I’m From Athens, AL.

by Mark P.

I’m From Athens, AL.

I lived my entire life on the same street in Athens, Alabama. I grew up in an extremely conservative, evangelical Christian family. I was taught my entire life that family was all a person ever truly had and needed in life. I always believed that this was true, but what I have learned over the past year has given me the first-hand knowledge to understand that a family is not merely made up of the unit that you were born into. Family is all about surrounding yourself with people that you love unconditionally, and who love you unconditionally in return.

I have always known that I was attracted to men. I remember clearly having crushes on men and my peers as early as the first grade. Through church, at around age 9, I discovered that who I was, who I am, is not acceptable to my family and all of the “Christian” people in my life. Around age 11, I became extremely self-conscious fearing that someone would discover me for who I really was. Between the ages of 11 and 15 I would periodically have what I can only call breakdowns where I would absolutely hate myself and beg with every part of my being for God to change me and make me straight. I hated myself. Needless to say, my prayers went unanswered and I never changed.

When I was 15, I met a girl who was two years older than I was and we began to date. Although I had no interest in her physically, she was everything I wasn’t: funny, outgoing, popular, and extremely self-confident. We continued to date until I graduated high school. By this time, so much had gone on in our lives I felt as though I couldn’t leave her and with my strict Baptist upbringing, the possibility of ever coming out was not an option. We got married.

Due to everything that was going on in her life and my being gay, we did not have a particularly happy relationship. Four years into our marriage, we had a child. Two years later, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown and I finally came out…to everyone. The months leading up to my coming out were terrible ones for me. I got deeply involved with church and tried to commit every aspect of my life to God so that he would take the homosexuality away from me. I was an emotional wreck and felt like, and was, a liar.

The night I came out was totally unplanned. My wife, son and I had gone to church to hear my dad preach and when we got back home, I just let it all out. I told my wife, then headed over to my parents’ house to tell them.

The past year has been an emotional roller coaster. I have met an awesome man who I think I will spend the rest of my life with and I have been able to discover what it feels like to just be who you are and to live without hiding your truth. It is fantastic. On the down side, I get to see my son only 8 days a month and I have to deal with a very bitter and angry ex-wife on a daily basis. Things with my family are not good and I believe that they never will be. They cannot accept that I am gay and they believe with their whole hearts that it is all my choice and that I am going to burn in hell for all eternity.

I wanted to say all of that to simply say this; your family is who you make it. Do not sacrifice yourself for others because if they do not love you for who you are they aren’t worth having around anyway. I love my son with my whole heart and do not regret him for a minute and I would never change my past because that would mean a future without him. For those of you who do have extremely conservative families who expect you to be straight and get married, don’t do it. It will never make you happy and it will not last. Not only will you be damning yourself to an unfulfilled life, you will be damning your prospective spouse too.

Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Be honest about who you are and you will be so much happier for it. Also, if you have a huge hang up with being an abomination before God like I did, I urge you to do some heavy studying and come up with a conclusion for yourself. Don’t let others and their ignorance stop you from being who you are.

I’m From Athens, AL.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?