Redding Native and Former NFL Lineman Ryan O’Callaghan’s Courageous Coming Out Story

What was it like for a gay kid coming of age in Redding during the 1990s? Pretty grim, according to Redding native and former NFL offensive tackle Ryan O’Callaghan’s recently released memoir, “My Life On The Line: How The NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life.”

The book begins on a hair-raising note, with O’Callaghan, a stand-out player on both sides of the line for the Enterprise High School Hornets from 1997-2001, contemplating suicide as his lucrative but injury-riddled six-season career in the NFL neared its inevitable conclusion with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011.

He’d made a pact with himself as early as his freshman year with the University of California Berkeley Golden Bears in 2001: When football was done with him, he was done with life. He’d kill himself rather than live openly as a gay man.

His sexual orientation was a secret he’d been keeping since he was 7 years old. As a teenager, his large size caught the attention of coaches, and from high school on, football, even though he had exactly zero interest in the sport, became the “beard” he used to mask his gay identity from family, friends, teammates, fans and the world.

Though he lacked passion for football, he was good at it. He had to be, to keep the straight charade going. In 2011, instead of planning for life after a relatively successful NFL career, the 6’7” 330-pound offensive tackle was planning to blow his brains out, rather than reveal his secret.

“I’m still that little gay kid who grew up in the middle of nowhere, scared quite literally to death,” he writes of that dark period in his life. “The secret that I buried inside of me at a very young age is something disgusting, unacceptable, deadly. No matter who I am or what I accomplish, the revelation of that secret will destroy my life and push away anyone who learns it. Being gay is death.”

Thus begins a harrowing journey through O’Callaghan’s early years in Redding to his college and professional football careers in which every conscious decision is predicated on preserving his phony heterosexual persona.

O’Callaghan with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The offensive tackle played a critical roll in the Patriots’ undefeated regular season in 2007.

As he states frequently throughout the book, maintaining that deception, on top of playing college and professional football, was utterly exhausting.

Social scientists call this “minority stress,” the discomfort experienced by minorities, such as members of the LGBTQ community, when they feel forced to conform to alleged societal norms. Minority stress can be lethal, and if certain people hadn’t intervened in O’Callaghan’s life at the right time, he might not have survived to tell his tale.

But survive he did—if only by the skin of his teeth. He originally planned to shoot himself in the head with a pistol, but it was his addiction to opiates—first prescribed for his numerous football injuries, but later abused to quiet the noise inside his head—that very nearly ended his life.

O’Callaghan’s opiate abuse caught the attention of Kansas City Chiefs head trainer Dave Price. Sensing more was going on in O’Callaghan’s life than his injured shoulder and groin, Price referred him to a sports psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Wilson.

Despite initial resistance, O’Callaghan eventually informed Dr. Wilson that he was gay and planning to kill himself rather than come out of the closet and face certain rejection from his family and friends.

“I start telling her about being a kid in Redding,” he writes. “The isolation of those family picnics. The constant jokes I heard from the men in my family about being gay. The shit guys said in the Enterprise locker room all day, every day. … The people closest to me told me constantly, from my first memories, that I was straight and gay people were bad. I tell Dr. Wilson that all of this has translated in my head into gay people deserve to die. Whether or not that’s what was said, that’s certainly what I heard.”

“That was a long time ago,” Dr. Wilson told him. “How do you know your parents will reject you, their son, today?”

The idea that his family and friends might accept him as a gay man had never occurred to O’Callaghan. Dr. Wilson had found the flaw in his suicide plan, and it gave O’Callaghan the glimmer of hope he needed to continue living, if only long enough to tell his family he was gay and ascertain their reaction.

O’Callaghan finished his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011.

He was still heavily addicted to opiates, and O’Callaghan’s account of his Adderall-and-Oxycontin-fueled drive from Kansas City, Missouri to Redding in late 2011 to inform his parents in person that he was gay, only to O.D. in Nevada and wind up marooned at his uncle’s house in Lake Tahoe, is among the most perilous cross-country road trips you’ll ever read.

As it happened, Dr. Wilson’s hunch was correct. O’Callaghan first came out to his aunt and uncle, who accepted him unconditionally. His uncle, the teller of many gay jokes during his childhood, quipped, “Just tell me you still like country music.” O’Callaghan still does. Jason Aldean remains one of his favorites.

Their acceptance is the turning point in a memoir that otherwise might not have been written. After a short convalescence in Lake Tahoe, O’Callaghan completes the journey to Redding, where he discovers that his mother and father also unconditionally accept him as a gay man.

The former offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs has lived in Redding since then, and “My Life On The Line” leaves plenty of room for a happy—but complicated—ending.

