Mark Turnipseed is an openly gay triathlete, coach, and father. In a powerful new essay published by Outsports, he writes candidly about his struggles with addiction and how sports allowed him to overcome his demons and accept his true identity.

Turnipseed explains that growing up in a Southern Baptist household in Georgia required him to hide who he was all throughout his childhood.

“I started lying about my preferences around age 5, when the things I seemed to like weren’t the same things other boys liked,” the 33-year-old writes.

“Out of shame, I started to force myself to like ‘boy things,’ like baseball and boxing gloves. But then it got really confusing when I started to have crushes on my friends.”

Eventually, Turnipseed left George to attend college in Montana.

“Unfortunately, my lies followed me and I ended up choosing methods to avoid the pain those lies caused that took me into drug and alcohol addiction,” he reflects.

For the next 15 years, he abused drugs and alcohol.

Over that time, he became suicidal, received multiple DUIs, and nearly died after overdosing. He also married and woman and had a child in hopes of achieving what he thought would be a “normal” life.

“I liked who I had become on the outside–seemingly straight with a beautiful wife and a baby,” he writes. “On the inside, I kept sliding back into relapses because of the inner conflicts I had been so keen on hiding. I was so used to living this way, I thought it was normal.”

Then in 2018, someone at his gym casually suggested he participate in an upcoming triathlon. It was a chance meeting, but after the conversation was over, something inside Turnipseed clicked. A little voice asked: “How long are you going to keep lying to yourself with all this?”

That’s when he decided to make a change.


“I decided to do something different to see what I could become,” Turnipseed writes. “I had no idea this decision would bring me to where I am today.”

Shortly after that, he began training for the triathlon.

“What I didn’t know is that triathlon would push me so hard to accept many things about myself and each time I accepted one of these things I felt better, not worse.”

The training was grueling and required him not only to push himself but to accept his limitations, both physically and mentally.

“I began realizing I was learning more about acceptance then I was about triathlon. I was learning to accept all of my weaknesses in both character and sport.”

Eventually, he was able to admit to himself that he was an addict and work on getting sober. He did. Then came the even harder work.

“Now it was time to let it work for my sexuality, so that I could finally be free.”

Coming out was not easy, Turnip says, and was not without many tears.

“Owning up to my lies had some serious consequences, for myself and others,” he explains. “My wife and I cried endlessly over the truth. My coming out was far from rainbows and pink clouds.”

He continues, “Ultimately, we have begun accepting that to show our son a life of integrity we must be willing to live our truths no matter what the consequences. To show him, and others, the importance of living this way is to potentially steer one clear of the horrors I had to live through before coming to terms with who I am.”

Today, Turnipseed says he feels free for the first time in his life.

“I finally feel confident and complete in my own skin,” he writes. “I don’t have a fear overshadowing my every move, inhibiting me from facing and conquering challenges.”

He adds, “I can finally look people in the eye without trying to hide.”

Scroll down for more pics from Turnipseed’s Instagram page…

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