Mike says he has known he was gay since he was 14 years old but tried to fight it at first. "I started praying. I wanted God to change me," he says. "I dated girls and tried to hide it as best I could, and I think I did a pretty good job for a while."

When a job offer in Dallas arose, Mike says he knew it was time to leave home to get away from the homophobic harassment he experienced in Williamson. When he returned home after contracting AIDS, he says the negative reaction he received from his neighbors picked up right where it left off. "I was dying, and I thought they could overlook the fact that I am a homosexual and see that I needed some compassion and to be in my hometown," Mike says. "[I felt] anger at first because I couldn't understand why."

Even some of Mike's own relatives shunned him—a "No trespassing" sign was installed on an family member's lawn.


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