By Michael Slezak
July 26, 2006 at 08:20 PM EDT

I now interrupt the usual PopWatch snarkfest for a moment of genuine sincerity: Huzzah to ‘N Sync singer Lance Bass for deciding to use his closet the way God intended (to hang clothes, naturally) and tell the world (or at least People magazine) that he’s gay — and in a ”very stable” relationship with Amazing Race champ Reichen Lehmkuhl. Woot! Yeah, I know we’re in a post-Will & Grace, post-Ellen, post-Elton era, but I think Bass’ decision is still a pretty brave one. Think about it: Even if Bass’ ‘N Sync fan base stands by their man (and hopefully they’re evolved enough to do so), should he decide to embark on a solo career, he’s bound to face an uphill battle as a young gay man trying to score radio play in the U.S. (see: Scissor Sisters.) And consider this: Just last week, one of my personal favorite divas, Jody Watley, was prohibited from discussing her performance at the Gay Games in an interview with Chicago radio station V103, a sad but telling (and pretty infuriating) statement on the current, healthy state of homophobia even in major metropolitan markets.

All career concerns aside, though, Bass did the right thing for himself, and yes, for the world at large. “The thing is, I’m not ashamed — that’s the one thing I want to say,” Bass told People. “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.” And when you consider studies that show high suicide rates among gay teenagers, that’s a pretty groovy (and all too rare) message coming from the mouth of a household name. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go dig Diana Ross’ ”I’m Coming Out” from the depths of my CD collection.

addCredit(“Lance Bass: Mark Mainz/Getty Images”)

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