Ryan O’Callaghan’s plan was always to play football and then, when his career was over, kill himself.
Growing up in Redding, Calif., he didn’t see any other option. From a deep red corner of a blue state, the conflicted young man had decided in high school that he would never — could never — live as a gay man. While the 6-foot-7, 330-pound offensive tackle didn’t fit any of the gay stereotypes, he decided shortly after coming out to himself in junior high school that he could never let anyone else in on his darkest secret.
Over the years he had heard general comments from friends and family members about gay people. Every utterance of a gay slur or a joke about gay men — and he heard them plenty when he was young — was like a knife to the gut.
“If you’re a gay kid and you hear someone you love say ‘fag,’ it makes you think that in their eyes you’re just a fag too,” O’Callaghan told Outsports on a recent visit to Los Angeles for his first-ever Pride celebration. “That got to me a lot.”
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