My name is Shawn Walker and I’m originally from Columbia, South Carolina. I can remember when I was really young at like 11 years old living in Louisiana. My parents were stationed there and I remember being in the living room, just playing around, just being a kid. And I remember my mother, overhearing my mother over the phone, she was saying, “I don’t want my son becoming any sissy” or something along that line. I can remember it was just like, how did I think that that was me that she was talking about because I have another brother, but I really felt that and it just stuck with me from that moment. Because of my religious background and my dealing with my sexuality, I decided to go to a university in Florida. It was a Christian university and with that experience, obviously the expectation is to be with, like, a man being with another woman and a woman being with a man and I just didn’t feel that that resonated with me. I can remember us having a–me and my friend–we had a, we had a little prayer group. We would meet every now and then just to pray for each other, just because we were, you know, brothers in Christ. So I came over to his room to pray and he dimmed the lights. You know, we kneeled down praying to god, crying out to God, and it just had me thinking I’m in this intimate setting with this guy, and it brought about all these feelings that I was trying to avoid, which he didn’t feel because he’s not gay. But I felt strongly, like, “Okay, I just want to hug this guy,” or you know, have more with him . It made me feel uncomfortable because it was like, “Dang, I don’t think I’m going to ever have this.” I really felt sad that I wasn’t able to actually have a relationship with this guy. You know, we were becoming friends, we were getting closer, but there was an end to that and there wouldn’t be any more to this relationship than friendship and that’s how it would always be because of my religious beliefs. After that experience I decided that this is who I am and it still took a little bit of weaving through but I wanted to be happy and I felt like God wanted me to be happy as well and he didn’t want me to suffer through life, and that was I guess my epiphany like that, I need to live my life. So I made a decision like, okay, well at least I’m going to see what it’s like and I went out and became what I wanted to be, you know: gay. I would go to Orlando and go to Tampa and online I went to gay.com, which is like, okay, gay.com but I didn’t know what else to go to so I would just, you know, go to their website, found a couple of people, got to know different people and explore myself in the gay world and not be so fear based on what I was told it was like to be gay based on other people’s opinion. And that was just really powerful for me and I felt, when I first, when I came out and I was going to Orlando, I felt free. It was just an amazing experience because I got to find out what I–like, I can love someone and be happy now instead of hiding, instead of struggling anymore. It was just, it was great.