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Sport Tackles Tough Season
Colin Higgins Courage Award Winner Greg Congdon
"I have always thought of myself as a regular American jock.
I want to be a policeman someday," says Greg Congdon. He was
certainly a jock, as a varsity letterman in football and wrestling.
But in his small hometown of Troy, PA, Greg didn't get to be an
says, "It wasn't acceptable to be gay at my high school. But
I've known I was gay since junior high." So when he was a junior
at Troy Senior High School, he overdosed on prescription drugs.
suicide attempt failed, but when hospital employees questioned him
about why he did it, he told them it was because he's gay. Word
leaked back to one of Greg's teammates.
teammate told the entire school. "I was completely ostracized.
My best friend told me 'we can't be friends anymore.' My old teammates
told me, 'if you try to play sports, we'll make you wish you hadn't.'"
later, with his entire social world turned against him, Greg attempted
suicide a second time. He survived, but faced even more threats
and humiliation at school. Greg met with school officials to tell
them he felt unsafe. They told him that they couldn't protect him
outside of school. They told him to drop out of school and study
for his GED with a tutor, which he did. Greg says, "The worst
part was missing my sports and the feeling of being on a team. So
I still went to sports events, but I couldn't go alone, and of course
people were staring at us."
his second suicide attempt, however, a doctor gave him a copy of
XY, a gay youth magazine. Greg sent in his picture and his story.
XY published his story, which then caught on in other media, such
as ESPN and the Associated Press. The Colin Higgins Foundation is
now honoring Greg for the strength and courage with which he managed
in all the papers was overwhelming at first. Greg says, "you
take a small town country boy and throw him into the spotlight,
and it's going to be a shock." And of course he still had to
fear for his safety. But he says, "I realized other gay teens
were reading my story and it was helping them with their feelings
of being alone, so I wanted to do it."
senior year, Greg even went back to his High School to start a Gay/Straight
Alliance. But the guidance counselor told him that the only reason
she let him in her office was because "they had to let any
concerned citizen in," and that having a Gay/Straight Alliance
would "violate people's religious rights."
Greg's disappointment, he is still serving as a role model, advising
gay students around the country. He says, "Other people wouldn't
let me just be a gay jock. But I tell myself, I had to do it the
hard way, so others will have it easier."
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