As early as five years old, I was aware of my dissenting sexuality. Not until adolescence could I articulate the unorthodox force within me beyond just feeling “different than the other boys.“ In retrospect, my gayness has been a constant in my life; it has been the self-acceptance, the skyward chin, and the prayers of thanks rather than deliverance that have stood to be elusive forces.
It was in the principal’s office of a small Christian high school that I first realized the cumbersome weight my sexuality would carry. At an off-campus basketball game, I discussed my gayness openly with a friend. Unknown to me in that moment, a school parent overheard the dialogue and reported back to my school’s principal. My principal gave me two options: come out to my parents at home within twenty-four hours or allow him to monitor the discussion within the “safety“ of his office a day later.
Reparative therapy sessions, discussions on my parents’ desires for daughter-in-laws, and plans for father-son trips to ex-gay conventions peppered my adolescence. From that thirty-eight-person high school graduating class to Cedarville University, I had carried my gayness, hoping to one day expose it unapologetically and establish full disclosure for myself. I hoped to do this in those Christian contexts I’d referenced as home, as safe.
My stint as a Cedarville student was a vibrant and dynamic time. I still wane at some of the gracious opportunities afforded me: singing in a group that toured on the weekends and recorded CDs in its down time, leading discussions on diversity and planning events geared toward inclusion, and being a reassuring presence in the lives of prospective students and parents.
My junior year at Cedarville, I wanted to bring my sexuality out of the darkness that was a hushed tone or nervous whisper. Many of my peers and teammates were fully aware of my sexuality; it was an openness with faculty, staff, and administrators that I craved.
I reached that goal, but the consequences reached beyond my desires. I withdrew from Cedarville University after involuntarily resigning from various leadership positions. After two-and-a-half years of enrollment, I could proudly call myself a Cedarville alum, though not a Cedarville graduate.
I appreciated the opportunity to attend, if not just to have met a handful of astounding people, and later painfully depart from Cedarville. My passage though Cedarville informed my empathy, and I now marvel at the opportunity to kick up the dust of kindness with a strength kindled by trial. I now often return to Cedarville’s campus—adorned with seven-to-eight rings spread between ten fingers and a rainbowed gay-pride bracelet. I return with the opportunity to mentor and support gay students currently attending the university. Those conversations and those relationships make all the adolescent angst, parental misunderstandings, and church rejections worth it.
The boy that danced around in mom’s clothes, that was nearly expelled from his high school, removed from collegiate leadership, and was conditioned to wear his socialized self-hate proudly, stands today as a proud Christian man and a proud gay man.
To those drenched in internalized oppression and in the defamations your day-to-day contexts throw your way—I am a witness that your pains are not for the wind; they are not in vain. You are building within yourself a strength to encourage with each fiery dart to take on. You are an ambassador of hope. Rest assured that you will soon be equipped to help those who face what you face. There is purpose in your pain and a community ready to embrace you fully—to celebrate your full disclosure.