From the moment
Danny Roberts crashed into our consciousness in 2000 as
the “aw, shucks” gay guy on the New Orleans
season of The Real World, he’s had a
hubby at his hip. In fact, he’s had the same
boyfriend since he came out of the closet, which—as
might be expected in the age of reality TV—was
about two weeks before he moved into the Real
What caught our
attention about this reality romance was that
Roberts’s boyfriend, Paul Dill, was an Army
captain at the time. And as the two of them got to
know each other—with only a camera crew and an
audience of millions as their chaperones—we
were reminded of one of the real-life lessons of being
gay today: The military’s policy of
“don’t ask, don’t tell”
can throw a real wrench into a relationship.
Roberts was out
to himself, his parents, and the whole world within a
matter of months. But Dill had to hide his face when he
appeared on screen and had to worry that he would be
fired—or worse—if anyone noticed Roberts
at his side.
persevered and was even featured on another MTV show, Out
in the Real World, after Dill got out of the
military and came out of the closet in 2003.
Roberts, who spends a good deal of his time speaking on
college campuses about the dangers of
“don’t ask, don’t tell,” says
the policy took too much of a toll on his and
Dill’s relationship. The men, who are still
friends, split up this year. Now 29 and single, Roberts sat
down with The Advocate to talk about his new
It’s been a while since we talked for your first
Advocate cover story. What have you been up to?
After the show I moved to North Carolina and lived with
Paul. He was still in the Army for the next two years.
Ironically, moving in together was the beginning of
We could not live our lives. We could not be a normal
couple. We lived in so much fear. We were forced to
But then he got out of the military and you moved to
Seattle. Why didn’t it get better after that?
I think enough damage had already been done, and
Paul resented the fact that a lot of weird attention
came my way.
Was there a lot of jealousy?
I don’t think it was jealousy. I think it
was just being annoyed and fearful of what could
happen. He was afraid that the situation would get out
Let’s talk about your speaking career.
The number 1 reason the Real World
experience has been so good for me has been the public
speaking. It’s something that is offered to just
about every fool who’s been on any reality show. So
there’s nothing original about that part of it.
But I realized pretty quickly that there was a niche I
could fill. I could go to colleges and share my coming-out
experiences or talk with people about “don’t
ask, don’t tell.”
Do you speak to gay groups?
I speak to the entire school. Kids will come to hear me
speak about The Real World.
But…it’s a way for me to talk to them about
issues they know nothing about—a way to open up
What’s the strangest encounter you’ve had
on this tour?
Oh, I always have strange encounters. Some of the
weirder things that happen are when I’m in more
rural areas. Typically the gay ones will, as quietly
as possible, say hello and then be on their way because they
don’t want anyone to know that they are gay.
But aren’t there many who try to get you to go out
with them afterward?
There is that factor too. There are women who
think that all I need is one good night with them. I
tell them that I’m flattered but I think at
this point I’ve got it figured out.
Are you doing other jobs aside from speaking?
I worked in real estate for two years.
Did you have your picture on signs and stuff?
Actually, that got a little strange. I had a
little problem with people contacting me who
weren’t interested in buying homes.
You mean they wanted to date you?
I don’t know what they wanted.
I’ll just say there are a lot of lonely people
in the world.
How long have you been a bachelor?
About six months. Paul and I are better friends now.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t ugly
when we first broke up.
Is it difficult when he goes out with other people?
We don’t talk about that part. We have
our own “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
What are the benefits of being single so far?
I don’t think anyone truly wants to be
single. We all would love to be with someone. But it
is so nice to be on my own, to do what I want, and to
find out who I want to be. I think most people—as
singles—tend to think of it as a way to have
fun and to sleep with whomever you want. For me,
it’s not about that at all. In fact, I’m not
interested in dating right now.
I just don’t have a lot of room for other people
right now. Besides, Paul is still a huge part of my
life, and I can’t imagine dating someone else
right now. I think it will be a few years before I’m
Do you date casually?
How old were you when you met Paul?
Twenty-two. [Before Paul] I never had the
experience to really truly date.
So when you’re finally ready, it will all be new
to you. I’m a picky fool. I give
people about 20 minutes and then I’m, like,
“nah.” The number 1 thing that happens in gay
relationships is that people try to fill a void in
their lives by putting a person there. I was so young
and needy and insecure when I met Paul, and I needed to fill
a void. Luckily, I have learned my lesson. I’m
very happy with myself.