Greg Congdon, the now-former northern Pennsylvania high school athlete who was ostracized and bullied by wrestling and football teammates and coaches after being outed in 1998, but embraced and celebrated by the gay community as an overnight out teen athlete, says that when he disappeared from public life in 2004 after the pressure and attention became too much, he “would drink a liter [of rum] a night” to cope with his bitterness. “I never expected to be a spokesman,” he tells Outsports in his first interview in nine years. “Everything happened too fast. I never had time to sit down and just think about it all. And when I did sit down to think about, that’s when the bitterness came. And then I was getting e-mails from teens who were going through similar situations. It was a feeling of anger, bitterness and being powerless. And then I started going to parties and started drinking. Once I started drinking I realized that gets rid of those feelings pretty quick.” And after ranting on the web that he was opposed to gay marriage, he’s since come around.
How was Greg forced out of the closet? After a suicide attempt with his mother’s (actually harmless) medication landed him in juvenile psych ward, he confessed to a police officer why he tried taking his own life. The nurse noted down the reason, and by the time Greg made it back to school, everyone knew, including his best friend who, from ages 13-15, he carried on a sexual relationship with until the other boy declared he was straight. It wouldn’t be his only suicide attempt, thanks to the bullying he faced by his football team’s quarterback.
“My biggest mistake when I was young and doing the interviews, being naïve, I thought the gay rights movements should have been more focused on the youth and the suicides that were going on,” he says, not exactly wrong. “And I basically came out against gay marriage, saying it was a back-burner issue. But now that I am older, I realize how important it is. I don’t plan on getting married any time soon. But I see how it is an important issue and how it could improve situations in high school. Whatever issue you take on could help another issue down the road.”
Now living in Elmira, New York, and working as a debt collector, Congdon says he’s “very happy.” And he’s put down the sauce. He switched to Diet Pepsi.