March 26, 2003. A day I won’t ever forget. The day my deepest darkest secrets came to light in a very public way. The day I shared that my family wasn’t perfect. And that I experience same-sex attraction.
In January of that year I had been asked to speak in chapel at Abilene Christian University, chapel being a daily time of praise and worship for students and faculty in Moody Coliseum. Attendance is required for students, so the place was packed with around 5,000 people.
I knew that it was time. Time to share my own experience and open a conversation that was long overdue.
But I was scared to death. Scared of how people would react – after all, I was still fairly new to the ACU faculty. How would my colleagues respond, but more importantly, how would my students respond to me? Would they drop my class? Would people treat me differently?
My fears ranged from rational to totally irrational, sometimes imagining the most negative responses. Physical violence. Verbal violence.
Or worse, being left alone.
Friends supported me. They left their jobs that morning and came to be with me. A friend came from out of state to sit on the rostrum with me and lead the opening prayer. My dearest friend and his wife drove three hours to sit on the front row beside my parents.
And at 11 a.m. nine years ago today, I stood on a stage in front of all those people and shared that I experience same-sex attraction. That while I consider my sexuality a part of who I am, it’s not all that I am. That I view same-sex attraction as a struggle, something that God didn’t intend for my life.
Since I said that, I’ve talked to a lot of people who experience same-sex attraction – some who identify as gay or lesbian and have reconciled Christianity and homosexuality, some who view it as one of the struggles in their lives, and some who have lost their faith in a loving God. Sadly, most of the people I’ve encountered have felt isolated and alone in wrestling with these questions – without anywhere safe to be open and honest about what they were experiencing.
I’m so very thankful for the opportunity to share my story, but I know that it doesn’t resonate with everyone. Some don’t agree with my perspective. But whatever your perspective, it’s important to feel like you’ve been heard.
To be given a voice.
About a month ago some current and former students from Abilene Christian University published an online magazine called “Voiceless,” presenting four different perspectives on the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality. The zine gave a voice to some who felt they hadn’t had a safe place.
Other stories are out there waiting to be given a voice.
So it’s important that we listen to each other, whether our views are similar, or polar opposites. It’s that whole idea of ‘seeking first to understand, rather than to be understood.’
And by the way, nobody dropped my class.