My interview with Deaf + gay Amazing Racer Luke Adams

luke-adams-interviewAbout a week after CBS’ Amazing Race ended one of it’s most notable contestants, Luke Adams sat down with me over a cosmo at Hamburger Mary’s to talk about the race. Luke was primarily labeled in the show as “the Deaf guy” but he is also gay, a fact not mentioned on the show. Towards the end of the interview we got into a really interesting discussion comparing gay and Deaf in regards to both identity and culture.

Myself: So how many times did you apply for the show and who did you apply with each time? And what do you think it was about this most recent application that finally sealed the deal?
I applied with my mother three times. I applied with a Deaf friend once. Well, it helped the most is that I kept sending the application in over the years which put my name on the producers’ minds and I knew they would like to have me on the show at some point. I was not sure [what it was about] my most recent application that finally sealed the deal. I guess the producers realized that I might be ready for the show or something like that.

Running across Novosibirsk in nothing but your underwear.

Running across Novosibirsk (Russia) in nothing but his underwear.

Myself: You seemed to be in good shape since you did the cross-town Russian underwear run in the snow and also pulled your mom in a rickshaw in Phuket, Thailand. What sort of training did you do in advance of the show?
I just tried to run few miles everyday and go up big hills every day with my backpack on. Not serious training though. I knew the race was mostly about mentally. It can tire you out pretty easily – the stress can really wear your mind out. I was physically fine on the race though. I took past racers’ advice which is that there is nothing you could prepare for the race ever! So, I didnt really go into any serious training. Just brushed up on a few words in other languages and studied how to read maps in case that we have to navigate.

Myself: AfterElton.com reported that several cast members were gay or lesbian but this was never shown on the air. How did all the various queer cast members come to learn about eachothers’ sexuality? And were you out to the straight cast members for that matter?
On [our] first night at the barn in Switzerland, Mel [White] (of Mike and Mel) walked around and telling people that he’s a gay preacher and an activist for SoulForce then my mom just practically blurted that I’m gay, then KIsha just joined and said she’s lesbian as well. It was a strange night. Every cast member are pretty awesome with it so we all are really lucky that we got to race with great people.

Much more interview after the jump!

Myself: I know you had spent some time living in Hawaii, where are you originally from and how’d you end up in the Denver area?
My father was in the military so we moved around a lot – when we moved here, my father retired so we just settled down here. I am not sure where I am “originally” from! I moved around too much.

Myself: How’s your the bird-bite wound on your hand? Did you have any other injuries on the race? I think I saw some sort of bandage on your hand during the final episode.
The bird bite was so incredibly painful!! It didn’t look like it hurts on tv, but it was! My hand felt like it was chopped off. I got a nasty cut on my leg when my mom and I did a coffin task. I got a cut on my foot while running in some old building in India. I had a lovely scar on calf that will haunt me forever since it was cut made by a surfboard.

Myself: Honestly the only thing stopping me from auditioning for the race is the eating challenges, those just turn my stomach. And there’s Jen’s fear of water which posed a big hurdle during one roadblock. Were there any sort of challenges you were dreading or would be terrified of?
That’s a great question. I was really scared that there might be a challenge where one of us might have to be buried alive. I’m really afraid of being buried alive because if it does ever happen then I would try to yell for a help and I would never know if someone is coming to rescue me or not since I can not hear. That is what I was afraid of on the race but I was so glad it didn’t happen.
Myself: Did you mention that fear in your application for the show?
No. If I did that then the producers might try to find a way to put that as a challenge!

Myself: Did you have any sort of weekly viewing party to watch the show? And what’d you do for the finale?
Yeah, we hosted a weekly party at the Old Chicago restaurant – it was really nice to see the Deaf community coming out to be with my family and friends for the support. For the finale, we went to NYC for reunion weekend. It was a lot of fun. CBS held a red carpet party right before the finale show aired. It was really nice to see everyone there and meeting a lot of fans.

Myself: Reichen Lehmkuhl (winner of season 4) leveraged his notoriety from the race to turn himself into a celebrity within the gay community and now does paid appearances at events like Telluride gay ski week. This question may be premature but do you think the same is in store for you with regards to the Deaf community? Would you even want that?
I hope so. It’d be nice if I get to be the advocate for the Deaf community. I have been asked to attend a couple schools next week to talk about my experience on the Amazing Race so that’s a good start. I never really dreamt something like that would happen but it is! I’m just excited that I am able to inspire a lot of people now and I hope I’ll be able to continue to inspire more people in the future.

Myself: Are there any interview questions you’re totally sick of?
Honestly? The fight between me and Jen. Everybody was really dying to know more about what really happened between Jen and me. That day was just CRAZY. We had a bad night before the fight. We stayed up on the mountains and slept in the tent. It was so windy, cold, and rainy. Ah well. At least, it made a good drama show, I guess.

Myself: How has your reception different between the gay media and Deaf media?
One big difference is that the Deaf community has reached out and supported me during the season and the gay community didn’t because they didn’t know that I was gay. Once the seasons over, the gay community just outpoured their support and positive messages out to me once they heard it was confirmed that I’m gay through the first gay interview [I did] so it means a lot to have that kind of support from the gay community now. It’s really nice to have a big support from both communities! I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Myself: Viewers saw were troubled by the all the child poverty in India. What experience in your travels had the most profound and world-view changing effect on you?
I would say India. Because it made me realize how lucky I am to have a nice life and have a roof to live under.


