School Ties


By Dustin Fitzharris

Then there is Joe, 'The Football Star' --

Many of the women on the show kept talking about how hot he was in school. Did you remember him?
I remembered the name. When I was a freshman I looked at all the football players because I thought they were hot. But I didn't remember Joe. I went through my yearbook after and thought, I wouldn't have been attracted to him when I was in school, but I bet because he was a football player, I would probably think that he was hot now. Football players tend to turn out to be bearish type guys, and that's the kind of guy I'm into. So, I thought I might find this Joe guy hot.

And did you?
Oh yeah!

What did you like about him?
Joe is a nice guy. He got along with me. There's one scene -- and I hope it makes it in -- but he had thrown something out in his back and Elena ('The Popular Girl') was walking on his back. I was sitting in the Jacuzzi and watching this, and I yelled, 'If you need me to jump in, just let me know!' And, of course, as soon as I said that the producer was encouraging me on. So I walked over and started rubbing Joe's back and was like, 'Can we get some lotion over here?'

How did he respond to that?
He said, 'Your husband is a really lucky guy.'

What did you learn about yourself by doing this show?
That I let how people treated me affect my behavior and my confidence in myself. This made me question that if I had not listened to those people and just had been who I was, I might have had a lot more friends in high school. It's not like I had this miserable high school experience. I started making friends in my sophomore year, and I really had this close group of friends by the time I graduated. I'm still friends with them today.

What advice would you give to others who are struggling with their sexuality in school?
There's always going to be people who are homophobic and will call you fag, but don't give them the power over you. There are people who will stick up for you.

How did you overcome the pain you endured during your school years?
One of the reasons I felt the way I did and why I didn't stand up for myself in high school was because I grew up in this really conservative, religious home. My parents were not going to be accepting of me being gay. I had to deal with this thing where the feelings that I was having were wrong. I shouldn't have them, so I needed to try to fit in. I ended up getting married. Then getting a divorce. I finally realized that I am who I am and there is no way I'm going to change this. I could still be married and be miserable my whole life and eventually my wife would be miserable. Or, I can be true to who I am, and if you have a problem with it, that's your business. I'm going to live my life.

How did your parents respond when you finally came out?
They were like, 'We still love you. We don't agree with your lifestyle, but we will always love you.' It's amazing how a child can change everything. When my husband and I would go down to visit my mom in Vegas, she always said we couldn't sleep in the same bedroom in her house. When we adopted our son and came down after he was born, we weren't planning on staying with her because we couldn't stay in the same room. She was like, 'You know, I prayed to God, and that's your business with God. If you want to sleep together..." Basically, now that there was a grandkid in the picture, we could sleep together in the house. They've kind of come around, but because of their religious convictions, I don't think we will ever truly have a close relationship.

Do you have any concerns about how the producers may portray you when the show airs?
I haven't seen a whole lot, but when I watched the previous season, one of the things I recognized is that they kind of want to tell a story with you. They definitely want to develop a character. In the end they try to wrap everything up so everybody is happy. I was never worried about how they were going to edit me. But John, I know they are going to edit out everything nice and show him as a complete ass. There was a lot of drama. After the second night I was thinking, I can't believe we've got over a week and a half left! There were a lot of good times, though, and everyone really bonded. We're all pretty much still keeping in contact. Someone planned a party for the premiere in Vegas, so I'm flying down.

And what about John? Are you still in touch?
I've had a couple conversations with John. We hung out and had a good time. Of course after it he called me and asked for money. But I guess that's John. He has some kind of money issues. I heard that from Tracy ('The Teacher's Pet') while we were filming -- that he owes people money. I did talk to him about three weeks ago, and he didn't ask for money. You know, he can be a fun guy to be around, but when he drinks, he can be an asshole.

After all of these years, what are you the most proud of?
My family. I never would've thought -- even when I was coming out -- that I would have the chance to get married and adopt a son.

High School Reunion returns Jan. 13 at 10:00 P.M. ET/PT on TV Land. To learn more, visit their website.

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