I’m a straight, happily married woman, a mother, grandmother, and former Wheaton professor. I am allied, but not in the typical ways, with OneWheaton members, family members, and various other students from several Christian colleges and universities.
Having three gay cousins (from three different families) meant I was introduced to the conversation about homosexuality early. Growing up I understood my cousins to be choosing a sinful lifestyle, and that continuing that path condemned them to hell and brought shame and grief to their families in the meantime. But one of the families in my big extended family (and one that didn’t have a gay son) embraced and cared for Jon during his final years as he died from AIDS. I don’t want to admit this, but am sure that my parents wounded Jon’s parents deeply, and offended the aunt and uncle who understood what it meant to be Christian in a whole different way than my parents did.
But the biggest surprise, and the one that required the greatest adjustment on my part and that of my young family, occurred when we learned that my husband’s father had struggled as a closeted gay man since adolescence. He married in hopes it would “fix” him, sought reparative therapy, fathered children, worked and lived with my mother-in-law, and embraced the in-laws and grandchildren that came. But he wounded his wife with unfaithfulness, having multiple affairs over the course of their marriage; a marriage she eventually ended.
My husband and I wondered how to explain to our elementary and middle-school aged children why seemingly happy Grandpa and Grandma were getting divorced. Their complex story included public shame and jail time and we unfolded bits of it to our children, pieces at a time that we thought they could handle. They came to accept their gay Grandpa, but still harbor some resentment at the lifetime of pain he caused their Grandma, even if his choice to marry her was because other choices were not available at the time. Our family (including our children) have stayed connected to my husband’s father—admittedly wounded by his choices, but feeling a familial loyalty to him just the same, along with some measure of compassion.
So was I prepared for the first student who eventually told me he was gay over coffee during my early years at Wheaton? Yes and no. Nothing he said surprised me or appalled me or inclined me to try to fix or change him. I remember that he found my not suspecting he was gay to be comforting. It affirmed that he could pass at Wheaton well enough. I felt a heavy sadness because I knew his life would include more pain than most. He desired marriage with a woman and to father children with her. He wanted the respect and affirmation of his parents, two people he loved and wanted to honor. So there would be losses, and I felt a burden for those he already anticipated, and losses he could not yet anticipate. But the greatest sadness I felt was his certainty that he was an abomination to God—that God could not find him acceptable, could not love him, and that he was, according to his own faith, doomed to an eternity in hell. And if that was the case, he wondered, why not embrace his desires while living, since he faced eternal torment anyway?
I’ve heard similar expressions from another 20 students or so since. Some are questioning, some feel certain about their sexual identity as gay or lesbian. All have been wounded in various ways. Some have since settled into heterosexuality and seemingly happy marriages, some experimented, usually just for a season, by diving into the gay lifestyle. Some are living celibate lives while seeking intimacy in friendships where they seek to be fully known and loved, and to know and love others. Some have found satisfying long-term committed relationships with partners.
My primary hope for those who trust their souls with me is to be Jesus to them. Since my greatest sadness is hearing students express a belief that they must choose between embracing their sexuality (which means different things to different students) or embracing their faith, I seek to challenge that belief.
I value that OneWheaton includes supporters who believe that one can be loved by God, embraced in the loving arms of God, and yet have a sexual identity that is not heterosexual. I welcome the opportunity to be a walking partner along the way, affirming the beauty in all humanity, as well as our common struggles.
We are all pursued by a never-tiring God who loves us with limitless love. God invites us into a good life—one characterized by faithfulness, self-sacrifice, loyalty, the pursuit of shalom, and by the peace and joy possible by being known and loved, not only by God, but also by others, and in a community that thrives on the strength of being known and loved. God’s world holds abundance for those whose attention is drawn to God’s tender love, and to a life walked humbly, characterized by loving mercy and seeking justice.
–former Wheaton prof
**This post was written by a former Wheaton professor who wrote under the condition of being anonymous. While we wish everyone were (and felt) free to write openly and sign their names, Untold understands that this is not always the case and fully supports hearing and sharing the stories of those who, for whatever reason, feel the need to remain anonymous.
What an excellent and important perspective.
I am sorry that you felt you had to post this anonymously. Those of us who have come out in order to try to change attitudes really need our allies to be open, not ashamed of supporting LGBT students and alumni. Thank you for sharing your story, but please consider how much more influence you could have in the Wheaton College community by being open.
Thank you so much for this, and I’m so grateful for all allies, whether they have the luxury of being open and “out” about their allied status or not.
You should leave your name and tell us who you are OR tell us why you can’t. If you are really a “walking partner” you would trust your “never-tiring God” with “limitless love” and come “out” with your convictions. Otherwise you remain in the closet and leave us wondering “who is she, really?”.
