Like the dawn, it slips in quietly, almost when you’re not looking. Courage.
Taylor University students arriving for breakfast at the dining commons this morning found a yellow sheet of paper typewritten on both sides sitting there on each table, right alongside the “News of the Day’ campus announcements. This was a different sort of announcement: Student Senate President Jeffry Neuhouser, a senior history major set to graduate in May, coming out as a gay man in an open letter to the campus community.
“I want to personalize what has become simply an “issue” on campus,” he told my husband and me this morning over breakfast at a cafe near Upland. His phone kept up a steady hum all through the meal. “I’m getting a flood of text messages and emails,” he said. “People have a lot of positive things to say.”
Here is his brave and heartfelt letter:
Dear Members of the Taylor Community,
Forgive me. Forgive me for not being completely honest with you. Forgive me for hiding behind my fear and trepidation. Forgive me for the mask I have worn. More often than not I forget 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
This is my story.
I have struggled with same sex attraction since middle school and I thought for the longest time that I would be able to change my attractions. I believed that the struggle was just a sin that I was susceptible to and that I could get over it with enough prayer and determination. After coming to college, I tried multiple times to date because I believed that attraction to women would come with a relationship. I tried several times, but eventually realized that the attraction was not going to come to me. That was the point when I finally “came out” to myself.
I realized that I am gay.
I was not able to change my attractions. So, the question I faced at this junction was, “How does my sexuality play into my faith?” The process has been long and hard and I have not reached all the conclusions that I want to nor do I have the answers. I will be the first to tell you that I do not have all the answers! I do, however, have a renewed understanding of God, of struggle, of pain, and of people. There have been points when I have felt like giving up on God and have questioned whether he even exists or not. But through my journey, I have determined to keep living for God and seeking to find out his will for my life. I do not necessarily seek to be happy even though that would be nice. Rather, my focus is searching for truth and finding joy in truth.
Why am I coming out publicly?
I do not come out to you, my community, as a way to gain attention — at least not for myself. I do this to help you become aware that same-sex attracted people exist at Taylor, and we all have names and faces. Up to this point you may have only heard anonymous quotes and stories in the Echo … but do gay people really exist at Taylor? Yes, and I know this because I am one!
I am writing this letter to you all for the sake of people like me. We are your roommates, we are your classmates, we eat in the DC with you, we play football with you, we sing with you in chapel, we pray with you in church, we are your friends, and we are your siblings, but most importantly we are children of God created in his image. Many of these people are scared, as I am, of what will happen if and when they come out.
I am removing my mask, so that you may know the truth about me.
You have probably also heard the quote by CS Lewis: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” I love Taylor and I love the people at Taylor. I love you all too much to lock up my heart, but in my comfort I am afraid I will lose my chance and ability to be vulnerable and open with the Taylor community. Honestly, I am terrified right now of all the potential fallout, consequences, and backlash. This fear is what has kept me from coming out sooner.
Lastly, but most importantly, my purpose in opening my heart to you is to glorify God. My story, and by default my sexuality, means nothing without God. I hope to glorify God by helping people understand the stories that God has written because each of our stories is precious to God and should be used to shine light on him.
How should you react to all of this new information?
Reflect on this new information. Rethink how you treat people and how you view the issue of sexuality. Reread Scripture and try to look at it with new insights. Listen to people’s stories. Are your words and actions showing that you are safe and open to people sharing their stories with you? Educate yourself on the language surrounding same-sex attraction and the arguments on both sides. Most importantly, respect people and their personal experiences.
None of us have everything figured out. I am just Jeffry. But together, we are a community, willing to take a position of humility to better understand and hopefully work this out together. There is so much more I want to say, but I will wait for a later time and venue. Perhaps we can grab coffee some time.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – MLK, Jr.
Walking together towards Christ,
Join the LGBTU Facebook group
Note: Jeffry’s letter is posted on the Choros page, a campus organization that seeks to create a safe place for discussing sexuality. Jeffry was president of the group this past year.
Photo credit: Megan Long Photography