly changing people's minds, and it's so nice to see. So I was very encouraged when I started filming that doc because I didn't know what we were gonna see. But what we saw was beautiful. Yes, you saw the other side and the hatefulness that comes with it, but you also saw this really hopeful community building their lives in the state that they love.
What did you think about Colton Haynes' N'Sync collection?
That's a solid question. I have to say my mother's collection beats his. She has everything. But I love Colton. He's a good buddy of mine and we have a bond with N'Sync. He loves the group, and of course, I did too.
Having come of age in the spotlight and come out before the whole It Gets Better generation, did you have any personal role models back then that gave you the courage to come out?
Zero, and that's what sucked about growing up in my generation. There were zero people to look up to because even if you thought they were gay, they never confirmed that they were. It was such a stereotype about what gay was and such a confusion about what it was for someone like me growing up in Mississippi. It was so scary to let anyone know who you were, and you had to watch everything you'd say. But the only thing gay to me growing up was Richard Simmons. Everyone said he was gay even though he said he wasn't. But everyone always made fun of him. So that was the only thing I could put the word "gay" to growing up that I remember because I was just very sheltered. And I thought that wasn't me. I couldn't relate to Richard Simmons doing jazzercise and all that stuff. [Laughs] I wasn't outgoing and flamboyant. It was just very confusing to me because I knew I was gay at such an early age, but I just didn't know that there were so many parts to the community and flavors. What I love these days with the YouTube generation is that there are so many great examples of what gay is because it is so diverse, and now everyone can find someone that they relate to in very specific ways.
Catch American Express' #ExpressLove campaign, which partnered with Lance Bass, at San Diego Pride, July 16.