"If I ever find out you're gay, I'll beat it out of you." Those are the words Azariah Southworth grew up hearing from people he loves. "That statement created a lot of fear in me, because I already knew I was gay," says Southworth.
In the eighth grade, Azariah began receiving ex-gay counseling. For five years, once a week, he went through Pastoral counseling and multiple exorcisms to become ex-gay. "I gave it everything I had, but my attraction toward the same-sex never wavered. The counseling only instilled more fear and self-hatred in me," Southworth explains.
At the age of 18, Azariah moved to Nashville, TN to work for a Christian TV show. It was there, he befriended the host of the show. This friend helped Southworth launch his own nationally syndicated TV show called The Remix.
By the second season Azariah's show was being broadcast into more than 128 million homes worldwide and averaging over 200,000 viewers per week on one network. "We were hearing from fans all over the world. We had a marketing deal, sponsorship and offers from other networks, but I also had a secret," Southworth states.
While Southworth was living as the host of his popular TV show, he was also living a secret life, a life which was more honest as a gay man. However, after watching a documentary titled, For the Bible Tells Me So, he was able to gather the courage to live his life honestly and authentically.
On April 16, 2008 Southworth came out. Little did he know of the overwhelming response he would receive. "The week I came out, I received thousands of emails from people all over the world. One e-mail was from a 19-year-old named Matt. Matt told me he came out to his parents the same week I did, but they weren't taking it well. He continued to say he wasn't doing well either, because of their response, Matt said he tried to commit suicide twice that week. However, after reading my story on PerezHilton.com Matt said he felt there was hope. Today, Matt is a proud gay man," Southworth says.
It is because of stories like Matt's why Azariah is involved with activism and travels the country sharing his story. It's a story of overcoming years of fear, self-hatred and spiritual violence. It's a story of finding hope and love in a God he was told hated him.
Since his coming out, Azariah has participated in Soulforce Q's 2008 Equality Ride, GLSEN's Day of Silence, among many other demonstrations. In 2010, Azariah traveled the country with Ray Boltz on their national tour appropriately titled, "Living True: the tour." If you're interested in having Azariah come to speak at your event please visit the contact page. Azariah is currently writing a book detailing his story about overcoming years of fear, self-hatred and spiritual violence.