GCN Radio - September 15, 2004
Transcribed by Vombatus
To listen to this episode, visit http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio
BRIAN: This is Brian…
JUSTIN: …and this is Justin, welcome to another edition of [together] GCN Radio.
JUSTIN: Well, here we are and it’s Season 2 of GCN Radio. Wow, Brian, was that a new opening?
BRIAN: It was, it was… I got a little creative bug as I’ve been feeling much better, and I thought, “Oh man, we need to do something cool as we start a new season”, and I put some quotes together from our previous season, and a little music, and there you go!
JUSTIN: Wow! Very cool.
BRIAN: It is so nice to finally start to get back in the land of the living.
JUSTIN: I am so excited—well, we’re all very excited to have you back. We wrapped up Season 1 in part because you were going into surgery for a kidney transplant, and so obviously you made it through!
BRIAN: I did and first of all, I want to say I’m very richly blessed by having people at GCN and people in my family and all my friends that really rallied around me and that kept me in prayer and stayed in touch and supported me and I’m very lucky. I was on dialysis for only five months, and that’s actually a very, very short time, so I’m extremely lucky. Most people stay on dialysis between two and five years waiting for a kidney transplant, and it was only because of the generosity of the lady who’s my donor, Leanne. She came forward and her kidney happened to be a match to mine and it really was a miracle.
JUSTIN: What a blessing!
BRIAN: I’m not going to mince words on that, it really was. And I hope that I can use this new lease on life to glorify God and do work that is really in His honor, because it is only by His grace that I have been given this chance.
JUSTIN: Wow, praise God for that. And how about your donor? How’s she doing?
BRIAN: She’s great! She left the hospital after just two days, and she’s looking great and it’s a really, really neat thing.
JUSTIN: Well, we are so blessed to have you back, Brian, welcome back.
JUSTIN: And I know this is going to be a great season. We’ve already done a lot of planning and it’s going to be a great season of GCN Radio, so I’m looking forward to it.
BRIAN: Well, Justin, we’re so excited to have as we open this season of GCN Radio, Andrew Hyde. He joins us from Ohio. Andrew, welcome!
ANDREW: Hey, how’s it going? Good to be here.
BRIAN: It’s good to have you.
JUSTIN: So, Andrew, you were on The Amazing Race on CBS and I know quite a few of our listeners have seen the show, but for those who haven’t, can you tell us a little bit about what that show’s about?
ANDREW: Well, who hasn’t watched The Amazing Race? Come on now! No seriously, basically it’s the world’s largest scavenger hunt. It’s a prime time TV show on CBS, and you have usually 11 or 12 teams of two race around the world from country to country, competing in crazy stunts and tasks in order to get to the end, which will reward you a million dollars. Now, I competed with my dad who is a conservative Southern Baptist, and I am his liberal, openly gay cheerleader son, so needless to say that is why we were cast on the show and we caused a lot of media attention for being on the show.
JUSTIN: Now what was that like? You’re traveling all around the world and in some rather uncomfortable situations, just in terms of climate, with your Southern Baptist, very conservative dad… how did that go?
ANDREW: It actually went rather well. When we were doing our interviews, we’d sent in a videotape and application off the Internet, at cbs.com, to apply for the show and then once we started doing interviews, and they were deciding whether they wanted us on the show or not, we realized that our relationship—he being very conservative, me being very liberal —that was going to be a big focus for our team. All of our interviews that we did with the producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, and the president of CBS, that was one of the first questions they asked, was, “Dad, how do you feel about your son being gay?” So we knew that that was going to be the main focus for our team, which made us a little bit nervous at first. We actually almost backed out when they offered us a spot on the show because Dad was a little panicked at first because he thought they were going to make him out to look like an evil, mean, overbearing father or they were going to make me out to look like the rebellious wild child, neither of which are true. My dad and I are very different; we’re night and day, but at the same time I think we both realize that despite our differences, he’s still my dad, I’m still his little boy and always will be. So we were able to put those problems aside and compete in the race. We’re family and that’s more important that anything else; it’s more important than winning a million dollars, even.
JUSTIN: How cool is that?