It’s complicated because until the age of 29, O’Callaghan had been living what he calls his “fake adult life.” Even though he was certain by age 13 that he was attracted to guys, he’d never been with a guy and he’d only slept with a woman once, in college, to maintain his fake straight persona.

Just as he had to learn the Enterprise Hornet’s playbook as a freshman newcomer to football, O’Callaghan had to figure out the online gay-dating scene in podunk northern California, having never been on a real date.

Life after football was also complicated by O’Callaghan’s four-year court battle with the NFL over disability compensation for his career-ending shoulder and groin injuries. He prevailed, winning a six-figure annual settlement that allows him to live comfortably without working.

Which is good, because his body is so damaged from football he can’t stand or sit for long without experiencing excruciating pain.

In 2017, five years after coming out to family and friends, O’Callaghan felt comfortable enough with his new life to come out publicly as one of relatively few openly gay former NFL players in an article for Outsports.com, which covers LGBTQ athletes. The article was written by Cyd Zeigler, who assisted O’Callaghan with expanding the story into “My Life On The Line.”

While the book is essentially a coming out story, the drama unfolds against the backdrop of high-level college and professional football, where O’Callaghan, who inside his head knows he’s a gay man, duels with the best defensive players of his era, occasionally getting the better of them.

There’s plenty of blood and guts, much of it O’Callaghan’s, as his fingers get broken, his head gets knocked, his shoulders get mangled and his groin gets pulled throughout his career. All of this carnage to maintain the illusion that the big guy from Redding couldn’t possibly be gay.

“My Life On The Line” is a courageous and sometimes frightening dive into the mind of a once deeply closeted individual who, through the help of others, found a reason to live. All proceeds from the book benefit The Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation which plans to issue its first scholarships to LGBTQ athletes next year.

Just another sunny summer day in Redding with Ryan O’Callaghan.

Part 2: Ryan O’Callaghan Talks About His Book, Being Gay In Redding And Bethel

Ryan O’Callaghan has been busy promoting “My Life On The Line” across the country since its Sept. 2 release—just in time for football season—but last week took time to sit down and talk with me about the book, growing up gay in Redding, and of course the infamously anti-LGBTQ Bethel Church.

Now 36, he’s lost much of the heft he once put on in order to appear as slovenly and unattractive to girls as possible, thus warding off advances. He ballooned up to as high as 370 pounds in college, a weight his coaches deemed unhealthy. Nowadays, he figures he’s down to 270. He looks slim, more like a basketball player than an offensive tackle.

“You were lucky, you almost didn’t make that ride home,” I tell him. “You were on quite the cocktail.”

“I am lucky—I almost didn’t,” he nods in agreement. “It took me a while to get off them and get totally clean, but I haven’t been on them since 2012. It’s been a difficult adjustment to life, because I still have severe pain from all of my injuries. You learn different ways, and I’m lucky for not having to work. If I had to work and be on my feet all day?”

He shakes his head.

We establish that he played for Enterprise High School from 1997 to 2001. One of those games was against a Pleasant Valley team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers, another northern California stand-out who would go on to play two seasons with O’Callaghan at Cal, before being drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

O’Callaghan still maintains contact with both Enterprise and U.C. Berkeley.

“I still have a relationship with Enterprise,” he said. “Obviously the teachers are gone and the coaches are all different. This past year when they went to hire the new football coach, the athletic director brought me in to interview the coaches, so that’s nice. I’m involved somewhat—as you know I really have no passion for football, but I know what a good coach is. I don’t go out there and practice and try to help them that way or anything.”

I suggest with his knowledge of football, he’d make a great coach.

“I’d be a damned good coach, but I have no passion for the game,” he insists. “I couldn’t get out there in a stance and show them how to do it.”

“In the book, you became aware you were different at age 7 and the age you knew for sure was about 13,” I said. “Talk a bit about how you gradually came to know this.”

“As a kid, before puberty, it was more confusing, because your buddies have crushes and whatnot and I never had that,” O’Callaghan recalled. “I thought, OK, maybe I’m a slow developer. That’s what went through my mind at that age, maybe I’m a slow developer.

“Then when I hit puberty, it was not only am I not attracted to girls at all, but I started being attracted to guys. That’s when I knew for sure, and I knew instantly that was a problem.”

As Callaghan points out in the book, he thought being gay was a problem because that’s what the cultural cues around him in the 1990s were telling him. The gay jokes at high school and family gatherings. I asked if there were any cues his parents might have picked up on from him.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “They didn’t. I never … that was before the internet and all that, so I wasn’t online looking at stuff. I instantly in my mind knew, or thought, it wasn’t acceptable.

“Growing up, I’d hear all of these things coming from family. I’m very clear to say now that my family are awesome, they’re great, they weren’t being hateful, but I didn’t understand that as a kid. I never heard anything good out of them.”

