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Real gay once again

Real gay once again


The Advocate catches up with MTV's newest gay Real Worlder, a Southern boy who bucks stereotypes and defies labels from Marietta to Buenos Aires.

As MTV's mainstay reality show The Real World relocates to Denver for its 18th season (premiering November 22), The Advocate checks in with its latest gay cast member, 23-year-old Davis from Marietta, Ga. While a gay or lesbian character is a staple archetype in almost every season of the show, Davis wants the world to know he is no ordinary reality show fag. We caught up with him vacationing with his boyfriend in sunny Buenos Aires to let him explain in his own words his feelings about homosexuality, conservative Christianity, reality TV typecasting, and what it feels like to come out to your grandmother.

What are you doing in Buenos Aires? One of my really good friends is down here. Actually, it1s my boyfriend. He's studying down here, and so I'm down here visiting him.

Having seen previous seasons of The Real World, which usually feature one gay or lesbian cast member, did you feel like you were "the gay one"? Did that matter to you? I feel like they always have...not always, but a lot of times there's a gay character. And I had to do a lot of talking to myself, like, Am I only cast for this show because I'm gay? But there are tons of gay people who try out every season for this show, so obviously there must be something different about me from the rest of them. In life, I'm a real straight-acting kind of gay guy. I'm in a fraternity, I've barely been to any gay bars. I hardly even went when I was in Denver. Most of my friends, if not all of them, are straight. I have a few gay friends. And so, for me, I thought maybe I was being cast for being more like the "straight gay guy." They hadn't really cast a ton of those before. But I didn't want to have to come in and, like, come out immediately to everyone. 'Cause I felt like the guys would immediately label me as "the gay character." And I just came out a year ago. So it was kinda tough, coming in knowing that people are gonna expect someone to be gay, and fingers might be pointed at me, and what are they gonna think? And are they gonna still be my friends? That sort of stuff was going through my head.

So you were not out in the house immediately upon arriving there. No. I mean, I didn't come in and be like, "I1m gay!" It took some time. Unfortunately, because this is a show that usually has a gay character, people were asking, "Is there somebody gay?" And I wasn't gonna lie and be like, "Oh, I1m not," and then tell everyone a month later. So if I was ever confronted, I did [come out], but it wasn't all, like, [from] day one.

What was the response from the other housemates? The girls had no issues. In fact, one of them was craving a gay character. Some of the guys had issues with it, homophobic issues. I mean, that1s probably why they were chosen. I'm from a really strong Christian family, so we had a lot of talks about, like, "Is this a choice?" And, what are my views about, you know, if you condemn drinking in the Bible, how is that any different from condemning being gay in the Bible, when my Christian friends are drinking, you know? So it was things like that. One of my favorite persons in the house is one of the guys, and we have become really good friends because of it. So I don't feel like it was a typical "gay guy that only is friends with girls" scenario.

Talk about your upbringing in Marietta. I'm from a really strong Baptist family. My grandfather is a pastor. My dad and my mom met as youth group leaders. And my parents are both Sunday school teachers on the weekends. I used to work at a Christian bookstore in high school, as well as I went on choir tours and mission tours for spring break.The whole shebang. I was at church most of the days of the week. I was a really, really, really, really, really strong Christian in high school. ButI knew I was gay from about the time I hit puberty, and it was always a struggle for me because I felt like, This is so wrong. I'm going to hell. Like, Am I even a Christian? I was always dealing with that. You remember that movie with Mandy Moore about Christianity?

Saved. I grew up in that environment. So many people from my high school went to church. If someone was caught smoking on the weekend, oh, my God, they were ousted from our friendship. I was so afraid that if anyone found out that I was gay, I would be kicked out of the group. And I was popular in high school for the fact that I was a church kid and really, you know, good. ButI knew I was gay. So it was a really tough environment to grow up in, because you worry a lot about what people are gonna think about you.

