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,