MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gay rights activists call Mississippi one of the most hostile and polarizing states when it comes to gay issues like same-sex marriage, or even the battle to open a gay bar.
So it’s ironic that one of the nation’s most well-known gay activists is from Mississippi.
As Lance Bass was ‘tearing up the hearts’ of screaming girls all around the world as a member of boy band NSYNC with Memphis’ own Justin Timberlake, the singer had a secret.
“There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think that someone might find out about me. I would always look and my mannerisms and the things I would say,” said Bass.
After the band called it quits in 2002, Bass came out as gay.
He says his family and friends in Mississippi were incredibly supportive, and that was unlike the anti-gay stories he was seeing on TV out of the Magnolia State.
“Everywhere I go, everyone is very supportive of gay rights and I just don’t know where this is coming from,” said Bass.
The idea for Bass’s new documentary, “Mississippi I Am,” was born when he became frustrated with the image Mississippi was getting as being anti-gay after Constance McMillen wasn’t allowed to take her girlfriend to prom in 2010 in Itawamba County.
“The stories kept coming out in my home state and I was like, I need to figure out what to do about this. So I sent cameras down to see what the temperature really was,” said Bass.
Four years later, the short film is done and was released Tuesday on iTunes.
“Through this documentary, you see what it’s like to be a gay kid raised in Mississippi, and yes there are a lot of struggles, but in the end what’s great is the hope and the change that you’re seeing in the state,” said Bass.
As viewers experience the non-traditional love stories of “Mississippi I Am,” Bass is focusing on his own love story.
He and artist Michael Turchin are engaged to be married in February in the first nationally televised gay wedding.
You can only find “Mississippi I Am” on iTunes.
Although not everyone supports the documentary and its message, Bass encourages even the naysayers to watch it with an open mind and consider everyone’s point of view.