Those who say breaking up is hard to do have obviously never tried coming out. Even with the government relaxing on policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and influential states such as New York legalizing same-sex marriage, being young and gay in America remains far from easy.
Just ask 24-year-old Preston Charles, a former cast member on MTV’s “Real World: Back to New Orleans.” The Michigan native and current New York resident came out in high school, and consequently battled dual prejudices toward his race (Charles is black) and sexuality. As a result, he knows first-hand that the struggle for widespread tolerance is an ongoing one.
It’s why Charles and co-creator Shannon Mechutan developed the concept for “Coming Out,” a one-hour documentary that airs tonight on MTV at 7/6c as part of National Coming Out Day. The special follows 21-year-old Californian lesbian Rachael and 20-year-old Ohio State rugby player Nevin as they open up about their sexual orientation to friends, family and peers.
Charles, who also serves as one of the “Coming Out” producers alongside “Bully Project” director Lee Hirsch, spoke with XfinityTV.com about using “Real World” notoriety for good, relating to Rachael and Nevin and refusing to get complacent about campaigning for equal rights and acceptance.
Preview “Coming Out”:
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What made you want to use your “Real World” visibility from for a project like this instead of, say, starring in another reality show?
“The Real World” gave me a platform to express myself and put my beliefs out into the public arena. It took me a long time to truly accept myself for who I am and not what people expected me to be. That process started with me coming out. I believe no matter what your sexual orientation may be, we all long to be accepted. We forget that acceptance starts with yourself. The stories of Nevin and Rachael aren’t only about coming out to the world as gay, but accepting one’s self—something I think is relatable across the board.
How was it for you to watch footage of someone like Nevin, knowing what you went through?
I never felt bad for Nevin; what I did feel was a grave amount of respect. I’ve been in his shoes before. Maybe not his cliques, but still, I am very proud of him.
Do you think Nevin’s teammates were as accepting off camera as they were on?
I would hope. Often people fear the unknown. With such an open LGBTQ community, it’s hard not to know someone who falls into that category. I think that my generation gets that, and as a result, are much more accepting.
Do you think people misconceive the culture of acceptance as being more open than it really is?
Yes, I think we forget that going against the hetero-normative society we live in causes a lot of anguish for many people. There are places within our country where many individuals live lives of fear and oppression. We must remember that, for these people, every day is a struggle and everyday they’re still fighting for acceptance.
“Coming Out” airs tonight, at 7 p.m. on MTV. For more information on National Coming Out Day, visit here.