A pro wrestler who struggled for years to understand his sexuality said he decided to publicly come out as gay last month after undergoing conversion therapy.
“I’ve always known I’m gay,” Mike Parrow, 34, told Gay Star News. “That was never a question in my mind.”
But growing up in a small town in upstate New York meant he didn’t meet many members of the LGBTQ community.
“The only exposure I saw of any gay culture was extremely effeminate, and that was what was on TV. I’m not like Jack on ‘Will and Grace,’ so I’m not gay,” he said. “So I tried to hide it.”
Parrow said he tried different options in an attempt deny who he is, including gay conversion therapy ― a program based on the idea that gay, lesbian or bisexual people can change their sexual orientation if they pray enough. It has been thoroughly discredited by all major mental health associations, and the American Psychological Association says it can have “serious potential to harm young people” because it attempts to make people believe being gay or bisexual is a personal and moral failure.
But attending a conversion therapy program made Parrow realize he was ready to come out. He discussed his journey on “Good Morning Britain” on Friday.
“It was the first time I heard people had the same feelings that I did,” he said. “Being there, I realized I am gay and that is not going to change. Because one of [conversion therapy’s] premises is that it’s a choice. It’s not a choice. You’re born this way. So right there, that’s a flawed philosophy. … I’m not a doctor and I can’t prove that, but I can tell you why I know [it doesn’t work].”
Parrow said his life has changed for the better since coming out, but acknowledged gay athletes still face struggles.
“There’s no role models for athletes because athletes tend to come out after they retire because of fear, maybe of rejection, fear of different pay, fear of people just not accepting them for who they are,” he said. “I’ve had the opposite. My career got better since I’ve come out because I know who I am.”
Parrow said he wants younger gay athletes to not give up on their dreams.
“I don’t want that 14-year-old to think he’s alone,” he said. “I want that 14-year-old to be successful, to play for the NFL, to play sports. I don’t want them to hold themselves back because of hate.”
“I’ve found that mostly, people are just curious because nobody has ever sat them down, so they have questions,” he added. “Let them ask questions because you need to ask them too.”
The complete segment appears below: