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J.L. says fear of his father was one of the reasons he lived on the down low for so long. "My father was one of those Baptist deacons who would, as a grown man, whip my behind even if he thought his son could have been, in his words, a 'sissy,'" J.L. says.

J.L. and his family tried to keep his first appearance on The Oprah Show a secret from his father, but J.L. says someone from his church called to let him know. J.L.'s father confronted him about it, but then walked away. "I did not want this to kill him," J.L. says. "He was already sick, and he had never understood [homosexuality]."

Thankfully, most of his family members were more accepting, but J.L. has learned to cope with those who still judge his sexuality. "I don't live my life for other people," he says.

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