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Activist tells story of sexual awakening

In a small town in Northern Georgia, Danny Roberts learned every gay stereotype.

It was the fall of 1995, and Roberts was a freshman at the University of Georgia.

“At the time I entered college, I was very homophobic,” Roberts said. “I thought gay people were either pedophiles or drug addicts that lived in (Los Angeles.) My narrow-minded belief didn’t fit reality.”

On Tuesday night, Roberts, a gay-rights activist, came to USF’s Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom, where he talked to a crowd of 300 people about discrimination in the United States and his own life experiences.

Although he admitted he felt there was something different about him in high school, he said that he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.

When he was 19, Roberts, who had a girlfriend and dated various men while in college, said he was not ready to face the fact that he was gay.

“I had a girlfriend all throughout college and a pseudo-boyfriend at one point,” Roberts said. “But at that moment, I thought I was going through a phase.”

After Roberts graduated college in 1999, he said he finally accepted his sexuality and embraced it instead of opting to live a lie by denying the fact that he was gay like many others he knew.

“I accepted that the (gay) phase was not going away,” he said to a room full of students. “I met a lot of married men who were living double lives. Some of them had kids, but they were gay.”

Shortly after graduation, Roberts, 26, auditioned for the MTV show The Real World: New Orleans before actually coming out to his parents.

“It was Christmas Eve when I sat my parents down and told them I was gay,” Roberts said. “(Coming out to my parents) was hard and a work in progress.”The process, Roberts said, was made easier after his mother confided that her brother was homosexual.

“Knowing that someone in the family was gay made it easier for me to deal with my life,” Roberts said.

In the spring of 2000, Roberts was chosen as one of the cast members of the MTV show.

Before going away to film the show, Roberts met Paul, a man with whom he fell in love and who, at the time, was in the U.S. Army.

Roberts, who is still dating Paul, said that the Army’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy brought them a lot of difficulties.

“If Paul’s sexuality would’ve been disclosed, he could’ve been discharged and put in jail because of his rank as an officer,” Roberts said. “We couldn’t go anywhere together because we were afraid people would recognize him due to the show.”

Roberts said that Paul, who was in the Army for almost three years after the show aired, ended up leaving the service last year because be was otherwise unable to lead a normal life.

Last December, Roberts and Paul decided to talk about their fears of leading a secret life on an MTV special, which Roberts called very educational.

After sharing his life experiences, Roberts opened the floor to questions and comments from the numerous students who attended the lecture Tuesday night.

A student asked Roberts about the current ban on gay adoption in some states.

“The laws (that ban gays from adopting kids) across the United States have a lot to do with the stereotypes in the society regarding gays,” he said.

Another student asked Roberts about his thoughts on religion and what his reaction is to people who use the bible as a tool to criticize his sexuality.

“I considered myself a spiritual person. But I don’t associate myself with any particular religious group,” Roberts said.

“Growing up in a Southern Baptist family, I see (the Bible) as a great moral guideline, but it shouldn’t be taken out of context.”