I admitted that I used to enjoy telling a gay joke or two, until I realized that such jokes can be harmful.

“It depends on your audience,” O’Callaghan said. “Now, if one of my buddies wants to tell a gay joke, that’s fine, because I know where he really stands and I’m old enough so that it doesn’t matter as much. Some people are more offended. Kids don’t know the difference, whether it’s joking or honest or judgement. That’s why I always tell parents, watch your mouth around kids.”

Indeed, if there’s one lesson he hopes readers glean from his book, it’s just that: Adults should mind what they say about LGBTQ people when they’re around kids.

In the book, one of O’Callaghan’s deepest regrets concerns the kids from drama and band class he hung out with in junior high but abandoned and turned on as soon as he got to high school.

As his status as a football player rose, he began bullying his former friends and other classmates, literally calling himself Big Man on Campus. It was a classic case of psychological projection, but at the same time, O’Callaghan was aware he was constructing an elaborate ruse.

“I took it out on everyone,” he said. “Like I said in the book, I’d rather be known as a bully and an asshole and leave no doubt in people’s minds, so nobody would suspect anything. Me at the time, I thought that was the best way to go about it. I told myself I needed to be an asshole. It’s kind of projection, because my insecurities were coming out because of that.”

None of this behavior changed the fact that he was gay.

“I thought I might grow out of it,” he continued. “I purposely tried to look at girls and find something attractive. Hell, I did that till I was 29. But not one thing ever. For a while, I thought, maybe I’m bi. But no. I don’t know how some gay guys can go marry a female. … I was never confident enough that I could fool a female. I knew I could fool people playing football, but I don’t know how guys do that.”

He also knew football wouldn’t last forever, and began formulating his suicide plan during his first year at Cal.

“I played football in the beginning because buddies did and it was expected of me,” he said. “Then I kept playing because it was good cover. I knew I wasn’t going to change, and in my mind, I thought I knew I could never be an out gay man, so I said I’m going to kill myself after football because my parents would love a dead son more than a gay son. Once again, that’s ridiculous, but I was messed up.”

O’Callaghan began using marijuana in Berkeley in part to control the pain of injuries and continued to use it in the NFL until he failed a drug test with the Chiefs. That led to an overreliance on opiates for pain relief and soon he was totally addicted.

“You get introduced to them because of the pain, but it’s that euphoric feeling that makes you not feel like yourself that is addicting,” he said. “After that, I would do anything not to feel like myself. I quickly became a junkie. You don’t need to wake up in the morning and snort three oxycontin. There’s taking medicine for pain and there’s doing what I was doing.”

He credits Kansas City Chiefs trainer Dave Price, who passed away last year, and Dr. Susan Wilson for saving his life.

“She’s the one who gave me hope in the end,” he said. “I was looking for it in some way, because like I said, I would have just ended it. I firmly believe if it wasn’t for David sending me to her, it would be different. I was able to thank David a lot before he died.”

It’s a terrifying journey O’Callaghan’s been on, and I asked him what can be done to make life easier for LGBTQ youth in our public schools today.

“A lot of schools are having people come speak,” he said. “I’ll be doing that a couple of times in November, one in Framingham, Massachusetts and another in Sebastopol. They’re 11- to 13-year-olds. They’re having people talk about the issue and start a conversation among their classmates.

“I’m constantly surprised how much more open-minded kids are these days. Cal had me come to speak to the football team. Two years ago, the Washington State quarterback (WSU’s Tyler Hilinksi) killed himself out of nowhere. No one really knows why still, but there’s been speculation. So the head coach at Cal asked me to come talk to the team and tell them my story and have a very honest conversation. If you had a teammate who was [gay], what would your concerns be?

“It took a while to get the conversation started. I had to be honest. If someone’s in the shower and they do this, what are you going to think? A couple of guys groan and then that starts the conversation. The bottom line out of all of it was, nobody would have cared if one of their teammates was [gay]. They understand that not everyone is attracted to everyone, and even if they are, that doesn’t mean they’re going to do anything.”

Not all of O’Callaghan’s friends were pleased after he came out. Brian, his longtime friend from high school who served as sort of a personal assistant for O’Callaghan during his NFL years, disappeared from his life. Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback who he’s known since high school, abruptly broke off contact after O’Callaghan came out publicly in 2017. O’Callaghan doesn’t know the reason why in either case.

“Like I said in the book, I’m left assuming,” he said. “But every other one of my straight buddies had no problem whatsoever.”

The same goes for New England Patriots CEO Robert Kraft, who flew O’Callaghan to Foxborough, Massachusetts to thank him personally for having the courage to come out. Kraft has also donated to the Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation, as has Levi’s.