I’ll quote my favorite part in the post below, and I for one echo those thoughts, also an ally and alumni. I love learning from one another. I feel God’s pleasure when we choose to care for one another and walk together towards what’s important in moving forward to “Thy kingdom come.”
“I value that OneWheaton includes supporters who believe that one can be loved by God, embraced in the loving arms of God, and yet have a sexual identity that is not heterosexual. I welcome the opportunity to be a walking partner along the way, affirming the beauty in all humanity, as well as our common struggles.
We are all pursued by a never-tiring God who loves us with limitless love. God invites us into a good life—one characterized by faithfulness, self-sacrifice, loyalty, the pursuit of shalom, and by the peace and joy possible by being known and loved, not only by God, but also by others, and in a community that thrives on the strength of being known and loved. God’s world holds abundance for those whose attention is drawn to God’s tender love, and to a life walked humbly, characterized by loving mercy and seeking justice.”
This is a beautiful story, and it took a great deal of courage to share it with us. Thank you. Please don’t be bothered by those who are pressing you to reveal your identity or who say your story is somewhat less meaningful because of your anonymity. That is their own personal take on it. I know that your story has been very impactful to me, and I could care less if you shared you identity with us. It doesn’t make a difference one bit.
I also realize there may be a host of reasons why you cannot share your identity, many of which probably having nothing to do with the fact that you are an ally. You shared some very personal details about your life, and I don’t blame you for not wanting people to know who you are.
You have given me hope with your story. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am a gay alumni and understand the need to write anonymously at times. Thanks for your loving sensitivity. I hope others who have had similar experiences will share their stories as well. My family and I agree to disagree on many things regarding our disparate views on our faiths. That doesn’t daily laughs and chats between us that are very warm. I’m thankful that my relationship with God is a rich one which has no conflict re. the morality of being gay. My heart goes out to those who feel conflicted. There really is no need for this conflict. Thanks again to the blog creators. Great job!
I want to hear more. What was it like to be an ally in a non-supportive institution. Did you feel conflict? Was is difficult to be hidden about your benevolent feelings toward LGBTQ students? Did you have other allies that you could confide in? Did you experience fear? Do you now? If so, I am interested.
I appreciate your support of LGBTQ students while you were a member of the faculty. Looking back, do you wish you could have been open about it? Is there ever a time to stand up and be counted with LGBTQ students against an institution? Or can that only be done in numbers?
You post sparks many strong feelings, for and against this quiet suport. I hope you understand that allied faculty are critical to the health and safety of LGBTQ students at Christian schools. Also understand that silencing voices is damaging to everyone; it is the essential definition of oppression. And you, like LGBTQ persons, have been oppressed.
I challenge you to reflect on that, how it felt during those years of silence, and even now. I would love to hear more.
i know i am, and always will be, deeply grateful to the profs who walked with me along the “underground railroad” that students like me at christian colleges often travel. sadly, before i came to terms with myself, i would not have trusted ANY professor who i perceived as openly supportive of gay acceptance– one of the main reasons i went to wheaton instead of a secular college, in fact. instead, those professors who willingly demonstrated an openness to the complexities of gay-related issues signaled, to me at least, that i was safe to ask them the tough questions that i needed to at that point on my journey.
my first glimmer of true hope came from one particular professor at wheaton that i confided in about my “struggle.” after disclaiming that she could not say this openly outside her office, she went on to share that she “could not believe that God wouldn’t want me to experience the love and intimacy that he designed me for.” she didn’t tell me that it was ok to be gay and to just accept my gayness and be happy. i wasn’t ready to hear that just yet. instead, with those simple words she inspired me to believe that it was ok to feel loved by God, and that it didn’t matter who or how i loved either. though i’m no longer a christian (for many other reasons), at that moment my faith had never felt stronger and up until then, i had never felt more whole and free from shame.
then, as now, i understood the many risks professors can face for openly speaking up as allies in the hostile, however subtle, environment of an evangelical college. while i long for a day when it’s no longer necessary to be coded and quiet at places like wheaton, and though i strongly believe that silence does tacitly perpetuate oppression, the underground support that professors like you provided me was crucial to my development as a healthier human being. but for others, that might not be enough. i do hope that someday the students you have touched can proudly- and openly- claim you as their ally. in the meantime, thank you.
Thank you for allowing us to hear your story and giving us words of truth about God’s love for us and God’s invitation for us to pursue shalom and live within a peace and joy of being known and loved.
I remember one of my professors taking me to lunch and befriending me and listening to me talk about this struggle I was having. She was very sweet and accepting and listened. She was affirming to a point. I think if I were not so repressed and had said more to her, she probably would have said more to me and I would have felt even more affirmed, but I did not say too much. If there had been a group like OneWheaton around at that time, I surely would have investigated and it honestly would have saved me a lot of grief in my life.