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Abilene man shares his story of being gay and battling addiction in West Texas

James Wagstaff talks about the struggles of growing up gay in West Texas.{ }{p}{/p}
James Wagstaff talks about the struggles of growing up gay in West Texas.

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James Wagstaff grew up in Abilene with a secret -- he's gay.

It was a secret that lead him down a path of serving others and addiction.

You drink so you don't feel

Wagstaff would try and drink his pain away.

"There were many times I thought about suicide," said Wagstaff.

He spent nearly a decade in New York City.

It was in the Big Apple he pushed for gay rights and help pass the New York Hate Crimes Act of 2000.

But many memories of growing up in a small town haunted him.

"When people are tearing you down from the pulpit in the churches around town and saying you're not wanted," said Wagstaff.

Wagstaff is a man of faith and conservative.

Many of his values go with the Abilene population.

But in the 80s, Wagstaff's sexuality would be the dividing point.

"Growing up as gay and being depressed in Abilene, not thinking I could be myself," said Wagstaff.

In the late 90s, he had the courage to come out to his family.

He would travel between New York and Abilene.

Wagstaff found that people were now open to who he was.

Wagstaff is now 15 years clean.

He is back in Abilene and is helping lead the first Abilene pride parade.

Studies have shown that, when compared with the general population, gay and bisexual men, lesbian, and transgender individuals are more likely to:

  • Use alcohol and drugs,
  • Have higher rates of substance abuse,
  • Not withhold from alcohol and drug use, and
  • Continue heavy drinking into later life.

Risk Factors:

According to data from the 2015 Nattional Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), of surveyed LGB students

  • 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property
  • 34% were bullied on school property
  • 28% were bullied electronically
  • 23% of LGB students who had dated or went out with someone during the 12 months before the survey had experienced sexual dating violence in the prior year
  • 18% of LGB students had experienced physical dating violence
  • 18% of LGB students had been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in their lives.

According to the CDC, for some gay and bisexual men, alcohol and illegal drug use, especially methamphetamines (meth), amyl nitrates (poppers), and other drugs can lead to a higher chance of getting HIV and other STDs.

The CDC states those using drugs or alcohol may also raise their chances of getting HIV or giving it to others by getting involved in more risky sexual practices and behaviors or through sharing needles or other injection equipment.


Abilene Pride Alliance is also trying to bridge the Gap in Abilene, providing a list of resources that is LGBTQIA-friendly.

The Big Country AIDS Support Group, also known as the Big Country AIDS Resources, has been helping the residents of Abilene and the surrounding 19 counties affected by HIV.

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