Charlie Herschel of Survivor Gabon: Interview

You live in New York City. I’m in San Francisco. So, I don’t know about you, but I clearly enjoy living in my little gay bubble, and I noticed that at one point Randy on the show called you his first gay friend. What’s it like getting out of your environment and having to go through that whole ‘I’m gay’ and doing that whole 101 experience again?

They do extra scenes for the people who were voted off, and there’s a really great extra scene they posted today about me and Randy and our friendship. It’s pretty funny. He called the lake we live on Brokeback Lake. It’s pretty funny.

It’s hard to be the one gay person out there, but people were really accepting. I was there for gay pride and when I woke up that morning, everyone was like ‘Happy Gay Pride, Charlie!’ and Marcus led a parade through the Gabonese forest in honor of gay pride.

Unfortunately, I heard when Randy, Dan, and Susie joined our tribe on day 10, they spilled the beans that Kenny apparently had been calling me fag behind my back. That was like his nickname that he ‘coined’ for me. So, it wasn’t all smooth sailing and acceptance over there, but for the most part people really embraced and celebrated me, and got a kick out of my sexuality.

They would make gay jokes to be, like, ‘I’m cool with it.’ Like, if there was a stick floating in the river, they’d be like ‘Charlie, I bet you like that stick behind you.’ And they did these jokes to show ‘I’m comfortable with Charlie.’ I liked that. Dan always tried to flirt with me to show he was comfortable with me being gay. Randy, as you see, loved having gay friends. So, it was a very positive experience.

Obviously, in the beginning, there was some discussion of your, I guess, bromance with Marcus. Is that the right term for it? Or was it just a fleeting thing that you thought he was attractive at the beginning and then a friendship developed?

I think the technical definition of bromance is a friendship between a gay guy and a straight guy, or two men maybe? And that’s exactly what we had. I never thought I would be on a reality show and find someone who I felt I had so much in common with, and felt so close and bonded to, and I definitely felt very close to Marcus. We had a secret alliance for the first 10 days and then people caught wind of it. We were very close out there.

And since this is a site for gay youth, we like hearing about the path people take as far as accepting being gay and coming out… was yours drama-free?

It’s always hard to grow up with everyone saying you’re one thing and having to reveal to your world that you’re another. I feel kind of spoiled in that I grew up in New York City with my parents having friends that are gay, but even despite all that and being in an open community of diversity and accepting, it’s still tough. I can only imagine if you’re not in that community how much more tough it can be. I came out when I was 19 and my parents cried, even though they knew and loved gay people in their life and are wildly accepting. But you look at the election results (on the gay amendments) and you see that people aren’t accepting. So when you see that your child is going to have a harder time or not enjoy the rights that everyone else has in the country, it’s sad.