ANDREW: It was a very good thing. We didn’t end up wining the million dollars in the end, but we came back as best friends and that is something that we had never had.
BRIAN: I was, in fact, going to ask about the aftermath of all of this. Here you were just a guy in Ohio doing cheerleading and working as an AIDS activist, and suddenly you’re famous. It sounds like it’s been mostly positive, but has there been any backlash?
ANDREW: There has. Actually, of course, we were very nervous. I remember the night before we left for the race—everything was top secret; we couldn’t tell anybody we were going to compete in the race. It’s done by the same people that do Survivor and Big Brother, those types of shows, so everything is top-secret until the show begins to air. That was all… we couldn’t tell anybody. But we did have some friends over, and I remember our family sitting around the table with some of our very best friends and we prayed just for safe travels, for God to watch over us in everything that we did. I remember breaking down in the middle of that prayer, just sobbing, because I realized that I had no idea what I was getting into. I had never left the US until doing The Amazing Race. I was only 21 at the time, I’m 23 now, so I was the youngest person ever to do The Amazing Race, so that terrified me. And not only that, but I knew that I had never been out the country, didn’t speak a lot of foreign languages, and I knew that we were going to be jumping out of airplanes and climbing pyramids and all this crazy stuff. So I just had an emotional breakdown and just started bawling and begging God, “Just stick with me through this, because I’m a little nervous”. I don’t know what’s going to happen during the race, and even more importantly to us, we didn’t know what was going to happen after the race. We didn’t know what our conservative community in Kentucky would say, so we were a little nervous, but afterwards it’s actually been fantastic for us. I was still attending the Southern Baptist church that I grew up in and the entire church watched the show, and of course the gay topic came up a lot on each episode. Everyone in our church didn’t mention the whole gay aspect a lot but just said that they loved watching me and dad on TV, they thought we did a great job, and everyone was rooting for us. Of course, there has been of negative… a couple of death threats to my website, and just basic homophobia out there that’s always going to be there. But 99.9% of it has been very positive.
JUSTIN: There’s so many conservative Christian parents who have gay kids, and often the relationship just absolutely falls apart. Kids get kicked out of the house, and everything else. It’s such a great message that you guys were able to work together as a team through all of this, and show that you are able continue to love each other and continue to be a family, in spite of your differences.
ANDREW: And I think the thing that makes my dad and I unique is that everyone asks me… we speak at a lot of PFLAG meetings now, I spoke at New York City Pride, I’m hosting Pride Night at Kings Island, here in a little bit, and actually a bunch of GCN guys are going to go with me there. So I’m hosting a lot of events and speaking around, and everyone asks me, “So, does your Dad believe its okay to be gay now?” And I answer, “No, he doesn’t.” He still believes it’s a sin, and I of course have a different opinion, but at the same time, I never force my belief system on him. I believe that everyone has to develop their own belief system and stick fervently to that, whatever it is. I told him that in the very beginning when I came out at 17, is that I would never ask him to change his beliefs, I just asked him to remember that I’m his son, and that I love him, and that I need his support, and I think that’s why he’s always been by my side. We’ve never raised our voices to each other and it’s never become a problem like that because I think my dad definitely takes the Bible word for word, but he’s my daddy, so…
BRIAN: How about your role in the church, in fact, through your life as a child and now as an adult? How has that changed, or has it changed?
ANDREW: You know, actually, I think that’s part of one of the reasons that I sought out GCN is that I was, of course, always raised in church. Every Sunday, every Wednesday night, in the choir, did all the choir trips around and all the hiking trips and all the fun stuff, and that was always so important to me. My friends were important to me and of course my belief system was important to me. And going into college, it’s very difficult to stick to that, when you begin to have friends that aren’t as religious as you or aren’t as dedicated to the church as you are.
BRIAN: And there’s no one making you go to church, you know “Are you going to get up and go to church?!” You have to make that decision on your own.
