Sometimes it doesn’t take much. In four words, we can voice a powerful message to LGBTIQ students currently at Taylor University: “You are not alone.” Or in three words: “It gets better.” In two, “Keep hoping.” In one, “Welcome.”
When I came out to myself as a gay man I very much believed I was the only gay man on the campus of Taylor University, perhaps the first ever. I was that naive, that arrogant, that stupid. I felt that alone, that overwhelmingly alone. Noah-opening-the-ark-door-and-looking-out-after-the-Great-Flood alone. Jeremiah-in-the-bottom-of-the-pit alone. A-lamb-chop-dropped-into-the-lions’-den alone.
I wasn’t, of course. Wasn’t the only LGBTIQ person at Taylor, wasn’t the first, wouldn’t be the last. Nor was I so alone as I imagined. In time I found a loving, supporting, welcoming community of LGBTIQ persons and allies—outside of Taylor, beyond the village border, out in the “real world.” This was an important step in my journey and healing.
Today I find it affirming and instructive to touch base with others regarding their experience of Taylor University as LGBTIQ persons or allies. There is strength in numbers—comfort, too—and in growing awareness of the many facets of a shared experience.
WHAT’S BEING SAID
Taylor makes its official stance quite clear, seeing gender variant persons and their relationships as unacceptable, misguided, pitiable, broken, sinful. No news here: misleading and demeaning messages about sexuality and sexual identity have lasting negative impact. Doesn’t matter if those messages of intolerance are built with hate speech or come cloaked in church-talk, delivered with the best of intentions. Across much of the evangelical landscape and from many corners of the Taylor campus, LGBTIQ persons hear the sermon that they are less than whole, less than human, less than worthy of full participation, acceptance and welcome. Such messages are as insidious as they are pervasive, and inflict moral injury. They perpetuate self-hatred, depression, alienation and feelings of isolation.
A ROLE FOR LGBTU
As LGBTIQ Taylor University alumni and allies, we are uniquely poised to be of service and offer support to LGBTIQ students and allies currently at Taylor who may be struggling with the integration of faith, sexual orientation and gender identity. Many of us have been there, have “fought the good fight” and have come out the stronger for the deep personal and spiritual work we’ve done to reclaim our souls and celebrate our selves. We stand as living proof that there is a broader worldview and are more options for putting together a life than that and those sanctioned by the university.
WHAT WE CAN OFFER
As LGBTIQ Taylor University alumni and allies, we can serve both as example and as resource. We can create an online space where our stories can be shared, accomplishments celebrated—alumni news and views the university ignores or suppresses. We can offer website links to resources we ourselves have found helpful; we can serve as contact persons for students who want to process their thoughts and feelings. Together, we can blend our voices to break the silence on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity many of us experienced during our time on campus.
WHO WE ARE: DIVERSITY OF EXPERIENCE & BELIEF
As LGBTIQ Taylor University alumni and allies, we represent diverse life experiences and theological points (or non-theological) of view. We don’t all think, act or believe alike. Herein lies our strength. We don’t have to subscribe or agree to a uniform code of doctrine in order to unite our efforts on behalf of others. I like the way it’s put by One Wheaton, an LGBTQ and allies group of Wheaton College: “… we need to be clear that we are not a church, denomination, or ministry; therefore, we have no need for theological or doctrinal unity. Our unity and common ground is ready-made in our shared experiences as Wheaton alumni, and beyond that, as alumni who are able to embrace and affirm LGBTQ identities and relationships. In our life journeys, some of us came to believe that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a Christian and in a same-sex relationship. Others are still wrestling with these issues and are working to synthesize these different aspects of their lives. Others have moved on from beliefs they held in college. Because of this diversity, we feel we are uniquely situated to help students trying to piece together their identities as they enter adulthood.”
VOICING OUR SUPPORT
One Wheaton posted an open letter to the college campus, initially signed by 600-plus LGBTQ alumni and allies. That’s a powerful example. If you’re interested in signing your name to a similar open letter to the Taylor community, please contact me [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]. Then contact your own network of LGBTIQ Taylor alumni and allies. Share this on Facebook and other social media sites. Ask your friends if they’re interested in learning more, and/or lending their name to the effort. There is strength in numbers. Perhaps we can’t wield 600 signatories, but our voice may be heard more clearly and ring more loudly as it is amplified many times over.
We can make a difference.
Photo credit: Detail, photo by A. Moore (MooreALX-flickr.com)
No endorsement implied by the photographer or Taylor University.
Note: this post is duplicated on the blog page, “(proposed) LGBTU Alumni & Allies Group,” making it easy to post the link on Facebook and Twitter by using the buttons at the bottom of the page.