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By Lance Bass

Every year, Pride reminds us of where we've come as a community and how far we need to go. It's an opportunity to take a moment to really celebrate all the wins for LGBT rights and acceptance, but also to remember that we have yet to truly achieve equal rights and equal status.

Especially in the political climate in which we find ourselves right now, Pride is more important than ever.

Surveys have begun to suggest that LGBT acceptance is actually going down instead of up for the first time in years, and we all know what the reason is: our political leaders. But a climate of increasing intolerance is dangerous; it absolutely has the potential to drive people back into the closet.

A climate of increasing intolerance is dangerous; it absolutely has the potential to drive people back into the closet.

Staying in the closet has a lot to do with the environment in which you live; people are usually scared to come out for a reason. All of us have our different stories, but I stayed in the closet because I'm from a small town in Mississippi where they're very religious and I was told that being gay was just really wrong. Right now, with so many people getting on the hate bandwagon, it's got to be a little scary for kids to be able to come out. Even in my life, I see fewer people coming out recently than in the last 15 years.

It's not just young people, though. There are gay people, like my husband and I, who are trying to start a family who can't help but wonder, “How are our children gonna be treated in the future if we're on this path right now?”

Now, to be fair, everyone with whom we've worked doing the surrogacy thing has been amazing — just so positive — and there's been so much love around us during our journey to have children. That's just been incredible. And, four or five years ago, when I would mention, “Yes, I wanna get married. I wanna have kids with Michael,” I always got amazing support, even on social media.

I can’t fathom what other LGBT people are facing day to day, especially those who are struggling to come out.

But it recently surprised me to see some negative comments in the midst of congratulatory messages that came through after publicly speaking about having children with my husband, Michael. I can’t fathom what other LGBT people are facing day to day, especially those who are struggling to come out. I’m very grateful for my mother — who upholds strong beliefs in her faith as a devout Christian — has always showed me unconditional love. I aspire to pass this on to my future children, as love brought all of our differences together.

Unfortunately, the political division has created this whole me-versus-you mentality now: Everyone's chosen their team. It's like football, when you choose your team, and you stick with that team. Even if you know that they're the worst team ever, you're still gonna say, “We're number one.” I guess everyone wants to feel like they're a part of something, part of a club; maybe that's why everyone's separating into these different groups.

So many people are so depressed with what's going on in the world, and they have every right to be afraid because it is a scary time. It's hard not to get so frustrated, and it's hard not to want to snap back at people's ignorance just to educate them. But it's a fine line between educating someone and arguing with them, and so we all end up doing this little dance, trying to figure out what we can say that's not going to upset the other person that they stop listening. We need them to hear us, though, so sometimes you have to calm yourself down just to make yourself sound reasonable to someone who may be struggling to understand you.

We have to continue to speak up. And, as a community, we're a very positive community: If you see any of our marches or parties, it's all about love and positivity. The great thing about the LGBT community is that we're very resilient. Even in the face of ignorance, we're going to stay positive. And things will get better, of course — it always does. If you look at all of history, yes, there are times where there's just horrible evil happening in the world, but it always gets to a better place. So we have to hang on, and keep resisting, and we'll make it through it.

Pride is an important part of that resistance: It's a way to just keep reminding people that we're here, we're queer and to get used to it.

As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.

Lance Bass is a television host, filmmaker and bassist for *NSYNC. His Audible special, "The Path to Pride," is available for free in celebration of Pride until the end of July 2018.