So when did you actually come out? I came out a year ago this past summer. I went to Florida for college, to try to get away from the conservative South, and I thought, Florida1s more liberal-minded, and it was. I went to a small Baptist school that had lost its affiliation 10 years ago, so it wasn't really clinging to that anymore. And there weren't really any gay people at my school that were out, really. It was a really small school. But I got really confident in who I was, in the sense that I was popular, I had a lot of friends, everyone liked me. I was at a point where I could tell people I was gay and I wouldn't lose any friends, and it happened. I had true friendships that weren't based about religion and judgmental things; they were just about people liking each other. And when I came out, it was a really positive experience, and I got more popular because of it. And I got more confident in the fact that being gay isn't such a horrible thing. And I actually tried out for the show from all this positive feedback I was getting from my friends. 'Cause I was like, Wow, you know, this isn't as awful as I thought it was. For some people, this show is actually gonna make me come out to them. A lot of my friends from high school don't know about it yet.

When you came out, was it just to your family and close friends? When I came out, it was just to my friends. And then, as I got accepted for this show, I made a list of about 25 people from home who wouldn1t have heard through the rumor mill going around in college, and I called them up one by one and just told them. And I got really great feedback from my Christian friends. The next thing you know, it was like, Wow, my Christian friends aren1t really responding the same way I thought they would. They were like, 3I love you, Davis. This is an issue I1m starting to change my mind about, and maybe I don1t think that it1s a choice. Maybe I don1t think it1s condemnable to hell,2 and all these sort of things that I was afraid I would be getting when I was in high school. My brother had known for a couple years; he1d overheard me and my mom fighting about it, and that1s how he found out. And I told my mom and dad when I was in early high school, late middle school.

It's good that you took such positive steps to let your loved ones know before going on the show. I didn1t want anyone like my really close family to have to find out on TV, so I told them all. I even told my grandmother before I came on the show.

How was that? She comes from an older time. She1s not as religious as my parents are, so she wasn1t having issues with, like, "Oh, no, you1re going to go to hell." But she was like, "You1re never gonna get a job. People aren1t going to respect you. People make fun of gay people." That was sort of her thing.

What do you think will be the general reaction of your community when you go back to Marietta? I don't know. I have gotten to the point in my life where I just want to be happy. I want to be in a relationship with a guy because that makes me happy, and I want to just be proud of who I am and not ashamed of anything anymore. I don't really care what my friends from my school who may not be my friends anymore think.

What can you tell us about your relationship? We've been dating now for nine months. We actually went to high school together. We're from neighborhoods just down the street from each other. He's really into baseball, he's in a fraternity. He's sort of a guy's guy. I knew him in high school but not knowing he was gay, and I think the same thing went for him with me. So we were hanging out over Christmas break, someone mentioned to him that I was gay and thought we should hang out. I guess he'd come out to one friend, and that friend set us up. And then,through the process, he's actually gotten more confident and proud of who he is, and he started to come out to lots of people, and this show will be a similar experience for him, in that a lot of his friends from college and high school don't know that he's gay. But he made an appearance [on the show], so it'll be an experience for him. We'll be going through it together.

Since you're about to be thrust into the public eye, do you see yourself as becoming a kind of role model or 'gay icon'? Well, I don't have aspirations of being a gay icon or gay role model. I think I did at one point in time, when I was trying out for the show. I thought that would be really cool. Right now...I mean, if it happens, that1s awesome. I've always thought about talking to people that are struggling with religious families [and who] are having a hard time coming out. I have a friend in college who works with runaways, and a lot of runaways are homosexual kids who run away from their families because they1re afraid to come out. And I thought this would be a great experience for me to maybe...I don't know. I want to do something with it positive.

You've seen Danny Roberts from The Real World: New Orleans, and how he1s made a career out of speaking up. Do you see yourself doing anything like that? I'd love to. I'm a little young to watch Danny1s season, I didn't ever catch any of it. but I've heard a lot about him. People have compared me to him. But whatever he1s doing, I1d love to follow in his footsteps. Making people feel more confident and not ashamed about their sexuality, and if they've been in a place where people have really said negative things to them about it, like I have [been], I would love to be able to speak to them. I just think, once you come to terms with your sexuality, once you come out of the closet, it's an amazing experience. It's like a new day for you. This is day one for me for the rest of my life. I would love to be able to talk to people about that experience and make them feel more confident.

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