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How Out Model Mark Turnipseed Moved Past Heroin and Trauma

Mark Turnipseed

Most people reading this article have faced the coming out process and will understand some of what I’m going to share. They will read this and say, “Wow, yeah, that happened to me too.” Meanwhile, others who read this article have not come out or may never come out, because they don’t need to. Even these people, however, will be able to relate, and that’s because the coming out process isn’t exclusive to sexual orientation. Coming out is just an evolution and a transcendence from what was to what is. It’s standing up and saying, “I can’t and I won’t live a lie anymore.” It’s acceptance of a truth, and everyone has done that.

The last time I overdosed on heroin I realized I couldn’t live a lie anymore. The lie I was listening to at that time was that heroin was a solution to my problems. It cured my anxiety and ADHD. I didn’t need a doctor. For a few years, it helped me to excel in school and relationships. I felt on top of the world. I went to bed early and I woke up excited about the day. But eventually, it stopped working. Life became miserable. I began to wish that the next shot would take me out.

Accepting that heroin wasn’t a solution was the first time I accepted something that I didn’t want. It was really the first glaring truth in my life that I had no choice over and couldn’t cover up. The thing about covering up truths, and this is something that brings us all together, gay or not, is that eventually, they begin to gnaw at you. They end up pulling you down. But if you’re like me, everything just gets better shortly after confronting the lie. Accepting this first lie about heroin would help give me strength as future ones surfaced, like coming out.

That’s why my book My Suicide Race begins with the line “This book is for all the liars out there.” Simply put, if there is one thing that holds us all back from being our best self (gay or not), it’s the lies we tell ourselves. Invariably, then, a stronger, healthier world is built by encouraging each other to live out our truth.

Forcing yourself or someone else to live a lie, or supporting a community that fuels closed-mindedness, can result in turmoil. It creates a chasm of fear and anxiety that is a huge building block to mental health, and it’s outrageously prominent in the LGBTQ community. It started to happen to me when I was about 7 years old after a discussion with my mom while trying to process a recent molestation and why I liked Minnie Mouse more than Mickey and thoughts of kissing boys more than girls. In the end of chapter 3 of my book I explain how I felt following her response to my questions:

“I have AIDS, I can’t even trust my own mother to help me, I’m clearly going to hell, and I’m pretty sure I like being a girl better than a boy. These deep-rooted beliefs festered inside me. I was afraid of who I had become, afraid of intimacy and trusting others, and afraid of trusting a God who was apparently out to get me and send me to hell. These three fears would become the wheels under the carriage of my life.”

Alone, isolated, scared, hopeless, disparaging thoughts of self. These are so common in the LGBTQ community and are what fuels the negative mental health of many. These led me and many others like me to the gate of suicidal ideation. Luckily, when we come out, we are joined by a huge community and feel less alone. But then we are left with anger toward those people and communities who held us back. This is one reason why depression and anxiety continue after coming out and mental health problems persist. What we must realize when anger and resentment pop up is that we are not the only ones living under the thumb of lies, under the quake of their rippling effect through culture. Our anger will only isolate us further. Often the same lies that hurt us are still hurting the people who brought us down.

My mother, for instance, was raising me the best she knew how but living a limited life because of lies she was told. Therefore, when I came out to her in my 30s I decided to meet the discord with education. By us both better understanding gay identity, we became closer, and my trauma associated with our past cleared.

I now use my platform as best-selling author, model, entrepreneur, and speaker to bridge the LGBTQ community to other worlds to help others do this. In fact, my new company, Halo 42, runs on the steam of building a bridge between the beauty world and the LGBTQ community. I saw the need when I became a model and was asked to act “butch” at my castings. I was asked to lie! I vehemently declined and have been ultimately rewarded in castings. So for National Suicide Prevention Month and Substance Abuse Month, I urge each of you to find ways you can do this in your relationships and business endeavors. It is by doing so that we can all make this world a better place for future generations. 

Mark A. Turnipseed is a #1 best-selling author, speaker, model, and LGBTQ addiction and wellness advocate. He is also a co-founder of Halo 42, the first wellness brand seeking to bridge the LGBTQ and recovery communities with their allies through health wellness and beauty products Visit  www.markaturnipseed.com

If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

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