’N Sync’s Lance Bass Sings Out of the Closet

After enduring years of Internet and tabloid speculation, former `N Sync boy-bander Lance Bass has finally acknowledged that he's gay.

"I've known my whole life," the Grammy winner told People magazine this week.

But Bass, 27, says he was terrified the disclosure would devastate his family and might affect the success of the supergroup before its 2002 breakup.

The Grammy-winning Bass is dating reality TV star Reichen Lehmkuhl.

This is the first time a mainstream male American pop star has come out of the closet. `N Sync broke records in 2000 when its sophomore album, "No Strings Attached," sold 2.4 million units in its first week. The group's albums have sold more than 27 million copies.

Bass decided to say "Bye, Bye, Bye" to his closeted past after rumors over his relationship with "Amazing Race" winner Lehmkuhl reached a fever pitch.

"The main reason I wanted to speak my mind was that (the rumors) really were starting to affect my daily life," Bass revealed to the mag.

A Bass friend told the New York Daily News, "His biggest struggle has been coming out to his family. They're super-religious and he thought they would never accept him. But he's been out to his friends for at least five years."

Bass and Lehmkuhl were photographed together during New York's Fashion Week in early May. Speculation reached its height this month when the pair vacationed in Provincetown, Mass., a popular gay summer spot.

Yet Bass' mother, Diane, a 55-year-old middle school teacher, didn't get the news from her own son.

"She found out on the Internet, and that's what just killed me," said the "Tearin' Up My Heart" singer. "She broke down and it destroyed her for a little bit."

But the singer has received a lot of support from his fellow bandmates and celebrity friends.

"Lance is one of my great friends," former fellow `N Syncer Justin Timberlake, 25, said in a statement. "I support him and wish him all the happiness in the world."

"He took years to really think about how he was going to tell everyone," said bandmate Joey Fatone, 29, who was the first in the group to find out about Bass' sexuality _ when he walked in on him with his first boyfriend. "I back him up 100 percent"

Bass is set to star with Fatone in an "Odd Couple"-inspired sitcom, in which he'll play gay.

"I want people to take from this that being gay is a norm – that the stereotypes are out the window," Bass says.