All proceeds from “My Life On The Line” go to The Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation for LGBTQ athletes.

“I started the foundation as a way to give back to the community,” he said. “There are all of these athletes who come out, and they’re given all these opportunities to make money and get sponsorships. I felt better giving back, so that’s why every penny I get from the book goes to it. These different speaking things at schools and corporations go to it, and from there, every penny that comes in goes to scholarship and support, mainly through mentorships for LGBTQ students, primarily athletes. The first scholarships will be next year. Levi’s has hopped on board and Mr. Kraft made a nice donation. Things are going well.

“Obviously how the book sells is going to be a big part of what I can do with the charity. I’d like to help the north state as much as I can. It’s hard to raise money, especially for the NorCal Outreach Project in Redding. They don’t have an easy time getting grants because Chico is so close and they have the university, so all that money goes to them. I’d like to do what I can to help up here.”

O’Callaghan himself may not be too long for the north state, though. His faithful canine companions since Kansas City, Rodger and Taylor, have plenty of room to run in Redding, but once they pass away, there’s nothing keeping him here, not even his parents. Redding has grown slightly more accepting of its LGBTQ population since the 1990s, but it still has a long way to go, in no small part thanks to Bethel Church, which makes an appearance in “My Life On The Line.”

“That church is just lost,” O’Callaghan told me. “They’re lost. We’re pretty lost in time here, especially with the influence that’s here now with that cult. I don’t see it getting better in that regard. There might be some nicer restaurants coming to town, but they’re all owned by people who are just lost.

“In this day of information and technology and science, to believe some of the bullshit that they believe is mind-boggling to me. It’s drawing the weakest-minded people in the world and I don’t think Redding should be proud to have them here.

“I’ll take a poor, uneducated person who’s right-of-mind over someone who thinks they can touch you and heal cancer. I mean, c’mon. How do people not see through that? Any time someone tells you not to question something, you should question it.”

We talked a little more about football and the art of the offensive lineman, called by some the most important position in football. That’s why offensive linemen are so well paid these days. But it’s still a tough gig, and the average NFL offensive lineman taps out after 3.5 seasons. O’Callaghan made six seasons, almost double that.

“I’m somewhat proud of it, considering I had all of this other bullshit going on,” he said. “I was deadly serious about playing.”

I ask him what might have happened if that scared little gay kid who grew up in the middle of nowhere had been accepted all those years ago. Could he have become a top NFL offensive lineman without that self-hatred as a motivator? Might he have become an actor, or perhaps a musician?

“That’s tough, because I didn’t have a passion for football,” he said, mulling it over. “I don’t regret it. I don’t know. I was always the most reserved, quiet kid, I hated the spotlight, I still don’t like it. But I have this pedestal of sorts, and it would be a waste if I didn’t use it, so I’m going to use it.”

And with that, I’ll give Ryan O’Callaghan the last word.

“The people who are going to read this are probably already allies,” he said. “I hope in the article you stress that parents ought to watch what they say around kids. Do what you can to help local charities that are trying to fight back against the negative influence of Bethel. They’re a minority but they’re awfully loud and we do need to speak up.”

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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81 Responses

  1. Avatar George Parker says:

    Thank you all for sharing this powerful story. These stories need to be told, and heard, in order to heal.

  2. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Thanks, R.V. for sharing this tragically beautiful story of fear, pain, honesty, and courage. I was unaware of Mr. O’Callaghan until seeing his interview with Mike Mangas recently, and your in-depth article provides a great deal of background information that only increases my admiration for him. Kudos to you both.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thanks Richard but I’ll give all the credit to Ryan. I’d heard about O’Callaghan coming out in 2017, but I didn’t realize at the time he was from Redding. I learned that when his book came out, and then when I read the book, I was just blown away with the dimensions of his story. He’s truly a remarkable individual.

  3. Avatar Patricia Bay says:

    Powerful testimony and a beautiful story. I wish Ryan had been brought to me for therapy when he was just a kid. I would hope that I could have helped him stand-in-his-truth and avoid years of emotional pain. I’m thankful it has gotten a bit easier for LBGQT kids, and adults, to be accepted in rural California, but as Ryan said, there is still a long way to go. Sharing this story, both Ryan’s book and this article, will help so many.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      That of course is the extreme irony that flows through his poetic story, what if? I have no doubt he’d have been successful no matter what.

  4. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Ryan’s correct, the people reading this probably are already ‘allies’, but we can still learn a great amount from his amazing story. I am grateful to him for telling it; for sure he is not alone, and others will benefit from his courage. Thank you, Ryan, and you too, R.V.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Well, A News Cafe does have some readers who are not “allies” but I notice that they are silent on the stories I’ve been writing about anti-LGBTQ church leaders and politicians in the north state. They’re perfectly fine denying climate science, but they stop short of criticizing gay people. Or perhaps Barbara just deleted their comments.

