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> BY Mike Bahr

Echo V: The World’s First All Openly Gay Boy Band

Jay, Mike, Randy, Devin and Gama are ECHO V. By all outward appearances, they seem to be the typical boy band with good looks, lush harmonies and killer choreography, but they have one important difference: They’re all gay. Their debut single, “Rainbow,” available via their website, echovmusic.info, is a fun, high-energy pop anthem that reflects their decision to be out about their sexuality. “Our hope is that the song inspires people to stand up and claim their truth, be happy with who they are and find comfort in the fact that they are not alone,” says Jay. We spoke with all of the guys of ECHO V about their unique coming out experiences.

MIKE

When did you know you were gay?
I became fully aware of it in high school, around 15 or 16 years old.
What specific challenges did you face coming out?
The biggest challenge was reconciling my changing identity with the person people expected of me.

Who did you come out to first?
One of my best friends I had known since I was 10 years old.

Whose reaction surprised you most?
My ex. I really liked her. I told her that I liked men too. She basically said she wasn’t comfortable dating a guy like that. That was a big wake up call for me.

What impact has coming out had on your life?
I’m lucky in that I have spent a large portion of my young adult life living in Los Angeles. This city is extremely accepting and inclusive. I don’t so much feel an obstacle in being gay.

Are there negative aspects to coming out?
I’m of the philosophy that the whole idea of “coming out” is a bit tired. By having a “coming out,” it perpetuates a world where heterosexuality is the norm, when in fact there is no norm! Do straight people come out as straight? No. So why should we have to?

How out are you? Do you practice PDA?
I’m not huge on PDA. My parents weren’t big either. I don’t recall seeing them kiss, hug or hold hands. And neither of my two siblings are super affectionate. I think it’s a nurture thing for me.

DEVIN

When did you know you were gay?
I figured out I was attracted to men around third grade, but I lied to myself about my own identity until I came to terms with it myself, which was around freshman year of high school.

What specific challenges did you face coming out?
Trying to keep track of who I told and who I didn’t, as to not out myself to people who I wasn’t comfortable telling yet.

Who did you come out to first?
I wasn’t very good at hiding things when I was young, so a lot of the time, I would say something or do something to completely blow my straight cover.

Whose reaction surprised you most?
I’d have to say my parents’ reaction surprised me most, specifically my dad (who passed last year), because he was accepting and supportive.

What impact has coming out had on your life?
I am always surprised how inquisitive straight guys get about gay culture.

Are there negative aspects to coming out?
To me, there are no negative aspects of coming out.
How out are you? Do you practice PDA (public displays of affection)?
I’m so out it’s not funny, I usually make sure people know I’m gay within the first five minutes of meeting them. And I’m sooooooo big on PDA!

RANDY

When did you know you were gay?
When I started to have a crush on my best friend in middle school.

What specific challenges did you face coming out?
The fear that friends and loved ones would not accept for who I really was.

Who did you come out to first?
My mom. She thought it was a phase that I would get over. She now knows the truth. She is supportive of everything I do. That why all I do is for her.

Whose reaction surprised you most?
My ex-girlfriend. She couldn’t believe that I was gay. Even after knowing I was gay, she still tried to get back with me.

What impact has coming out had on your life?
It has empowered me to accept and love myself for who I am. Once I learned to love myself, the world’s opinion of me didn’t matter anymore.

Are there negative aspects to coming out?
Some people don’t have an option to come out due to their living situation. I advise people to wait until they are someplace safe.

How out are you? Do you practice PDA?
I’m out, but not flaming out. [laughs] I do believe in PDA. I’m the type of person to express the love I feel inside. There is a joy in showing the world that love is for all.

GAMA

When did you know you were gay?
I believe I was born this way, so I guess I always kinda knew.

What specific challenges did you face coming out?
Coming out to my parents and having that awkward conversation.

Who did you come out to first?
I don’t exactly remember.
Maybe it was to a high school friend? Coming out to myself was a crazy experience, for sure. I had a hard time accepting it.

Whose reaction surprised
you most?
I think my older brother’s reaction surprised me the most, because I was sweating what he would say. He was actually very cool and supportive about my being gay. It went way better than expected.

What impact has coming
out had on your life?
Once you come out, you are able to be your true self. It’s the best thing you can do.

Are there negative aspects
to coming out?
There could be, because other people can be judgmental and homophobic.

How out are you?
Do you practice PDA?
I’m very private when it comes to my personal life. I feel there is a place and time for everything, and I prefer affection to be in private.

JAY

When did you know you were gay?
When I was in daycare, my first crush was on a boy.

What specific challenges did you face coming out?
I would say my challenges were probably very similar to most young, gay, black men in the Bible Belt of the South.

Who did you come out to first?
My mother. The first time I tried to come out to my mother, she ignored it. When I was 14 I decided to be a bit bold and shout it at her. This didn’t play out too well. My mother reacted by punching me and crying. Our relationship is much better now, and my mother even asks me questions about my life.

Whose reaction surprised you most?
After my mother’s reaction, I probably only told four other people while I was still in that town.

What impact has coming out had on your life?
I’ve always been a bit off to myself. That has not changed.

Are there negative aspects to coming out?
The only negative I see to coming out is how people will treat you. Prepare yourself for the worst. Be thankful for the amazing people you meet, and forget those who hate.

How out are you? Do you practice PDA?
I’m as out as can be. I do practice PDA. I love the person I’m with and don’t believe there is any reason, at any time, to not show it.

Visit echovmusic.info

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