Real World cast members to speak about LGBT experiences

By Shannon Failla

With its twenty-first season under raps, MTV’s “The Real World” has given its viewers plenty of outrageous moments to look back on.

The show has also shared many diverse cast members, and the Illini Union Board and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Resource Center will be hosting two of them this Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Real World: Brooklyn, the show’s most recent season and first to have a transgendered individual on the cast, introduced members Katelynn Cusanelli and JD Ordonez, both active members of the LGBT community. Cusanelli and Ordonez will be talking about LGBT concerns, their past experiences, and their experiences on the show, said Mariam Rizk, director of progressive programs for the Illini Union Board and sophomore in LAS.

“We are hoping to engage our campus, get them more involved and increase the dialogue,” said Obaid Sarvana, Illini Union Board President and junior in Engineering. “We are expecting a pretty good turnout.”

Rizk said the event would be beneficial for students and the community.

“Cusanelli and Ordonez will be talking openly about their experiences and they will be sharing their side of the story,” Rizk said.

With episodes from the season still running on MTV, viewers might be familiar with the pair and the issues will be “fresh in everyone’s mind,” Rizk said.

It makes a big difference when people have familiarity with the speakers, said Lyndon Stewart, LGBT Resource Center assistant director. He added that there are prevailing issues with the acceptance of transgendered people because they are underrepresented and many people outside of the LGBT community are not educated about this group.

Cusanelli was the first cast member to be openly transgendered. She discussed her experiences throughout this season with other members of the show.

“You don’t really see even representations in the media, especially not positive portrayals,” Stewart said. “To have somebody to come speak on that is just really compelling. It’s good to see.”

He said that even with the large student population at the University, there is little representation of transgendered individuals.

Aside from the transgendered point of view, Ordonez will offer his experiences with being gay and latino. He was the only gay male in Brooklyn’s cast. During the show he participated in activities at the LGBT community center while also opening up with the season’s cast about growing up in a single-parent home and putting himself through college.

The pair is on tour speaking about their experiences to various audiences.

Sarvana, who is also a former Illini Media employee, said that this will not be the last event of its kind, and added that students might learn something that they would not have had a chance to learn otherwise.

The event will be held in the Illini Union Illini Rooms. The cost will be $3 for students with an i-Card and $4 for the public.