  5. Avatar Patricia Bay says:

    Just bought his book from audible.com. It doesn’t come up in the audible search, yet, but you can get to the link by googling it. I’m starting it today. Thank you so much for sharing Ryan’s story.

  6. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Thanks, R.V. and Ryan. I just purchased the Kindle edition and hope other ANC viewers will follow suit in order to support Ryan’s scholarship program.

  7. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    A fantastic piece RV. We are very lucky Ryan is able to articulate his struggles, and that he’s still here and able to share his story. I related to so much of this piece, but I’m lucky I was tall and too skinny for football to have ever been asked to play. Redding should be proud of its native son (and native daughter Megan Rapinoe) for standing up and being counted. Bravo Ryan!

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Isn’t it just a little bit more than a coincidence that our two major sports stars from Redding are gay? And that the current city council is so ill-equipped to honor them? It’s a crying shame!

      • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

        Not a word, commendation, proclamation or whisper of either of them from our City Council. Peculiar, this.

  8. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Wow, what an evocative (I looked that up) account. After spending so much of his life struggling against who he is, I hope Ryan continues his journey toward himself happily.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Evocative is a word I should have used when describing “My Life On The Line.” It’s an awesome book, everybody should by it, and everybody should share this story on social media with all their friends.

  9. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Many thanks to R.V. for bringing us Ryan’s story, and to Ryan for sharing it. How tragic and heart-breaking that any child would grow up thinking their only choices are hiding who they are or suicide. We all need to fight blind prejudice and discrimination (which – as the article points out – is often religiously motivated, with Bethel helming that prejudice locally) with everything we’ve got.

  10. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Ryan was one of my wife’s kids at Enterprise. For ten years my wife baked cookies for all the EHS football teams that she handed out at home games. Ryan’s coming out doesn’t change our feelings for him.
    And f Ryan decides to leave Redding I would suggest he move to Phoenix. Not just because Phoenix has an acceptance of Gays, most people do, and he would find many EHS grads already down here but his message to HS football teams would be appreciated. In fact he might find talking to them would be a full time career.

  11. Avatar Candace C says:

    Thank you Ryan for sharing your story and thank you R.V. for bringing bus this interview. My hope is perhaps someone who considers themselves an ally of LGBTQ+ people will speak up when they hear “gay” jokes that others consider “harmless”being told when kids are around. Actually, when anyone is around. Quite obviously they’re not harmless.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      What we as adults say means everything to 7-to-13 year olds. Which really calls into question a certain church that believes in conversion therapy.

  12. Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

    Even though I soured on the sport I played from age 12 to 19, I watched Ryan’s career as a pro because I have many friends who are Pats fans (yeah, stop booing now) and would argue he should have been in the starting lineup more than his rivals. I had no idea what he was really fighting almost killed him, an adjunct to the injuries that limited him physically. In high school I loved the game only for the glory that came with pulling on a helmet and the fact that my size and lack of athleticism consigned me to the dumbball field, pushing other people around or getting pushed around. In retrospect, I wish I’d lost some weight and learned how to play other sports. That a guy this good hated what he was doing for all those years is another huge revelation.

    One criticism: Jason Aldean is not country music. Johnny Cash, Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zant are country music. I could come up with some other names, of people still alive, but I’d have to consult the iPod. My kid will hate me for shade @ Jason Aldean. “You’re old, dad.”

    That Ryan hates/hated football pretty much precludes a final sentiment: I’d really enjoy seeing Mr. O’C lay a good, hard trap block on KValloton. The good OLs call it a pancake block.

    • Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

      Should have included: I have two children who went through Redding public schools. I watched what happens to *different* kids. That Ryan lived in terror of what revealing himself to others would have caused makes him a good judge of collective civic character.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Rob,

        I got a kick out of your comment about country music. I’m afraid I don’t know much about that venue, but it always sets me off when someone refers to the Beatles, Beach Boys, etc. as “rock and roll”. REAL rock and roll is (of course) Elvis, and all the groups and singers from the 50’s.

        And unfortunately we may have to settle for some other (non-physical) kind of “block” when protesting Kris Vallotton and other Bethel homophobes. What a shame that some fundamentalist religious leaders victimize certain vulnerable groups just so they can incite an “us vs. them” mentality in their followers, and/or give them someone they can feel morally superior to (they aren’t).

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I’m a Merle Haggard fan myself.

  13. Avatar Vicky Osuna says:

    Ryan you are an amazing young man!

  14. Avatar Toni Merflag says:

    Great story. Glad Mr. Callaghan found his way and a better goal.
    What a great loss to the LGBTQ community that would have been
    I intend to find my way to Powell’s and buy the book.