ANDREW: Exactly! So I began to fade away a little bit. Then doing The Amazing Race, which was fantastic, and then afterwards I’ve been asked to speak at all these great events, so I just feel like me life has become very ‘gay’, pro-gay, very positive things I’ve been doing, but I wasn’t asked to speak at any churches, I wasn’t asked to speak at any church rallies, or anything like that. So a lot of my time and scheduling goes to these gay events and gay community social events that I’ve been asked to speak at, so I just feel like my life’s become more focused on the ‘gay’. Which is fine, I’m very proud of that aspect, and I don’t hide it, obviously I came out to probably over 100 million people, so no secret here!
BRIAN: You’re kind of out!
ANDREW: But now that I’m settling here in my new city, Dayton, Ohio, I’m looking to almost re-find or go back to my roots and find a place that I can be gay and can be Christian at the same time.
JUSTIN: Because you have national prominence now, do you think that people expect you to have all kinds of answers to everything, to be a spokesman for gay issues?
ANDREW: I do believe that people come to me for a lot of answers. I know that after The Amazing Race aired, I have a website, www.kentuckyandrew.com, and I began getting thousands and thousands of emails from young GLBT men and women—even adults—from all over the world asking how to come out, asking, “What can I tell my dad, so that my dad is going to love me just like yours does you?” And I remember one e-mail, in particular, was from about a 45 year old man and he sent my father and I an e-mail and said that he hadn’t spoken to his father in probably twenty years, since he had come out. His father had kicked him out of the house and they hadn’t spoken. But after watching my dad and I goof off together and have such a good time, high-five each other on The Amazing Race, he decided to call his dad. His dad and him were having lunch that following Friday together for the first time in many years.
BRIAN: Oh wow!
ANDREW: So of course, it just humbles you and knocks you to the ground. You’re thinking, “Oh, I’m going to be on this cool reality TV show, I’m going to be signing autographs, take pictures, be on all these talk shows…” And then I come back and it’s thrust in my face that there are millions of people out there who don’t have it as luck as I do. It just deflated my head, it brought me back down to the real world, and that’s when I decided that I’m going to use this silly, goofy title of ‘reality TV star’ to help bring some consciousness to this platform that I believe in which is 1) supporting our young gay community, and 2) mending the relationship between the gay community and the Christian community.
BRIAN: What do you say when you get e-mails like that?
ANDREW: It’s hard to do, to respond to these kids that are in such tough situations. It wasn’t easy for me coming out at 17 in high school in Kentucky, but some of the situations that I read about were a lot more difficult than mine, and the best that I can usually do is to tell my story, tell my witness, how I confronted my parents, and my brother and my sister, and how we were able to maintain a healthy relationship. Basically telling them to reiterate the fact to your parents that nothing’s changed. That’s actually one thing that I actually wrote in a letter to my parents when I first came out. I wrote them a letter that said, “Dear Mom & Dad, I still love McChicken’s from McDonalds, I still love Taco Bell and Britney Spears, I still love to go to Pizza Hut and get thick crust Meat Lover’s pizza…” you know? And I just kept saying all of these things that I still loved, basically to prove the point that I haven’t changed. There’s nothing different about me. I’m still the same goof ball that I ever was! And that was a huge, huge healing factor for us. Once they first found out I’m gay, they were thinking, “Okay, he’s going to become a drag queen, a drug addict, a sex addict, he’s going to spend every night in a bar…” They had all those horrible stereotypes that so many people have, and that’s why I wrote that letter, saying, “You know what? I’m still the same person that you have known for these seventeen years. Nothing has changed, except maybe who I date every once in a while, that’s it!”
JUSTIN: I think that’s a great approach. I really like that! You know, it’s a shame to me that publications that so often are interested in something like this are the gay publications, because this is an issue that affects both sides of the aisle. It is just as important, if not more so, to Christians who want to deal with this and it would be nice to see a lot of Christian publications jumping on this and looking at it and discussing at least, do they think this is the best way to handle it and why or why not?
