For 36 years, I was scared.
Scared to come out about my bisexuality. Scared to live my truth because of what it would cost me over the long run.
I was stupid, I was young.
But now? I’m neither of those.
I am from a very strict Southern Christian family and every Sunday I sat in church and read my Bible as I was retold stories of fire and brimstone, told how I was supposed to live my life because that’s how God wanted me to live. This was my childhood, it wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but when you’re a child to a single mother in Georgia, you have to grow up very fast.
Growing up in the southern suburbs of Atlanta, I never really fit in. I always figured it was because I was one of few Black kids out of a class of 300 people at the time. Or maybe it was just the entire awkward high school phase. Then again, I was always told that things would change for the better when I got to college.
From age 18 to 20, I played college football at University of West Georgia and, once again, I felt as if I didn’t fit in.
I wasn’t Black enough to hang with the Black kids. I was too Black to hang with the white kids. I felt as if I was on this island the entire time I was on campus. I hated it. I hated life, I hated my own existence. And with football in my back pocket, I was too scared to say anything because I knew my football career would be over. Honestly, I was afraid that they would kill me because the locker room environment in the early 2000s was a hell of a place if you were an outsider.
Eventually, with my playing days in my rear view, I joined the fire department. I was too young to join the police department and I wasn’t ready to immediately get shipped off to war if I joined the Marines.
I made a life and a career as a firefighter for 15 years. I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself, but more importantly, I wanted to be able to provide for myself and whatever family that I was to have in the future.
When I think back on it, I always wanted a job and career that I could be proud of, something I can look back on and know that I’ve left a positive mark on someone’s life, even if they never remember my name. I even got to travel the world as a private contractor with the Air Force and lived in the Middle East. Being a firefighter was one of the best decisions I made in my life. And I would gladly make again because it was there that I molded myself into what I thought I should be.
All the while, I was still scared to be who I wanted to because of what it would potentially cost me: My career. My family. My friends.
So, I just kept my mouth shut and played the role of “The Good Son.” And I was good at it too; being someone else for the rest of the world while being true to myself at home.
It wasn’t until I was 26 and I met my wife and I came out to her. I was scared. I was terrified to say anything, afraid of the rejection and potential humiliation.
She just smiled, put her hands on my cheek, kissed me and said, “So?”
I never cried harder in my life. A 6-foot-3, 270-pound man sobbing in her arms. She’s been by my side ever since and I love her more and more everyday.
But it wasn’t until I found wrestling that I felt as if I was finally able to be who I wanted to be. It was with wrestling where I felt as if I finally fit in. I was accepted for who I was, not because of what position I played or what rank was on my collar.
It was wrestling that taught me that I could show the world who I was inside, and not only would I be accepted but I would be celebrated for it. I’ve always been an artistic guy, mainly with sketching. I love telling stories and with wrestling, I could tell the best story of all, my story. Every time that I step between those ropes I can give people a small piece of myself, put myself out there on display for the world to see and to know that I could be accepted for who I am. It’s humbling.
Wrestling, no lie, saved my life. A business that has turned its ugly head more times that I can count. A business that owes you nothing but will demand everything.
It wasn’t until recently where I finally found the courage to come out via Twitter about my own sexuality. It was refreshing and, more importantly, it was freeing. I finally was able to communicate who I am, who I was, and, from that day forward, who I was going to be. The outpouring from friends, fans and colleagues alike brought a wave of emotion over me like I’ve never felt before.
It was a relief.
A relief that I was still loved, accepted and that I still mattered.
The showering of love and support from people who I never knew alongside those that I did. The emails and the DMs about how much they looked up to me for finally living my truth and they hoped to have the same strength themselves was humbling to say the least.
I never asked to be a leader or a role model but, again, the greats never do.
My life seems to have not only turned the corner but started a new chapter.
I have an awesome family, a great job, a blossoming wrestling career and a life filled with love and laughter.
I’m proud of who I am.
I am a bisexual Black man living in the United States of America.
If you’re reading this, you are loved. If you’re reading this, you matter. If you’re reading this, you’re cherished and always will be.
Be good to each other. Life is a bitch, so you have to be careful how you treat her.
O’Shay Edwards, 36, is an independent professional wrestler. He is currently training with Ring of Honor as a developmental talent and wrestles for multiple promotions in the U.S. He can be reached via Twitter at @BigBadKaiju pr by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Story editor: Brian Bell
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