  15. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I’m forever grateful to my dad—long a high school and college football coach—for steering me away from football and toward lifetime sports. Long before anyone had a clue about CTE from repeated concussions, my dad realized that the sport was crippling young men.

    Ryan, I’m happy for your success in your ongoing coming-out-and-fitting-in process. Sorry that you’re paying the toll for your football career in the currency of chronic pain.

    Oh, and Jason Aldean? Ryan, that guy is pure dude-bro country for frat boys. Take a look at Sturgill Simpson/Jason Isbell/Kacey Musgraves/Willie Nelson/Steve Earle/Drive-By Truckers, Todd Snider, Margo Price, Rhiannon Giddens, Hayes Carlo…… I could list 30 others—point is, there’s a lot of country music out there by artists with solid progressive who aren’t afraid to wear it on their sleeves.

    Maybe start by checking out “Heaven Sent” by Parker Millsap.

    https://youtu.be/ytL0OBltspc

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Are all y’all watching Ken Burns’ Country Music on PBS. Excellent production. I saw a bumper sticker sometime back: “I was country before country sucked”

      Steve, when all those $900 helmets were donated to one of the local football teams, all I could think of was the movie, Concussion. I’m sure those helmets help with head injuries, but they are worthless against brain injuries. Kudos to your father for aiming you in the right direction.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Steve, one thing I didn’t mention was Ryan’s dad is a football ref, a pretty good one, and when Ryan took up football as a Freshman, it helped build credibility with Dad. Ryan’s family story is straight blue collar, and their acceptance in the book is so awesome.

      Football injuries! While I’m not quite the football fanatic I used to be, I could have talked to Ryan for hours about the big games he’s played in–if only he had a passion for football. He really doesn’t. One of the most spectacular injuries in “My Life On The Line” is where Ryan gets “ear-holed” by dreaded Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Ryan was temporarily paralyzed after the play. At the first team meeting after the game, Patriots coach Belichick included the hit on best plays of the game–because Ryan did what he was supposed to do, draw Urlacher from the play. Wicked, wicked sport!

    • Avatar Richard Christoph says:

      Steve, although it really angered me at the time, I thank my late Dad each day for not allowing me to play football in high school. And now at just shy of 70, I still awake each morning with neither aches nor pains, and have never had a serious injury or illness.

      And yes, Beverly, Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary is exceptional, though I thoroughly disliked country music while growing up in Tennessee. Go figure…

  16. Avatar Richard Myers says:

    Thank you Ryan for your story. When I was a faculty member at Enterprise High, there was always such pride in the accomplishments that you achieved on the field in high school, college and on to Pro Football. Today there should be even more than pride but a great honor to count you as an alumni. I hope that your story can help not only athletes but all students to accept everyone,whether it be race, religion, sexual orientation or someone who might just be different. Hopefully, when a student sees your Patriot football jersey on the wall in the Enterprise gym, they will see more than someone who made it to the pros but someone who has made a difference by being strong and standing up for who you are.

  17. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    What an amazing story! I will share this on social media…. Thank you R.V. and Ryan. Ryan, I’m so glad you are here to tell your story. I’ve had a couple of friends whose families disowned them when they came out. If you want to live your life as the person you are, you may have to leave some people behind. It’s sad to lose family or friends, but it’s worse living a lie. I can’t wait to read your book.

  18. Avatar Gracious Palmer says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for standing up and speaking out from the line. I appreciate your revealing your true and authentic self with such honesty and care. I continue to commend and applaud RV for shining light on our community.

  19. Avatar Gracious Palmer says:

    R.V., I continue to stand up and speak out. I am sharing on social media. I feel Ryan’s open and honest conversation of his authentic self will bring another young person to seek counsel and advice in their confusion and pain to a healthy acceptance of themselves.

  20. Avatar heather says:

    Thank you for your honesty and courage in writing about what unfortunately still remains a controversial topic in this town. It’s unfortunate that an organization claiming to be a “church that serves God” is the epitome of judgmental hatred toward people of the LGBTQ community. Perhaps if they opened a Bible once in awhile they may educate themselves on the love God bestows on ALL His people, which means all of making.
    But until then, I applaud anyone that strives to bring awareness, education, and acceptance to the people in our comminiyty, thank you ?

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thanks Heather. Perhaps if they open one of those Bibles where everything Jesus said is printed in red, it might help. Just cut the Old Testament out of the picture.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Unfortunately that wouldn’t work, since Jesus (if he even existed, which is now in serious doubt) said he came to fulfill every Old Testament law and prophesy. I’m afraid the two are inseparable.

