'The Real L Word's' Romi Sets the Record Straight - Interview

Since her auspicious television debut on season one of Showtime’s The Real L Word Romi Klinger has been a polarizing figure, at turns loved and loathed by the show’s devoted fan base. And this season, which ended Thursday, Romi became the catalyst for frequent and heated online discussion about the B in LGBT.
By: Tracy E. Gilchrist
September 11 2012 7:24 PM

Since her auspicious television debut on season one of Showtime’s The Real L Word Romi Klinger has been a polarizing figure, at turns loved and loathed by the show’s devoted fan base. And this season, which ended Thursday, Romi became the catalyst for frequent and heated online discussion about the B in LGBT.

Through the seasons fans have seen Romi through triumphs and tragedies including getting married, launching her jewelry line HIJA por Vida, delving into the music industry with some dance tracks and an EP called Love, dealing with break ups and make ups and addressing alcoholism.

She’s also been one of the most literally exposed Real L Word cast members renowned for her hot and heavy on-screen sex scenes, having bared all in the series premiere in a scene with the show’s focal personality Whitney Mixter.

The Real L Word’s third season kicked off with Romi announcing she was back with her ex boyfriend Jay and ended with her Vegas wedding to Dusty Ray, a man she’d dated several years ago. In between dating Jay and marrying Dusty, Romi got back together with her ex girlfriend Kelsey, whom she dated on and of throughout the show’s second season. Collective outcry to Romi’s story came fast and furious once the news was out that Romi had a boyfriend. Fans of the show, via social media outlets and websites (including SheWired), fervently denied accusations of biphobia and rather called Romi  "crazy, a cheater, a slut, a fame whore” and so on…

Call her what you will - by the Real L Word season’s close, Romi’s story put the word bisexual smack on everyone's lips. 

Romi set the record straight with SheWired about her marriage to Dusty – and just whether or not she planned it for the same weekend as Whitney and Sara’s wedding—her break up with Kelsey, sobriety, the biphobia she’s faced since coming out, the famous strap-on scene and much, much more…

Thanks so much for chatting with me Romi. I know you are heading to Vegas for -

I’m here for Gay Days. It’s a day after the finale (The Real L Word) so it’s definitely exciting just to bounce back with what I love doing with my friends and with the community. And it’s Gay Pride, and I want to be a part of that. It’s been my whole life, and I fight for equality, and it’s for LGBT, and this is who I am.

The finale’s big reveal was that you married Dusty in Vegas. What sort of feedback, backlash, positive reinforcement, have you gotten since it aired?

It’s really crazy – there’s the support and people saying we love you no matter what and we appreciate what you’re fighting for, and then there’s just been the absolutely horrendous comments that are literally insulting me down to the style of my wedding, the choice of how I got married, the fact that I got married in Vegas, the fact that I got married to a man.

And my argument is that it’s my love, it’s my wedding, it’s my marriage – I’m not judging yours. And at the same time they’re telling me, by me getting married that I am telling them that, pretty much, I don’t care about their rights. And, you know, Whitney and Sara got married. Does that mean, because it’s not legal here, that they didn’t care about people’s rights? Cori and Kacy got married. They did that for themselves and for their love, and some people may choose not to. If you want to get married, and it’s what you choose for your relationship, that’s all that you’re doing it for. I don’t think that Whitney and Sara got married so that they could stand up for the entire community. I think they got married because they wanted to for themselves. And so did I. And we didn’t get married on the same weekend. You know, it’s a television show.

In watching the finale it did kind of look like there was some creative editing for impact. The editing was…

Really active this season. And it’s very hurtful because I’m such an open book, and anyone who knows me knows that. Showtime knows that, and so I really do open up with every aspect of my life, and when you’re somebody like that, when you’re limited to 10 minutes (of air time) each week it gives almost too much material that’s going to come off wrong.

Tell me about the biphobia you’ve encountered since the start of the season.

It’s incredibly strong. And people are saying it’s not that we don’t like you because you’re bi, we don’t like you because you’re crazy. But then the comments that are being written to me are about penis, are about a man. And during the season, when I was with Kelsey, I got all of this love back. I mean, all of a sudden all of the hate that I was getting disappeared. “We love you, you’re back on our team. You guys are amazing.” They hated me when Jay came on the show, and then I went back to Kelsey. And then I’m awful when I leave Kelsey, and it’s not a bi thing?

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Commenters on various sites have also said that they are angry, not with your being bisexual, but with what appears to be infidelity and an inability to commit. 

Well that’s the thing. Whitney - and I’m not calling her out in a mean way at all - has been with multiple women since the show started. She has dropped a girl off, picked a girl up and been back and forth with Sara. They’ve been back and forth with other people on the show, and it was pretty much the story and her journey to Sara. And then they finally find love - which they really do have - after all of their journey, and multiple partners, and yet nobody is saying anything because it’s still among lesbians.

I have been in a relationship with Kelsey on and off for over three years. There’s much more to our relationship, and this is the first season that showed me really kind of jumping around with a curiosity and a search. And because it happened to be with men and women, I got ripped apart as a whore.

