I grew up like a lot of other Cedarville students: regular church attendance, very active in church youth group, K-12 in a conservative Christian school, etc. I was the obedient, compliant child in my family and always got good grades.
However, from a very early age, I knew that there was something different about me. I didn’t know what the word “gay” meant until I read Preparing for Adolescence by James Dobson. In that book, he says that “homosexuals” (I hate that word) have severe psychological problems; and, for many years, I believed just that. I believed that I had deep, unresolved, severe problems that made me a bad person. I believed that if I prayed hard enough and long enough that I would like girls. I believed that every time I had a sexual thought about a boy or looked at a man with lust that I was committing a serious sin. I know that my parents didn’t intend any harm by exposing me to that book, but those words haunted me for years.
Luckily, my conservative Christian high school discouraged dating before college, so I didn’t feel much pressure to date in high school. These feelings became even stronger when I went to Cedarville. I finally felt like a grown-up; I was on my own (albeit in a dorm), away from my family, making friends on my own terms, listening to music that I wanted to listen to, etc. But I still had these feelings, stronger every day, of wanting to connect with guys, not girls.
I was continuing to pray that God would take away these feelings; and I was reading all these books by “anti-gays” about how God rescued them from their lives of sin and gave them wives and kids.
The summer after my sophomore year, I lived in Columbus and worked for a regional theatre company there. Living in the heart of gay Columbus and seeing so many gay men for the first time in my life totally changed my perspective. I still prayed that God would give me desire for women, but I saw that gay men weren’t these depraved, dark, brooding molesters that I imagined. I became friends with some gay people and grew to love their company, culture, and attitude toward life.
My efforts to “pray myself straight” continued, but not for long. During the holiday break of my junior year, I finally came out to myself, to a few friends, and to some co-workers.
The next summer, I lived in Columbus again, but this time as an out gay man. It was heaven. I didn’t make the wisest choices that summer, but I definitely enjoy the memories of that “wild” summer. I had my first boyfriends that summer, and one became a long-term boyfriend of five years. He would come and visit me at Cedarville during my senior year, staying with me in my off-campus apartment.
I graduated from Cedarville in 2001. By that time, I was out to most of my friends and co-workers but not to my family. That wouldn’t happen for a few more months.
I do not regret attending Cedarville. My time there changed my life – I discovered a love of theatre, made some awesome friends that I’m still in touch with, came to accept and love myself as a gay man, and actually received a pretty good education.
If there are any Cedarville students reading this, struggling with their sexuality, and just need someone to talk to, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be a privilege to provide a listening ear.