Hiding at Wheaton
As an undergrad, I hide from myself. My sophomore year, I fall in love with a man with relief. When stray thoughts enter my mind, I am creative. I am drawn to her face or her curves because…well, didn’t God make women objectively attractive? My pulse races when I am with her because…caffeine? And so I corral my pesky thoughts on the rare occasions they creep into consciousness.
Mental gymnastics help me continue hiding until my mid-20s. Coincidentally, I finally come out to myself several days before my interview for the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology at Wheaton College. When I receive my acceptance letter and decide to enter the program, I know that “homosexual behavior” is grounds for dismissal.
But three things are true:
1. I am still pretty sure that homosexuality is a sin.
2. Wheaton College was a positive, healing place for me as an undergrad.
3. I honestly believe God is calling me to return.
The third one still amuses me, as I spent my freshman year feeling estranged from my classmates who spoke (I thought) blithely of God sending them to Wheaton.
The doctoral program is a five-year program. Halfway through the first year, I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin. At the beginning of my second year, I meet a woman at my church and am instantly smitten. After six months of contemplation, I initiate and we begin a relationship. Which leaves 3 years, 5 months of hiding.
Why not leave? Why stay at a school that would kick me out for loving someone? Alternately, wasn’t my conscious decision to violate the Community Covenant a breach of integrity? This is the truth of it. I honestly believed I was called to be at Wheaton College. And I believed I had met the love of my life. And I had a vision of someday using my doctoral degree from Wheaton and my experience to be a gift to others.
What was it like being silent at Wheaton? It is a paradox. On campus, I feel alone and increasingly estranged. Every time we talk about “homosexuality” in class, which is frequent, it stretches my endurance to listen and keep silent. I gradually drift away from most of my friends in the program. A couple of them explicitly ask me why I am withdrawing. Lying to them makes me nauseous. But I don’t trust them to keep my secret, nor do I believe they should share my burden of silence.
Outside of school, I have never been less lonely. We are deeply in love. We build a significant friendship network of people who love and support us. Still, I weep after attending the weddings of my classmates, knowing I can’t share that part of my life with them. And I long to get married. I know she is “the one.” But she insists, wisely, that we wait until I complete my doctoral degree. Our wedding will not be hidden. Three years and five months pass slowly, but the ceremony is glorious.
My silence was not ultimately emotionally damaging because I formed community outside of Wheaton College. I cannot imagine hiding as an undergrad when you are so much more dependent on campus life. In college, I never even had a car. I was on the 20-meal plan all four years.
But I don’t trust them to keep my secret, nor do I believe they should share my burden of silence.
I was touched to see how many undergraduate allies rallied around their peers on the Day of Silence of April 20th. The only person I came out to in the graduate program was an increasingly outspoken ally. He was kind and would check in with me after yet another awkward conversation about homosexuality in class.
Now I am not silent. But I feel compassion for LGBTQ members of the Wheaton College community and in the many conservative Christian colleges, churches, and organizations around the world who are silent. I hope that these words help even one of you feel less alone.
~ Lora, BA in Philosophy, 97; Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology ’07