When Victor Genin was 15, he participated in a junior ROTC program in his high school. As part of his training, he learned to spin rifles. Which is why he was intrigued when he observed a friend spinning a sabre one day in the cafeteria.
"What's that?" he asked his friend, who replied, "Oh, it's color guard!"
Today, after around five years of competing, Genin is more than familiar with color guard. He's one of its top performers. Genin has risen through the ranks to become a color guard captain in the Cadets, a corps battling for the championship title in Drum Corps International. Viewers can see him perform weekly on Fuse's Clash of the Corps, a new reality docu-series produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which follows real marching bands and the lives of its participants.
LGBT viewers in particular can be inspired by Genin as well as the community he found within the drum corps. "They'll enjoy the idea of being yourself," Genin told The Advocate in a recent interview. The performer has been out since joining color guard, which he called a "very supportive program" full of "people who can relate to you." It was instrumental in his coming-out as a teen.
"I fell in love with the activity overall," he said of the sport, which offered him both community and interests he is passionate about. "I love performing, and I love the idea of telling a story through dance and manipulating visual equipment throughout the whole show. It was something I really got into, and I really just loved. I met most of my best friends [in color guard], so that's what kept me in it."
The sense of camaraderie is one that can be found among members of any competitive sport involving long practices and close quarters. Although many sports struggle with homophobia under similar conditions, Genin -- a natural athlete who competed as a gymnast in his youth -- said that color guard and the marching band more broadly have an accepting culture for LGBT participants. In fact, throughout his years of involvement, he has never encountered bias.
"I think, especially in the programs I've marched, no matter what you choose to do or no matter what your sexuality is, everyone is very supportive," Genin said.
"When I marched with the Cadets this past summer, there's 150 of us in the field, and I think I basically knew every single one of them, because we were so close and so welcoming to anyone," he added. "It's just a part of your family. You become a family member when you join these organizations."
However, the sport isn't all roses and sparkly batons. Clash of the Corps shows the real-life stress and conflicts that can come from these competitions. In an earlier episode, Genin has a small panic attack from the combined pressures of managing the other color guard members. There's also the added responsibilites of school -- he's studying science and engineering, with the dream of one day becoming a civil engineer -- and growing a relationship with his boyfriend, who also appeared in the reality show.
"It was just a really tough time," said Genin. He added, "Everything just hit me. I never actually stopped. So I never had time to just breathe. ... It was time for me to step back, take some time for myself, and get back into the season."
In this moment, the viewer also sees how supportive his family is in times of crisis. Genin, who moved to the U.S. from Brazil at age 10, said they were similarly sympathetic through his coming-out.
"My family is OK with anything," he said. "They've never neglected me, no matter what I wanted to do. It's always been supportive, no matter what. There was no issue."
Throughout the years, the culture of acceptance in color guard has attracted many gay and bisexual men, who like Genin found they could express themselves artistically as well as physically in the sport. But, citing straight members he knows, Genin does not see sexuality as a requirement or limitation for any part of drum corps.
"If you're doing color guard, if you're doing drum line, it doesn't matter what part of the sport you are doing, your sexuality has nothing to do [with it]," he said.
In its own way, drum corps is also having a coming-out moment. While cultural depictions of the sport exist -- notably in the 2002 film Drumline -- they remain few and far between. Battle of the Corps is unique in how it trains its lens on the lives of real participants.
"I didn't know if it was going to get a lot of publicity ... because I feel like this sport is very hidden," admitted Genin, who said he was initially "a little hesitant" to take his story to the world of reality television.
"In the same sense, I was really excited," he added, "because if they could get the name out there, this could really help out DCI and really help out the whole drum corps and color guard and marching band as a whole," since the show would raise visibility and awareness of the sport.
"I think everybody should look into drum corps," Genin concluded. "It's just an awesome experience."
In tonight's episode of the Fuse show, which airs at 11 p.m. Eastern, the Cadets readdress their routine. And the team's rival Blue Devils run into some issues within their corps that could affect their scores from here on out. Watch Genin and the Cadets prepare for a regional competition in an exclusive clip below.