It was not a huge surprise that you were dating Jay at the beginning of the season because you were married before. Why do you think people are having trouble wrapping their heads around your story?

You know, I have a very kind of loud and strong personality, and I know that I’m not going to be for everybody, and I understand that. They’re not looking at a little bit of the history of my life that’s been on the show for two years. I was married before, and I didn’t hide that at all. At the same time, I was involved with women the last few years I was filming, so the show wasn’t going to focus as much on my history with men because it wasn’t relevant. I kind of ventured back into dating men at the beginning of the show (season), and all of a sudden it’s a shock to everybody, but it isn’t a shock to people that know me, and it isn’t a shock to my life.

I’ve had relationships with men and pretty much primarily with women for over five years. I identified as a lesbian, because at the time, that was the community. I didn’t know where to go. I was with women. I was dating women. I was in love with women. I wasn’t dating men anymore, and I found my community, and I found my family. And that kind of changed.

Rose (Garcia) has been an ardent supporter of yours, Tweeting to fans on your behalf etc…

Yeah, Rose has my back.

She’s a really good person to have your back!

She’s been the biggest support in my life. She’s one of the biggest lesbians I’ve ever met and not ever has she flinched or questioned who I’m with. It’s more about happiness than the person, and she makes anybody I bring into my life feel welcomed and loved. And Dusty – she’s the kindest she can ever be to him. He feels incredibly comfortable. And it is uncomfortable for him to walk around and have people making him feel like they hate him because, what, he’s a man?

I wonder if it’s not so much that people are necessarily hate  him because he's a man but that the group, comprised primarily of gay women, is just not accustomed to having a guy around. Perhaps it changes the dynamic. Has anyone ever expressed something along those lines?

They have, and you know what? I think at the end, when it does really all come to equality, there are going to be dinner parties where there’s a gay person, a transgender person, a straight couple, all sharing the same event together, all sharing the same night together, the same party together. It isn’t going to be segregated, and that’s ultimately what the fight is for. It isn’t to segregate teams. We did that (historically) because we had to have pride and a safety and a comfort, but to say that straight people aren’t allowed to come into the mix or that transgender people, or whatever, it is isn’t really evolving.

You’ve been called out for essentially accusing lesbians of being biphobic…

I knew going into this that I was going to get it, and I had heard of biphobia, you know, and obviously didn’t really understand it that much because I was so involved in the lesbian community. But I was really, really surprised at how bad it is and how much there isn’t a place for the bisexuals. Where is the support that you put the B in the LGBT? Where is that if you’re going to claim it, and you’re going to put it in there, and you’re going to say we’re one family? Is that only if I’m a woman and dating women and calling myself bi? What if I’m a woman that’s dating a man and calling myself bi? I mean, am I not welcome? I think it’s very conditional. I’ve got people that are writing and saying that my husband looks gay, and I’m a lesbian.  You’re asking me to support your rights, and you’re just calling my husband pretty much every awful gay name you can think of? None of it makes any sense to me.

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You recently did an interview with Ilene Chaiken and you said you thought Showtime wouldn’t have you back because you were with a man at the time.

I’ve never auditioned or put myself out there to be on the show. I happened to be on it because of Whitney’s little love mix her first season. I was invited back second season, and I was invited back third season. They called and said, “Where you at?” I was honest. Everyone said that I was trying to better my career. If I wanted to better my career I would’ve lied through my teeth all season and I would’ve just had a girlfriend, called it a day and lived my life privately. I chose to open myself up and be honest because I thought that, in the end, it's what would help people more than me just bullshitting through a season.

What’s with dating all of your exes?

Yeah, that’s probably something I should be looking at and talking about more than what sex they are to be honest with you. I’m not claiming that I don’t have my own set of issues like each person, but based on who I date and their sex, that’s not the issue. I’m very open about my life and my story and my struggles. Why I’ve run backwards (dating exes)? I don’t know, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that in the last few years just being in the media – and I’m not claiming to be any kind of celebrity or anything like that – just being out there, it isn’t easy to just go out there and meet people who maybe are in it for the wrong reasons. I’ve really protected myself in the last year with the people that are my friends and the people that I let into my life romantically. Because you know I learned the hard way.

There were a few things that happened on the show that seemed conveniently timed, including your break up with Jay and getting back together with Kelsey. 

I have to say this, and people must know, I am actually heavily under contract to what I can even defend myself in. I’m taking attacks on things that did not happen timing wise and I am not allowed to honestly defend myself. I can say this – and this is a fact no matter what the show has shown – I did not cheat on anybody on this season. I never overlapped and was always honest, and there was space in between each person. People have ripped me apart as a cheater, and that is all television. Have I bounced from one person and have I searched and dated a few people – three of them in the last year – that’s true, but it’s also been in the last year.

Did Kelsey actually dump you because she felt your energy with Dusty?

