That Real World Guy

Sexy single artist and current Real Worlder Chris Beckman talks about coming out, getting sober, and the impact the show is having on his life—and on his great-grandmother

BY Paul Coco

February 01 2002 12:00 AM ET

The 11th season of MTV’s The Real World may be the gayest yet, with mischievous lesbian Aneesa and gay artist Chris mixing it up with five straight housemates, all of them young and model-beautiful. On the fourth episode, they all applied for jobs as lifeguards, and the network has set up a special Web page promising “hot and wild” video clips and photos. You get the picture.

But outside that amazing loft apartment (with Jacuzzi) in Chicago and apart from MTV’s mission to rope in viewers with the promise of pretty people sharing one bathroom with a shower built for two, there’s also a dose of substance, largely provided by Aneesa and Chris. As 19-year-old Aneesa challenges her straight roommate’s homophobia (lesbians turn him on; gay guys are gross) in early episodes, Chris has gradually come out to all his housemates—as both gay and sober.

Now Chris is watching the season unfold along with everyone else, gradually realizing that his life will never be the same. Advocate.com’s Paul Coco caught up with Chris just after the second episode of the show aired to talk about everything from his new icon status to coming out to his great-grandmother.—Editor

Advocate.com: As of this interview I’ve only seen two episodes of The Real World, but I was interested in finding out if you know how the show is going to be edited? Are you as surprised as a regular viewer as to what MTV chooses to show or not show?Chris Beckman: I don’t know. They edit it down to create a story line. Basically, I gave them a lot of who I am, particularly in a vulnerable state of my life, and I think that they’ll portray me accurately.

For good or bad, or both?For good or bad, or just focusing on bad and not showing the good. The power of editing, you know, anything could happen. For the four months that we lived there, they edit it down to about eight hours of TV time, so of course they’re going to skip out and cut through a lot of the things and show more of the drama. But all in all, I’m excited to see what happens next, and I don’t know what is going to be released.

So when do you see each episode? The morning before, so we have time to prepare our families.

In the first episode from this season, you said that you made fun of gay people when you were in high school. Did you know at that point in your life that you in fact were also gay? Oh, I definitely knew at that point that I was gay. I was trying to be so extremely straight. Being that person who was always pointing the finger at everyone else—it gave the spotlight on that person and not myself. I was trying to push off my identity crisis and what I was going through onto other people instead of just coming out then.

How long did it take you to come out after you knew you were gay? I always knew that I had feelings. I dated girls throughout high school, and I always knew that that something was missing, that something wasn’t right. After high school I moved out to Boston when I was 17, and going out there was a whole world that I hadn’t experienced.

You came out to your mom at age 18. Was it harder to come out to friends or family? And after, did they support you? Was there anyone who was uncomfortable with it? It was hardest to come out to my family. It was really tough. I ran from it for a while and it lead me to other things. After coming clean and telling my family, I learned that they love me and I’m their son and their blood and that they love me regardless. Not many people have the same experience with coming out as I do. I mean, my mother told me that I needed to speak to the family priest in the beginning to seek some guidance, but all in all, they love me no matter what. And because of the show, I had to come out to my great-grandmother, which you normally don’t do.

No, you certainly don’t.No, you definitely don’t come out to your great-grandmother. I had to, and she accepted me. Although, where she’s from, she’s like "Can’t you go to the doctor and get fixed? Can’t you get a cure?"

Being on TV puts you in an interesting position: You get to be on a popular show and all the cool stuff that’s associated with that, but at the same time you had to do things you never thought you would, like tell your grandmother. [That] has probably been the most challenging.

You’ve been very open about being sober, and you talked to Out magazine in their January issue about your party years and your decision to get sober. You’re 24 now. Did you start drinking when you moved to Boston at age 17?I started drinking when I was 12.

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