t's safe to say that 2023 is probably one of the most pivotal years in Josh Seiter's life.
During the summer, Seitera former Bachelorette contestant who's also a Chicago resident, Chicago-Kent College of Law grad, mental-health advocate and OnlyFans content creatorcame out as bisexual. (He later revealed that he was dating a fellow male dancer; however, that relationship has dissolved.) Then, the following month, media outlets reported Seiter had died, only for everyone to discover that rumors of his demise had been greatly exaggerateda situation Seiter has attributed to a hacker attacking his social-media account. The blowback became so great that Seiter logged off social media and spent time in a wellness facility.
Last week, Seiter talked with Windy City Times about a variety of topics, including coming out, homeschooling and being a mental-health advocate.
Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: I know it's usually almost a throwaway question for a lot of people, but how are you?
Josh Seiter: You know, I've been better. It's definitely been tough ever since the death-hoax thing happened a couple months ago. It's unending comments, messages and pressure about mesome true, some false. For anyone, it [would be] tough but if you're dealing with generalized anxiety and depression, it's doubly difficult. Hopefully, I will survive.
For this interview, I'd prefer not to deal with the ins and outs of what I'm dealing with right now because it's not something I want to talk about. But, in general, the last couple months have been difficultbut I'm trying my hardest to stay positive and understand that this is only temporary.
WCT: What have you learned about yourself through all this?
JS: It's reconfirmed a lot of things I already learned and was aware of from more traumatizing situations. It's hard to say that it's all taught me certain things; it's reconfirmed and drove home things I had learned in previous difficult situations.
Having undergone electroshock therapy when I was 21, I learned that I can survive literally anything. I ended up attending law school six months after I had [that] therapy. That taught me that many things that we think are forever are just temporary or ephemeral; that we're not defined by one moment in time; and that I'm resilient. It also taught me that life's really not a sprint; it's a marathon. So the death-hoax thing just reconfirmed what I learned years ago.
Nothing will be erected in my path that will be too difficult for me to overcomeand I've overcome so much, like being homeschooled my whole life, dealing with electroshock therapy and getting through law school.
WCT: You brought up homeschooling. Why was that something you had to overcome? Some people I've talked with said they feel they benefited from it.
JS: Like anything, homeschooling had its benefits and drawbacks. I'm very grateful for homeschooling to allow me to be close to my parents, spend unlimited time with my brothers and spend time pursuing what I wanted to do, like reading books or playing outside. There's a lot more freedom and autonomy when you're homeschooled with two other people than when you're in a school with 1,500 other kids for eight and a half hours a day.
But it also stunted me socially and made me uncomfortable in public spaces and around strangers. There was a very large learning curve that I had to adjust to once I was thrown into college [the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign]. I never got to go to prom or homecoming, never got to date and never got to sit in a school cafeteriamemories that some people take for granted. I didn't even have a best bud from elementary school. Homeschooling stunts your ability to socialize, empathize and sympathize.
Inherent in that upbringing was that the homeschooling was done by born-again Christian parents who felt the world was basically divided into good and evil. They felt that if I wasn't constantly vigilant, I'd be tempted by the devil, become a heathen and probably spend eternity in hell once I died. The religious part of my parents was instilled in my homeschoolingwhich caused a lot of anxiety in me and a lot of the issues that I deal with now.
I think that if I had children, I would not be so cavalier about the decision to homeschool them. You're isolating a child from society for 15 years, so I think people need to think long and hard before they do it. I think my parents did it on a whim, and I think my mother is still unaware about how much that can affect somebody.
WCT: Since this is National Coming Out Month, who was the first person you came out to? Also, how has the feedback been since you came out publicly?
JS: The first person I came out to was a very good friend of mine who I actually met at a store in my hometown. I met him in September  and told him in November.
I came out publicly in June of this year in an interview with Instinct Magazine. The public perception has been great and people have been awesome. There's a lot of talk about bisexuality erasure because a lot of bisexuals feel invisible or unseen. I understand that and empathize with it, but I don't think it needs to be a contest about who can get the most attention. The end goal should be that people are accepting, no matter what.
I get hundreds of messages every week with people saying, "Your story has helped me" or "I'm no longer ashamed." The public's been great and it seems that my story resonates with a lot of people. And them telling me how much my story helps them actually helps me; it's full-circle.
I have some very close gay family members and extended family members. So it's very important to me that not just I be open and comfortable with myself, but that my close family members are able to be themselves without facing blowback or violence. So it's been a positive experience, and I'm glad we have months to celebrate being ourselves. I think we're moving in a great direction and I'm relieved to see the public perception to coming out, so I'm grateful to everyone for that.
WCT: And as inclusive as Chicago is, there are areas in this country that are definitely not. I'm curious: What do you think can be done in less accepting areas to make them more inclusive?
JS: I think it all comes down to education. I think when people are ignorant of something, the gut instinct is to mock it. So the inverse of that is to make people not ignorant of something, and let's help them to understand.
I think the way to educate is to interact with other people who are different from them. It's hard when a person in a small town in, say, Tennessee, has never met a gay person. If they just listen to certain talk-radio stations or watch Fox News, they're going to think gay people are deviants and will be hostile toward them. People need to meet others who are different from them and see they're not what the media makes them out to be. Some people are Islamophobes because they've never met Muslims.
I also think there needs to be a lot more representation in books, commercials and movies. The more representation that's out there, the more educated people will be and the less enmity there will be.
Also, I think there's a lack of education as a result of religion. I think religion is diametrically opposed to education, that it prevents people from being progressive and I think religion is anti-science.
WCT: What's your message to anyone who's currently struggling with mental-health issues?
JS: I feel the biggest drawback for me was that I was suffering in silence because of shame and embarrassment. I was born in 1987 and the first time I saw a therapist was in 2002. People weren't being honest about mental-health struggles then; guys had to show bravado and machismo. Thankfully, we're progressed a lot since then. I eventually decided to be open because I was dealing with layers of anxiety.
So being open is a necessary first step. I did an interview with People Magazine in which I said the more open you are about it, the more connections you can make with other people who are also dealing with problems, so you don't have to fight it alone. There are people with resources to help. It's okay to be vulnerable and honest.
Another thing I would recommend is to stay active. The number-one danger we face is an idle mind. If I'm sitting in my house and I'm idle, my brain is at a hundred. But if I force myself to go for a walk, go to the gym or clean the house, it helps.
The third thing I would recommend is therapy. I'm a strong believer in cognitive behavioral therapy, which restructures the faulty thinking that leads to your distress. I would advise talking with a therapist who practices this therapy. After time, it can help immensely with the stress and anxiety you're dealing with in your life. Otherwise, just talk with someone you just trust.
Medication is not a cure-all but can be helpful as a supplement. But if you're doing those first three things, medication can be helpful on an as-needed basis for those very, very dark times. Medication is tricky because you can over-rely on it. But with the first three and medication as a possible supplement, I know people can overcome any mental-health crisis they're going through.