She did. She broke up with me, and that was true. Kelsey and I have been together a lot longer, and gone through a lot more breakups than the world has ever seen. That was not just the first time we got back together after first season. I think that she is very smart and got grown up, and I think that she took care of herself. I think that anybody who’s in a relationship with another person who is falling for someone else, or going in another direction, you have to take care of yourself, and you have to remove yourself from that. When she asked me if I had feelings for him, and if I could stop flirting with him, I was honest, and I couldn’t. And we broke up. I’m proud of her.

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Do you and Kelsey stay in touch?

No, we don’t, but I love her, and I’ll always love her. She was a huge part of my life. And a very big relationship in my life, and I think that she showed a lot of strength on her end.

I know you are restricted in what you can say but I want to be clear that you’ve said you did not get married the same weekend as Sara and Whitney.

No, that one I will say, “no.” And I didn’t get married to compete with anybody. I wanted to marry Dusty the first time I met him, and I am an impulsive person, and I am somebody that follows my heart. I am somebody that makes decisions like that, and if you don’t like me because of that, then that’s fine. But I don’t get married so that I can compete with somebody.

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You’ve been sober for over a year now. Congratulations.

Thank you.

You mentioned in interviews that opening your heart back up to dating men kind of coincided with your sobriety. Can you elaborate?

Like I said, I was raised for pretty much the majority of my childhood with women, and I’ve been interested in dating and seeing women since I was honestly like in high school. I think I just said I was searching for the label based on where I was at the time, and when it came to my sobriety and searching for myself it wasn’t about necessarily searching to get out of the community or to run away from it. It was just that I stopped partying, and I stopped being in a mix surrounded by things that weren’t genuine or real, and when I removed myself and spent quite some time away from it really got to know myself without self-medicating, I was able to see and start looking for what was really going to make me happy. And that’s the choice - when I said I’m not going to hold it to just women, I’m actually going to open my heart up to people again. And once I did that I was kind of searching for what it is that I wanted. If Dusty came in a female body, it could’ve been a female. It just happened to be a guy.

I imagine that first season of The Real L Word, the exposure and fans, was probably pretty intoxicating in its own right.

My life changed – it really did when the show first came out. The first season, and then the strap-on.

The infamous strap-on…

I was not coherent during that. I was blacked out, and people don’t know these things.

My actions, what I did during that (first season) with alcohol, and with the world watching, it really ripped my soul apart. And I had to make a decision last season if I was going to address this (sobriety), because I wasn’t going to be able to hide it from the world, and I’d already dealt with so much in that first season not knowing what it’s like to be on that show, not understanding how things were edited or how things were shot or who was using me to be on the show for themselves. I felt very used, and I felt very thrown out at the end. I became very scared and very protective, and I didn’t trust people. Rose was the only person who really had my back for no publicity reasons but real friendship. And I just got sober, and I did it on my own.

Are you friendly with other Real L Word cast members?

Yeah, Tracy and Stamie, Nikki and Jill I know well, Cori and Kacy I love, Franny I love, Saj I love, Claire and I are friends. The only people I’m not friends with are Whitney and Sara, and that’s for very personal reasons – I was closest to them.

My friends aren’t my friends because they’re on a cast with me. Everyone thinks I have no friends, and I have the most amazing beautiful friends I could ask for, they just don’t happen to be on a TV show.

How is married life?

It’s amazing. I’m madly in love with him. And we definitely are going through a lot considering that it all happened on the show - he’s not used to that. He’s pretty strong, but I’m very protective of anybody that I love. I know how strong I am, so I know I can take it, but I do get very defensive when you hurt people that I love. We have the daily struggles that anybody coming together has, and then to have it be so judged is going to be hard on anybody. But we love each other, and we’re happy that we have each other.

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You had a pretty rough season, at least from a viewer's perspective. Would you do it again?

Yeah, you know I think that I got on the season originally and said yes to coming back because I have such a crazy story in regard to my family and there’s a lot there that I just keep praying that the show will really tell the story to. I do respect that they’ve brought me on with the dynamic that I have, and if they brought me back, and it felt like it was right, and we were going to continue to tell my story then I would come back, and if they didn’t, then that chapter’s ended and then I move on to something new.

What else do you have going on in regard to career?

Rose and I have a Romi & Rose show that’s going to be out every Friday at 4 pm we start that next week on LATalkLive and it’s going to be a show that’s got the diversity of her, obviously a strong gay woman, and me being me. We will be discussing LGBT topics, love, pop culture and events and just having the callers have a chance to call in and ask questions as well.

What about your singing career?

My EP “Love” that I did with Dusty came out on iTunes (get it here), and it’s kind of a little EP of my relationship. We’re really excited about it – the song “Love” was played on my wedding last night – he wrote that for me for our wedding day, and we just we’re preaching love. He supports the gay community 100%, and he loves them, and he’s a very confident man that shows up to events with me.

I’m sure the boys hit on him all the time.

Of course, ’cause he’s beautiful. And he’s so secure, you know? He’s so secure, and he’s so supportive that I wish people gave him the chance.

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