ANDREW: That’s very true. I could not tell you how many interviews I’ve done with gay publications, gay talk shows, I have no idea how many… tons! And I can name one Christian interview that I’ve done, and I’m doing it right now. That’s it. It was like the church was very supportive about the race, “You guys were so great, you were so funny, Andrew, when you did this challenge so great!” But never once did they say anything about being gay, it was very much shied away from. And I think that that’s part of the reason that I wanted to do the show was to bring that out to the public, even to the Christian community even more so. That this is a tough situation that a lot of families are dealing with, and we’ve got to talk about this as a whole, as a nationwide Christian community—worldwide! How do we go about this and maintain a healthy Christian home?
BRIAN: Well that was my very next question, what’s it going to take for Christian churches to step into this issue? You were saying earlier that your church community is just avoiding it and focusing on the things that they feel comfortable talking about about the show, but they’re not discussing the gay issues. What’s it going to take for Christian churches to talk about gay issues in terms of, “Well, this is reality that we have to embrace.”
ANDREW: Well, I think it’s going to take a lot more time, and I think it’s going to take a lot more father and son teams willing to go on reality TV shows. And my point there is that it’s going to take a lot more people, people from GCN, people from gay groups all over to stand up and say, “I’m gay, but I love my church, I love the people in my church, I love God, and I love everything that being Christian is about, I love it, and I want to be part of this, but I’m also gay. How can we find a nice equal medium.” The problem is right now, obviously, is that its so shunned in so many churches that everyone’s terrified to come out and when people are terrified to come out, no one will, so no problem is ever going to be fixed, it’s always going to be there. We’re getting really deep here, we should talk about something a little more light! Let’s see… on The Amazing Race I had to ride a donkey in Mexico City for seven miles. I got dehydrated and then threw up on TV, that was great. I had to climb a pyramid in Mexico City… what else did we have to do? All kinds of stuff. I rode a Jet Ski in Cancun, played with dolphins in Cozumel, we had to drive a tank in Cambridge, England, climb a cliff in Aberdeen, Scotland, pretty amazing.
JUSTIN: I drove across town yesterday…
ANDREW: That’s pretty amazing too.
BRIAN: Wow! I’m going to go to Indianapolis tomorrow.
BRIAN: You definitely have us out-adventured. Well, we’re running out of time, but I’d like to just ask as a final question about your future plans, and not necessarily your schedule. I know you have a huge media schedule and lots of things in your life, but I’m asking more broadly, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” What do you want to do, where do you see yourself in the next five, ten years.
JUSTIN: We pride ourselves on asking the unexpected questions here.
ANDREW: That is one. Well, right now I’m working with an AIDS resource organization out of Dayton, Ohio. My primary job here is to work with young gay men to teach and educate them about HIV, STDs, AIDS, and things like that, which is a fantastic position for me, I’m really excited about that. Long, long-term, I want to continue doing sort of the social service work that I do now. Speaking with gay-straight alliances, youth groups, rallies, things like that, because I just think that we need more people that are proud to be out but also that hold themselves to a high moral standard. I guess a lot of people are out that aren’t exactly religious or don’t have strict morals and there needs to be more of us that can stand out there and show that we can be out, we can be gay, we can have healthy relationships, and we can also be safe and still maintain our relationship with God. So that’s one reason that I continue to put myself out there. I’m not seeking fame or fortune, almost everything I do is pro bono, but I just think that that word needs to be out there and that’s my ministry.
JUSTIN: Well, I am seeking fame and fortune, so anyone out there with fame or fortune… Well, Andrew, thank you so much for being willing to take time out of your obviously very busy schedule to do the show with us.
ANDREW: Thank you.
JUSTIN: And it’s great to have you around. I hope you’ll stick around and people can get to know you on the message boards.
ANDREW: Absolutely, I’m Andrew in OH on the boards, so definitely drop me a line anytime.
BRIAN: Excellent. Thank you so much for being on the show. And we wanted to let people know that GCN Radio is on the web at http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio, and they can e-mail us, Justin?
JUSTIN: Absolutely. You can e-mail your comments, questions, criticisms, and death threats for Andrew to email@example.com…
BRIAN: I don’t think I’ll forward those…
ANDREW: Thanks, appreciate it!
JUSTIN: Just kidding.
BRIAN: So until next time, this is Brian…
JUSTIN: … and this is Justin. Thanks for listening.