The Power of One

 

The Power of One:  My Wheaton College Coming Out Story

My name is Kristi. I attended Wheaton in 1997-98. I started my journey at Wheaton knowing I was gay, but hoping that some revelation, inspired by the Christian community at Wheaton, would “cure” me. I came out while a student, hoping my reveal would help those around me find a way to “fix” me. What happened after proved to me that I can’t be changed and was my first real experience with what Wheaton would, probably, describe as tough love. I didn’t see anything loving about it.

Long story short, I was treated as an outcast. I was moved out of my dorm to a single as it was thought I could negatively influence my roommates. I was asked, well, expected, to join a group for gays, lesbian and addicts. The movie But I’m A Cheerleader is meant to be a comedy, but the gay rehab program existed. I was informed by a Wheaton coach that he did not want me on his collegiate sports team because I would influence the players with my sinful nature. I received messages with added Bible verses on my voicemail and in campus mail resonating why students and faculty did not want to me participate in student programs and activities, even prayer, because my presence would have an impact on the religious walk of others. I was expected to seek Wheaton and outside counseling. The Wheaton counselor told me that I did not belong at Wheaton College and, although, she could not discuss her opinions given patient confidentiality, she felt it best that I not return to Wheaton.

At the end of my freshman year, I was required to meet with the dean after she met with the administration on how to handle my situation. I was asked to re-sign the pledge and to also sign a personal addendum stating that I fundamentally believed that homosexuality was a sin. I responded in agreement that I would re-sign the pledge and would live under the pledge while attending Wheaton, but I could not agree, then, that I felt that homosexuality was sin. I even pleaded that I would, with earnest attempts, work to understand and possibly someday come to agree with the belief that I was sinful. I was told that until I could agree with Wheaton’s belief on homosexuality that I was no longer welcome at Wheaton College.

I was asked to not return the following year. I was told I would always be welcomed back to Wheaton if I would agree that homosexuality was sinful and any homosexual acts, feelings or beliefs were also sinful. Simple abstinence was not an option.

I was and am still scarred by my year at Wheaton. I felt abandoned by the college, the church itself and the Wheaton people I befriended and admired.

I don’t allow myself to think much on my time at Wheaton. I have moved on and am now married to my partner, whom I love tremendously, and we are looking to become foster parents. I am very happy and have found a way to love myself again. I have a strong relationship with my faith, but still feel the scar that Wheaton has left on me and even the scar on what it put on my relationship with Christ and the church.

Looking at the pictures from the recent demonstration, it brought me back to Wheaton. I remember going to chapel. I remember those stairs and the big, white columns. I remember being worried about what people thought of me and how alone I felt while I was there. Those memories, mixed with the beauty of seeing signs that say, “I am gay,” “I am an ally,” and “God loves you,” was a very emotional stirring of the past and the present.

I have not been much of an activist myself, but try to be a living example of a Christian who happens to love a same sex Christian. I recognize my experience at Wheaton has caused me to fear speaking out and doing more.

For those who had the tremendous courage to be a part of that demonstration, I thank you so much! When I don’t have the strength to stand up, you are standing for me.  OneWheaton, I thank you. For every person who has to struggle and has found the strength to fight in this battle, I thank you.

Thank you so much for your courage and your love.

Sincerely and God Bless,
Kristi

4 Comments

  1. Deborah Jacoby-Twigg

    Kristi, Thank you for sharing your story. Such sharing is its own act of courageous activism because it costs to sit with the experience in order to tell it. I’m so sorry you had to go through what you endured at Wheaton. At age 18–how does one survive it? I’m glad you did and so happy for the life and love you have now and the integrity with which you live your life. I’m amazed that your faith survived this. You’re a strong person with a big heart. No doubt, your story will inspire and encourage many others as it has me. Again, thank you.

  2. Kelly

    It hurts my heart to read these stories. I too went to Wheaton, just a few years before this writer did. Each time I read the stories of gay and lesbian Wheaton students my heart hurts so deeply and I feel all the pain of those years moving through me. I am not a lesbian and I don’t pretend to know the pain of living at Wheaton as someone who is gay or lesbian or transsexual. But the stories always bring me back, to a place where my difference, my questioning, my unwillingness or inability to comply with the expectations heaped on me set me apart. Where I was judged, openly, subversively, in big and little ways, every day. I too try not to think of my time there. The alumni magazine (which I can’t seem to get them to stop sending me) makes my heart clutch every time I see it in the mail box. I think back on my gay and lesbian friends who endured so much pain at Wheaton and I am sometimes angry but mostly my heart just hurts. I too rejoice when I see the One Wheaton gatherings, the pictures of people who, by their actions, are saying, “Hey, there is a place for you, It gets better, you are not alone.”

  3. Beth

    Kristi, You were then and are now one of the most giving and courageous people I know. It saddens me to think that you view how you handled the situation a weakness. You were young and scared and your experiences shook you to the core (understandably) and made you question the things you felt most strongly about – God and Love. Shame on them. Your story (and ultimately your life and how you’ve chosen to live it) is inspiring to me and so many others. You know I’m not super religious, but I do believe in God and that certain things happen because He decides it should be so. I do thank Him for deciding our paths should cross because I think He knew how much I would need you one day. I could never repay you for the things you’ve given me. This is my experience, but I know I could speak for dozens of others whose lives you’ve impacted. And that, my friend, is what matters. You are good. You have a heart of gold. I know it. God knows it. Anyone who’s had a 10 minute conversation with you knows it. Screw Wheaton College. Boom. Love you.

  4. Gary Scott

    Kristi, you have just spoken out and others will be heartened by your experience and that you ARE accepting yourself, have moved on (Wheaton, thank God, is not the be all and end all of Christendom) and allowing your partner to partner to love you. You will be a great parent. From a former Wheatie who lives on without close feelings about Wheaton or close ties to the College itself.

    Gary Scott — dropped out Easter of my senior year – class of ’70

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