Keeping It Real

Before everyone arrived... before names had even been exchanged, members of The Real World: Cancún cast asked the gay question. They knew there was one among them -- and his name is Derek Chavez.

BY William McGuinness

June 18 2009 11:00 PM ET

DEREK THE REAL WORLD 02 X390 (RENE CERVANTES) | ADVOCATE.COM

The topic of sexuality came up almost immediately at your first group lunch. Can you talk about what it was like anticipating that you'd have to put your hand up as the gay guy? When we were in the airport in Phoenix, the question came up. Jonna said, "OK, how are we going to talk about that? Are you going to just come up and tell people that you're gay? What are we going to do?" But I said, "Well, let's just wait until it comes up in conversation." I think she just wanted to help me have it come out more easily. As soon as Ayiiia asked, "Who's the gay person?" I put my hand up and said, "Yeah, that's me." I wanted to say it there. I thought, Let's see what everyone thinks; let's see if everyone is going to be up-front with me right away.

You promised a true portrayal of yourself. Do you think others did the same when it came to talking about your sexuality? Everybody who I talked to from that first lunch and in individual conversations throughout the show was open with me. Everybody said, "Dude, you're the coolest gay guy we've met." They said, "If we got a really flamboyant gay guy, it would be so different because we're so used to you being one of the guys."

How did your coming out on the show compare to coming out back home? Coming out back in high school, in a town of 2,000 people who all know your business, it's not the easiest time. It was senior year, and I started seeing a guy who was completely open. I was still on the down-low -- still in the closet. I had a girlfriend who was one of my best friends. I couldn't tell her then because it was the beginning of the school year, and it [would have been] awful for her.

I tried to break it off with that guy. I said, "Dude, I can't do this." He said, "Well, if you're not going to tell anybody, then I'm going to tell everybody." So I thought, If I don't say anything then this guy's going to destroy it for me and will make my life, for the rest of senior year, [difficult]. So I told my good friends, and the thing that scared me the most was that I might lose those friends. And being from a small town, there aren't that many people. Turns out, they were OK with it. I didn't end up telling my girlfriend until I was leaving for college and we had to break up. She was hurt because I lied to her, but she forgave me. She said, "I want you to live your life happily as yourself rather than unhappy being somebody you're not."

Tags: television

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