  21. Avatar Brandon Rogers says:

    Good job on the book Ryan. I totally understand where you’re coming from, as I grew up a gay kid in Redding, too – coming out at 29. Next step is leaving Redding and moving somewhere awesome!

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      It’s interesting that lots of men, including myself, have experienced a psychological shake-up around age 28 or 29. An astrologist friend of mine says it’s all in the stars.

  22. Avatar Brandon Rogers says:

    I wanted to add my Bethel experience in this comment thread. When I was about 15, my sister in law took me to Bethel. The pastor, Mark Larson, started his sermon “Gay people…. why do we call them Gay when the word gay means happy, and these people are anything but happy…” and continued down the rabbit hole of hate speech and character assassination. I was dumbfounded. My sister in law had planned this, because I was always perceived as gay in the years before I came out. This single sermon turned me away from Christ – because the people who were associated with him are full of hate and fear and actively espousing hate and fear.

    Since then, I’ve come out, married the man I love (we’ve been together for 16 years now) and I’m the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. I feel conflicted because I know that Christ accepts me exactly how I am, and that I was born this way and I am glad to be gay – while the people who align themselves with Christ spend their energy spewing hate and fear towards gays.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Good for you Brandon! And if you want to see some truly unhappy gay people, just go to Bethel’s Changed Movement website, where you’ll find out just how miserable these supposedly “once gay” people are. I don’t think Bethel understands these stories are an argument against conversion therapy. They may make a lot of money at Bethel, but they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed.

      • Avatar Brandon Rogers says:

        RV – I checked out that website. Looks like a man-behind-the-curtain gay-hate machine. Each story focuses on drugs, sexual abuse and self hate; resolved by playing straight to be accepted into the Christian community – and ultimately, God.

        I see right through this sham; in order to be accepted by Christians; we must do as they say to fit in. They’re uncomfortable with gay people, they want to “fix” us.

        We’re not broken, though. We’re exactly like God made us. Living ones truth is always the right choice.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Yep, they’ve filled in their backstories with all the stereotypical BS about gay people that these co-called conversion therapists believe. It’s disgusting that they’ve enlisted two survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting who were allegedly scared straight. None of us are born broken. Some of us however have more than a few screws loose!

  23. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I grew up in Salt Lake City where the Book of Mormon was basically the Bible. While the Book of Mormon has had amendments added to it, through visions from God if you believe in that sort of thing, to reflect changes in society, the Bible has remained the same for 2000 years.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      The Book Of Mormon was originally written as a sci-fi farce.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        That’s true! Joseph Smith knew someone who worked in a publishing house, and Smith based the Book of Mormon on a rejected fictional manuscript (or something along those lines).

  24. RV, I don’t know who would have done this story justice more than you. I’m so grateful for you.

    And Ryan, I hope you can see from the comments here just a fraction of how many people respect you, stand with you, and appreciate you for what you’re doing to make lives better for LGBTQ youth, and to educate us all. Your scholarship is an incredible tribute to you, your legacy and the good that one person can do. I’m so glad you didn’t follow through with your original plan.

    Thank you for entrusting RV with your story. You are welcome back here on ANC any time.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Doni, I never imagined that I’d be writing extensively about the LGBTQ community, but then Bethel happened. As one of my story subjects said recently, “I thought we were past all this.” Me too! I will continue covering this topic until they stop.

      One reason Ryan called our readers “allies,” in addition to the fact that most of them are, is because Barbara does such a great job moderating the comments section. His story is solid, the book is awesome, and I don’t think anyone who’s not an ally has the talent to express themselves civilly.

      In addition to the Bethel effect creating an anti-LGBTQ climate, social media brings out the worst in people, and in our interview, which I had to edit because of length, Ryan cited a recent KRCR Channel 7 Facebook post about Chico’s Pride Parade that got 700 comments, the majority by gay-baiting homophobes who feel encouraged in the present political atmosphere.

      The roll of right-wing talk radio should also not be discounted Driving home today, Glenn Beck was misinforming the public about ACR 99, which is a resolution not the draconian law Beck said it was. Something has to be done about the 24/7 lying right-wing radio stations. Supporting A News Cafe is a good place to start.

      • Avatar Robert Scheide Sr. says:

        My son RV, has certainly shown that good writing draws good comments. As you all know it has become damned hard to get real news that is pertinent to your life. The MSM does politic 24/7 and can’t apparently handle more than 4 stories per day. RV and I have both mellowed over time. In the old days, we had some fierce fight mostly over politics, we still, do but at a tamed version.

        I claim to have tamed him down, of course he will disagree! LOL

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        RV, I see where Bethel has impacted the economic climate in Redding, from articles like yours and comments from family and friends in Redding. You reveal the dirty secret behind that Bethel economic impact. Good job.

