Keeping It Real

MTV’s The Real World has been a reality television staple for almost 20 years. For its new Brooklyn season, the show is upping the LGBT ante -- a gay man, a trans woman, a girl who's dated girls but is now seeing a guy, and an allegedly straight virgin who pings the gaydar more than Ryan Seacrest at a Jonas Brothers concert.




J.D. Ordonez, 22,
from Miami Beach, Fla., is perhaps one of TheReal World’s most accomplished cast
members. He escaped an abusive family situation and put
himself through college, earning a degree in marine biology
and working as a dolphin trainer at Miami’s
Seaquarium at the tender age of 19. “Some
people think I’m arrogant,” he confesses in
the first episode, “but I think that’s
just because I’m a confident person.” As for
why he auditioned for the series, J.D. says he wanted
to be a role model to show young viewers of any
orientation they could achieve their dreams. (His
mantra: “You can be in dirt, but you don’t
have to be dirty.”)

Judging from
early scenes, J.D.’s homosexuality appears to be a
nonissue: “I didn’t hide it,” he
said at a recent press meet-and-greet at the house,
“but I didn’t broadcast it either. It came up
in conversation and it was no big deal.” Of
course, volunteering at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
& Transgender Community Center and joining his
housemates at straight clubs like Angels & Kings
didn’t give the single hottie much time for
dating. (He swears there’s “no
validity” to the Internet rumors he was hooking
up with a certain silver-haired cable news anchor.)

If J.D.
doesn’t exactly rock the Real World
boat, housemate Katelynn Cusanelli, the show's first trans
housemate, is bound to at least make a few waves.
Raised in a religious Italian family in West Palm
Beach, she began identifying as female in high school. This
July she had gender-reassignment surgery in Thailand, and
she entered the house just three weeks after leaving
the hospital.

“I was
still in stitches when I arrived,” says Katelynn, who
left a boyfriend back home to join the cast.
“But my doctor said I was doing really well and
that it was important for me to get around.”

But why thrust
herself into the spotlight after just completing her
transition to womanhood?

“I knew
it’d be a stressful situation, but I realized I could
be a voice for the community,” she explains.
“There have been other trans women on reality
shows -- Isis from America’s Next Top
and LaVerne on [I Want to Work for]
Diddy. But they were competing for a prize;
their being trans was secondary. This was a way for America
to see someone like me just being myself.”

Tags: television