Discovery Channel's new show One Man Army pits four rough-and-tumble guys against each other in a series of physical and mental exercises to determine who among them is the most bad ass. On the series premiere last week that title went to Jeff Bloovman, a 29-year-old certified firearms instructor and martial artist' who is gay. Out chatted with Bloovman about competing on the show, his experience with DADT, defying straight 'masculine' stereotypes, and his support of raising children around guns.
Out: When I YouTubed your name, one of the first results was a video for something called a "Combat Cock." Care to explain?
Jeff Bloovman: Wow [laughs], by all means. That's a product made by a friend of mine. It's a morale patch made out of nylon that attaches to your gear to help you shoot more accurately and run faster. It looks like a chicken' but it's a cock.
Does winning the first episode of One Man Army mean you can invade countries all by yourself?
For me, it was a good opportunity to test my skills and see how I would function under the pressure of stiff competition in front of professionals and cameras. People have this notion that if you want to be a shooter you don't need firearms training. Well, that makes about as much sense as saying I'm a boxer if I don't go to a boxing gym. Merely buying a gun doesn't make you a shooter.
What gave you the advantage?
With the proper mindset and putting in the hours and training with the best, you get results.
So being the youngest competitor had nothing to do with it?
Age was certainly a factor. The Delta Force guy, Rob, who was awesome to compete against, was 11 years older than me. Someone whose profession has them jumping out of planes and hitting water -- that takes a toll on their body. I really can't compare myself to someone who does that for a career.
Advantage or not, your sense humor certainly set you apart.
Yeah, I'm kind of a smartass. I had an acting teacher who said that during the most intense scenes, if there's not an element of humor then people don't want to watch. I never forgot that because it makes life a little easier if you can laugh at yourself. Self-deprecating humor saved my ass more times than I can count. But I don't have an ego, at least I don't think I do.
Well you mention pretty early on in the episode how great your hair is'
Yeah, I have awesome hair.
Did anyone know you were gay during the competition?
It doesn't really come up in conversation. When I meet people, I don't say, 'Hi, I'm gay.' I think it's a personal thing, and if anyone asks what I am, I'm going to say I'm a human being because being gay is just one facet of me. After I won, the host, Mykel Hawke, said I surprised him because he didn't think I'd be standing there in the end. And he asked me if I was planning to join the military. So I told him I never joined the military because at the time I was pumped about doing it they didn't want me because I'm gay. He lost his shit and started laughing.
Does it upset you that people are surprised you're gay just because you don't fit into stereotypes?
When someone says they're surprised, I have a great line: 'Not more than I was.' I think that opinion is based in ignorance. Shooting guns and those activities that I'm into have nothing to do with orientation. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own personal protection. Gay, straight, transgender, black, white, Asian -- none of that has anything to do with the fact that you need to be able to defend yourself when someone is trying to harm you. That's fundamental. So hopefully there are some paradigms that shift because of this show. I have gay friends that lean towards masculine and gay friends that lean toward effeminate, but I don't care about any of that. Someone's either a good person or they're not.
In what way are you hoping this show addresses those misconceptions?
The experience speaks for itself, but hopefully people who formally believed the stereotypes will come away thinking, Well, he gave a good performance -- maybe gay people aren't so bad.
When did your interest in firearms and martial arts begin?
As far back as I can remember -- I always had an affinity for guns and was raised shooting responsibly. I then took it to the next level by getting certified to instruct and seeking the tutelage of the best in the community. My parents tell me that as a kid every Lincoln Log I had in my hand was a gun. They enrolled me in martial arts when I was seven or eight. But I'm by no means a master. I'm more a jack of many trades.
When did you get your first gun?
When I was eight I sat my parents down and had them sign a dated contract that when I was 12 I could have my first handgun. I put it in my drawer and when I was 12 my father fulfilled his obligation. Naturally, it was kept in a locked area but that gun was my responsibility to clean and keep in fully operational order. That's one of the great American pastimes: shooting and raising kids around guns in a responsible manner. It teaches personal responsibility. There's no margin for error so it gives kids discipline.
How did your parents react when you came out?
My family is extremely supportive, and I was really blessed with that. They love me for who I am and couldn't have been better about it. But I want to say, for people who didn't have that support, that must be really, really hard. A lot of gay teens are ousted from their families and that's terribly upsetting to me. It's sadistic in my opinion to do that to someone. You are born the way you are. There's no choice.
Do you take guys out shooting on a date?
Actually, yes. The person I'm in a relationship with now I took to the range on our first date. We had a great time. It was his idea and he has subsequently become a damn-good shooter. It makes me feel good.
Lastly, what are you going to do with your $10,000 prize money?
Unless something changes, that's going to be paying for my nursing school. I'm in EMT school now, and I'm getting my science prerequisites done for nursing because my degree is in criminology and creative writing.
One Many Army airs on Discovery Channel at 10pm ET. For more info on the show, click here.