  25. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    I don’t know what to say, other then you two, Ryan and RV, have saved a whole bunch of lives in Redding and the viewing parameters of ANC. Us gay folk continue to come out every day of our lives, and it’s always a catch twenty-two as to which way we’ve made an impact on someone. Ryan, you and Ms Wilson were meant to connect, just as I was with my therapist at age 19, forgot her name, but when she said, “So what”, to my statement of being gay, it changed my whole outlook. Hope to see you at Redding Pride on Sep 21.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thanks Frank. “So what?” is what Kansas City Chiefs head trainer Dave Price told Ryan when he finally blurted out he was gay. Price said go see Dr. Susan Wilson. You won’t be the first gay NFL player she’s seen, and you won’t be the last.

      The years Ryan came of age, 7 to 13, are so critical. That’s why the state of California has banned conversion therapy on youth 18 and under.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Most states, including red Arizona, have banned conversion for minors. They need to ban conversion period.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          Do you think gay adults are so incapable of making reasonable decisions about their sexuality that they need the government to force them to make the correct choice?

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Tim,

            The State of California didn’t actually try to ban gay conversion for adults (despite what Bethel propagandists claim). Had the recent bill passed, it would simply have prohibited charging for this provably harmful, ineffective form of financial abuse under anti-fraud consumer protection laws.

            Of course heavily political Bethel “Church” and others of its ilk weren’t about to give up this lucrative scam without a fight, so they whipped their followers into a frenzy of political action with lies that this “choice” was being banned entirely, that the bible is next, and that all of Christianity is under attack.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Would you see a prohibition on charging differently if we substituted “abortion” for “conversion therapy?”

          • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

            Tim, I recently sent a list of questions to Equipped To Love, which is Bethel’s conversion therapy “clinic.” How many clients seeking to change their sexual orientation or gender identity do you see annually, questions like that. They declined to answer any of my specific questions, but assured me that they love all their clients just the same. Translation: I’d wager Equipped To Love has ZERO clients.

  26. Avatar Mike Moynahan says:

    I had Ryan as a student in American Government/Economics, as a senior at Enterprise High School. He was an excellent student and an effective, but quiet leader in the classroom. I’ve always been proud of his academic and athletic achievements, but I’m even more proud of him now!

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Mike, you’ll be unhappy to learn that Ryan majored in “Eligibility” at Cal, and he’s two classes and a thesis away from a degree in interdisciplinary studies, and doesn’t plan completing it. The good news is he’s still smart as a whip and young, just 36.

  27. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    “Last year, GoFundMe rated Redding as the third most generous city and Bethel volunteers logged nearly 35,000 hours, from homeless outreach to a back-to-school backpack drive, as well as the City Project, which is devoted to maintaining city parks and keeping open spaces clean.”

    Bethel destroys homeless camps…

    “Pastor Bill Johnson on the recipe for revival, how Bethel Church exploded onto the global scene”

    https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/revival-christian-bethel-church-bill-johnson

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      What a ridiculous article. It’s filled with lies, but of course it’s Fox, and lies are its trademark.

      Aside from the obvious exaggerations ((ie: Bethel’s “homeless outreach” consists of busing unfortunately Rescue Mission “guests” to two Bethel services every Sunday, tearing down homeless camps, and destroying their belongings), Bill Johnson claims he doesn’t know where the gold dust and feathers that Bethel insiders shovel through the air vents during services comes from.

  28. Avatar Rick Zeller says:

    Thanks R.V. for sharing Ryan’s story. He is certainly a man of courage. I am sharing this with friends and family.

  29. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Tim…Abortion is legal as of 1973, choice of the woman and can be covered by MediCal. Conversion Therapy is still legal in CA as of 2019 for those over 18 years of age; charged enormous amounts and rumored to be subject to electro-shock methods. Your attempt at comparing abortion and conversion therapy is an improper analogy.

  30. Avatar Kathryn Holleran says:

    Thank you R.V., Ryan and anewscafe.com, for sharing this story with us. The pain of growing up gay – let alone in Redding – was and continues to be formidable for too many kids. I look forward to reading the book.

  31. Avatar Diane Cannan says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for your strength and bravery to share such a personal and powerful story of victory! As a staff member at EHS during your time there, we were definitely very proud of your athletic accomplishments, however, that pales in comparison to all you are doing now to help reduce the stigma and educate so many! I am so glad you got the support you needed; I just wish it could have been provided much sooner. As the School Psychologist at EHS when you were attending there, I wish I could have done something to try to help, but perhaps it wasn’t the right time. If you have any advice for me about how I might recognize or reach out to high school students struggling with similar concerns, please contact me. You can find my work number and e-mail on the SUHSD district web site. Thank you for the critically important messages you are sharing! Be well!