Though a far cry from actually knowing a gay person, TRW gave me the opportunity to at least peer into a gay guy's life. It wasn't perfect. And of course it was overly glamorous and dramatic due to the MTV production. But I remember being totally engrossed in Danny's character. He wasn't miserable. He didn't seem to be promiscuous. In fact, he was quite loyal to his boyfriend, Paul, a closeted guy in the military at the time. I never saw the episode where Paul came to visit and his face was blurred the whole time, but I did see episodes where other TRW characters asked Danny questions about his relationship with Paul.
I remember the stories Danny told were fond and sweet. They weren't perfect by any means--their whole relationship was kept in the dark in Paul's life so that he could continue his job in the military. But they certainly weren't miserable or promiscuous or monsters trying to prey on young children and destroy the American familyTM.
Of course as a conflicted, closeted, Evangelical gay guy, I was completely afraid of being caught watching Danny on TRW. At the time, I happened to be a residence hall director director at my Evangelical Christian college in Texas. I remember I would use my keys to let myself into an unused room in a dorm that had a television. There I would sit nervously and watch TRW episode alone... and then tell no one about it.
Danny's not a "real" person in my life--I only knew him through a few episodes on a "reality TV" show. But even in that superficial setting, his story impacted me in a powerful way. His life challenged my assumptions, it provided a living example that what I was being taught from the Evangelical pulpits and the ex-gay ministries didn't apply to all gay people. In a small but significant way, Danny's life and his relationship with Paul challenged my convictions.
I just came across this video on YouTube: it's an interview with Danny and Paul several years after Danny's season on TRW had aired. Yup, they're still together. Together they tell a sweet story that really warms my heart.
I'm so glad Danny and Paul took the risk of putting their stories out there. Thanks, guys.