Working for change as street performers in India.

Myself: So I hear you’re looking for a BF. If any of our attractive and eligible readers here in CO want to get in contact with you what’s the best way?
Facebook is the best way to contact, I guess.

Myself: Was there anything that happened during the race itself that you’re not happy with how it was portrayed by the editors?
I’m happy with the show overall except for the part where it looked like that I tried to run Jen over with my bike in Beijing which was not on purpose at all. They chose to run front of me. If I really wanted to run over her, I would have done it! And, the other part is at the airport where I “shoved” Kisha. It was totally an accident. If you watch that part again, you’ll see that my head was completely turned away from the sisters and soon as I saw a cab, I just bolted, [Kisha and Jen] just happened to walk into my way. I didn’t hear them walking so I didn’t mean to push Kisha. Just that I didn’t see or hear them coming into my way. It was 100% accidental. The editors were trying to make the fight between me and the sisters [Kisha and Jen] way more over-dramatic than is necessary. Also, there was a part that wasn’t shown on the show was the Blind U-Turn, we had an alliance with Cara+Jaime and Victor+Tammy, we all agreed that whoever gets to U-Turn first will use u-turn on either Mike + Mel or Amanda + Kris to buy our alliance more time to complete the task. People didn’t see that part when we made that agreement. That’s a reason why my mom and I did the Blind U-Turn since we were the first team to get there.

Myself: My mother and I are super close and were both absolutely horrified when you said at the finale that many parents of Deaf children don’t learn to sign. Does the rest of your family sign and can you elaborate about this phenomenon?
Yeah, my parents and sister know sign language which I was really very lucky to have them. A lot of Deaf children with hearing parents don’t know sign language which is really sad. I cannot speak on behalf of the parents who don’t learn sign language but I think that the parents either feel ashamed that their kid is “disabled” or think it’s really hard to learn sign language so they did not bother to learn. A lot of Deaf kids are really struggling with that situtation. I think it’s a big problem that there’s no kind of service which provides information and help for the parents of Deaf children on what they should do or be aware of. Most of the time, the parents don’t know who they can turn to so that could be a reason why.

Myself: Many segments of the LGBT population face unique challenges. Are there any unique challenges faced by Deaf LGBT youth?
Fewer dating options!!! Because not a lot of gay guys know sign language so it could tough when it comes down to dating scene. Especially that gay and Deaf community is pretty small.
Myself: You don’t have to answer but have you dated both?
Yeah, I have.
Myself: Sorry I just want to clarify the meaning of “both.” You meant you’ve dated both Deaf and hearing guys, not guys and girls?
Myself: Oh so never a girl?
I had a girlfriend in high school, but it was never serious. She was wondering why I didn’t get serious with her. As soon as she heard that I’m gay then she was like, “oh that’s why!”

Myself: I thought it was really cute in the AfterElton.com interview how your mom said “finally!” when you came out to her.
Yeah, I wish she told me that I’m gay instead of have to figure it out for a year! I think my mom secretly wishes that she has a gay son because she loves to shop but it turned out that I don’t like to shop so she’s disappointed and said, “You’re the gay person with worst taste!”

Myself: And based on a challenge in China where you put on theater makeup you’re terrible at drag makeup too.
Oh yeah, it was sooooo bad. After we did that challenge we were like, I should have done a man’s makeup on her and she should have done woman’s makeup on me. It would have been a lot easier for me. But, I don’t think I wanted to run around in Beijing looking like a woman!

Margie applying makeup to Luke.  Margie had remarked Luke made her look like a drag queen.

Margie applying makeup to Luke. Margie had remarked Luke made her look like a drag queen.

Myself: AfterElton.com’s interview had the really touching story of you coming out to your mom. Are there any other interesting coming out stories from when you came out to your family or close friends?
I have like over 20 first cousins in my family. I’m the first Deaf in the family and I’m the first gay in the family. My cousins were like quit hogging “to be the first at everything!” it’s kind of funny because I happened to be the first one to be on the reality show.

Myself: Since you weren’t portrayed as gay on the show have there been any instances were people assume you’re straight?
Yeah, some people thought that I’m “in love with Cara and Jaime!” [“The redheads”]

Myself: As a gay person is there anything you wish you could change about Deaf culture or change about gay culture?
Just that I wish more people were accepting of gay culture because [on the race] I have seen men holding hands together in other countries.

Myself: The producers gave you the label “Deaf” but you also wanted the label of “gay.” If you had gotten both, which order would you want them written in?
That’s a good question. Never really thought of it actually. I probably would go as Deaf and gay person because I was born Deaf first then I became gay later on.

Myself: I’m glad you liked that question I was worried you were getting tired of questions about identity and community in regards to being Deaf and gay.
No I think it’s important to teach people about the gay + Deaf community

Margie and Luke at the finish line in Hawaii

Margie and Luke at the finish line in Hawaii.

All photos from “The Amazing Race” at CBS.com.


2 Responses to “My interview with Deaf + gay Amazing Racer Luke Adams”

  1. 1 Rob
    May 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2 Kelly Thomas
    May 31, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I enjoyed Season 14, overall my favorite team was Mike and Mel White. I am also a big fan of Kynt and Vyxsin too. You mentioned that Reichen has become a “post race celebrity” but Kynt and Vyxsin have blown him away.

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