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My Life, Part 1: Greg Congdon shares his story of being closeted...and being outed

Editor's Note: Greg Congdon was a high school football player and wrestler in rural Pennsylvania. He struggled with his sexual orientation for years until he was outed. It was such a touchstone in 1998 that it is our #83 most important moment in gay sports history. For the first time ever, Greg tells his story in his own words.

My life has been told in a nutshell numerous times through various articles. But I never actually sat down and told my life in its entirety. Growing up in small town America is not an easy task. We’re always the last to get the new inventions like the internet, HDTV, and all of the other things.

Growing up in small town America we had backyard football, wiffle ball and baseball. I can’t recall a day we spent inside. When those sports got old, we re-invented new ones like backyard basketball where tackling was allowed, and BB gun wars. Granted, as I think back, BB gun wars was not a bright idea.

I remember it plain as day back in firth grade when he moved into my class. A new boy from Norristown PA, which is right outside of Philly. Mike and I hit it off right off the bat. Come to find out his future step mom and my mom worked together, so our families ended up becoming best of friends as well. Mike and I grew up as close as brothers can be. Where one was, the other was. We hunted, fished, played football and wrestled together.

I will never ever forget when we were both 13, up in his room playing bases loaded on SNEs when our cocky talk turned sexual. We both lost our virginity that day. Mike and I continued our love/brother relationship for over two years until he decided he was going to started doing the straight lifestyle and end all sexual relations between us. Naturally, once that was gone the brother relationship we once had started falling apart. The only time I ever slept with a girl was when Mike’s cousin came over, and I thought/felt like I had something to prove to Mike. That night I slept with a girl for the first and only time. I knew then I was in deep trouble with my life.

When I got the Internet at the age of 17, I thought, OK this is going to give me access to what I have been seeking for a long time. Instead it backfired for me. What I was seeing was gay couples being happy and being able to be who they are. It had a total reverse effect on me, on what I hoped would open my mind. I knew in my mind I could not be what I saw in the images. Not where I was in life. Depression kept building and building until I could no longer take it. It’s kind of odd, that even after 14 years I can remember the night before, and the night of my suicide attempt, like it happened yesterday.

The night before, the wrestling team, which I quit the beginning of the year, named me honorary captain when we faced our rivals, the Canton Warriors. The following night I was swallowing pill after pill no longer wanting to live the lie that I had built. As I took the pills, one thing that entered my mind was not being able to see the Giants win another Super Bowl. Kind of odd how us jocks think. All I knew is the white picket fence fairytale dream wasn’t for me, and I had to end it.

Unfortunately that night I told some one in California what I was doing and he called 911. Those who know my story already know what happened that night.

Being shipped to a teen psych ward is some thing no one wants to have happen to them. I had one thing working for me though: The other teens woke up that morning to know that a new kid arrived during the night.

I was in survival mode. I had played the part as the perfect jock for way to many years. I could fool these guys as well, I thought. And I did. Donning my letterman jacket, I started flirting with every girl in there. I was not ready to face my biggest fear. But I failed at my attempt to hide whom I was, so it was time to make the best out of it. Most of the staff that worked nights were Penn State college girls. They often flirted with me, and I flirted back. In my mind I was going to make it through this and everything would be fine. Little did I know…

I remember speaking to Mike that first night I got home from the psych ward. He was hesitant to tell me: Kyle had told the whole school about me being gay. Mike also told me that no one cared. He was worried about me: Mike wanted the best for his brother, but he knew my fate was sealed.

You can find Greg Congdon on Facebook.

Part 2 of his story will be published on Outsports next week.