A couple days ago, some members of OneWheaton were made aware of a letter that was posted on Wheaton’s campus. The student wrote about feeling unsafe and unsupported on campus. Below are the responses of several alumni who want to show current students that we hear you, and we’re here for you.
I haven’t been a Wheaton student for 15 years, but my years as a student there still remain one of the most pivotal times of my life. After reading your letter, my first thought was that this should be posted on every floor in every building, on every dorm stairwell, and maybe just on every dorm room door. Both sides. I wanted to rub everyone’s nose in it like they were disobedient puppies. Perhaps swatting them with a rolled up newspaper and yelling “No! Bad student body! Not Christlike!” in a stern, authoritative voice.
My second thought was wishing I could be a Wheaton student now, (knowing everything I know now of course) and being able to be there for you as a friend because of course I could fix everything. Or just hang out.
So my first non-condemnatory, non-self-centered thought was how impressed and moved I was by your words. You painted such a vivid picture of your out life much more dispassionately than I think I would have been able to, but at the same time not accusing, just telling it like it is.
I’m proud of you for standing up like this, for making a dialogue where you could find none. I’m so sorry for the treatment you’re receiving, and I hope that all of us at OneWheaton can continue to help you in whatever ways you choose to let us. It sounds so cliche, but we really are here for you. We may not be able to change everything else on your list, but I hope our messages will help you to feel like you’re not alone.
Wheaton dropout sometime around 1998-99″
My brother in life, my brother in the giving and receiving of love, my brother in hope and pain and turmoil and peace: I realize that talk is cheap and I wish that I had more than this to give to you. I wish I was in Wheaton right now so that I could meet you, give you a hug, go somewhere with you and listen to what you have to say, or perhaps listen to silence in company with you if talking wasn’t on your mind.
I know how painful isolation can be and I am sorry for the loneliness you’re enduring. I’m sorry for the assault that you suffered and that in this mad, fearful world people are dismissing and blaming you instead of helping you. I really hope that you find someone trustworthy who can walk through these experiences with you because I hate the thought of you diminishing in solitude and silence. It sounds like some of our mutual friends know some good people. If they reach out to you, please take their hands! You deserve love and grace and help.
You deserve to feel whole, and to pursue even greater richness of life. You deserve to feel lovely and beloved. Other people try to shed their own uncertainties and insecurities onto you in order to resolve their own identity crises, and that experience just sucks — there are no two ways about it. I wish we could all be immune to these forces, but meanwhile please know that there are many, many people who find you beautiful and worthwhile. let that song drown out the silence.
Please forgive me if I sound a bit maudlin. I hate cliches and empty gestures – I guess to circle back to where I started I really just want to give you a hug that goes on for an hour and since I cannot do that, I’m trying to fill up the gap of physical contact with (hopefully) encouraging metaphors. It’s strange, isn’t it, how hard it is for us to find the proper words? Our lives by rights should have a lot more simple hand-holding and eye contact and other gestures of love. Instead people often pick the worst words, or they just fall silent and look away.
Please don’t let other people’s poor choices teach you to fall silent and look away! You are meaningful, and you are valuable, and I hope that you are soon surrounded by others who recognize this truth.
Adam, Class of ’95”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!
You said all the things I didn’t have the guts to say when I attended Wheaton 15 years ago. As a gay guy who was (and largely still is) in the closet, I understand how difficult it is to come out, even anonymously, to a group of people.
During my time at Wheaton, I experienced everything you mentioned in your letter – the difference is I suffered in silence. I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself.
What you did today took guts. It will undoubtedly pave the way for those who follow.
Thank you for your courage and your foresight. You are respected and you are loved.
Join our community – send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
-TJ, Class of 2001 “
“Dear ‘out of the closet’ student:
Thank you for sharing your experience with your fellow students. You might make some people think more deeply than they had before, and that is a positive contribution to the WC community. I am so sorry that this contribution comes at the price of your pain and loneliness. I am a Wheaton alum and wanted to send a note of support. It is hard for me to know exactly what to say, because my thinking about many things has changed so much since the time I left Wheaton. You are brave. I admire your courage. I wish you peace and comfort and safe, affirming company on your journey.
Sara Elliott, class of ’89”
“I, and many others in 1W, agree with you: ‘something does need to change’ and your courageous letter is part of that tide…we are really proud of you…the letter you posted evokes such a bittersweet response…in one way, it demonstrates that these actions can no longer be tolerated and that silence is not an acceptable response…but the very existence of the letter speaks so sadly to how bad it is for LGBTQ youth at WC at the most vulnerable age in their sexual development…for that we are sorry, and we get it, as many of us experienced similar awfulness…or experienced defining silence around issues of sexuality or never heard homosexuality even uttered (some of us are old)…please know there are many of us here in solidarity with you…
Dawn Marie Galtieri, Class of 1983″
“Dear ‘anonymous’ student,
I want you to know: you are not anonymous. You are seen, loved, held, cherished. You are not a mistake. You are perfect in every way, just as you came into this world.
The night after I read your letter, I lay awake for a long time, thinking of you and praying for you, that you would find comfort in your pain. I hope you know that many people were gathered around you in virtual support that night.
I am deeply, deeply sorry that my alma mater, Wheaton College, still allows you and so many others to suffer in silence. God’s love is unconditional for every single human being. There is no “well, except for that part of you” to that Divine love. You were born exactly as you were meant to be born, and you are meant to live your life fully as yourself, no apologies or camouflage required.
I hold the vision that soon, very soon, we will find we are on the cusp of a profound sea change at Wheaton. I thank you for calling up the courage to post your letter publicly. May you find all the support and love that you need, and may your actions make a difference for all our other brothers and sisters who are silenced because they are gay. We are with you every day as you walk on your path.
With much love and respect,
Pennie Magee, PhD
B.A. Anthropology, Class of 1980″
““I’m so sorry for all you are going through. My heart hurts for you. The church- and Wheaton- should be a safe place – and I can certainly see it has not for you. I’m outraged on your behalf – no one should be accused of wanting molestation of any form. And to be fired because of rape? Criminal.
I would strongly encourage you, if you haven’t already, to find a safe place to talk out the trauma. Not just from this summer, but from the insensitive responses you are receiving at the moment. They have a way of weighing you down, and building a strong support network from those not walking away, or from new people in your life, is crucial.
It gets better. And I hope, for your sake, you can find some of that better at Wheaton. You have courage in spades- I can see that clearly. And I hope that things do change. In the meantime, we have your back, and are here to talk, if you need it.
“My heart goes out to you, anonymous student in great pain. I want you to know this: it can get better and it will get better for you! It took so much courage to write that. Don’t turn others’ ignorance and blind acceptance of hateful attitudes against yourself. I had to leave Wheaton and transfer to a big state university before I found kindred spirits. I never dreamed that someday I would be part of a diverse beloved community, or that I would legally marry my wife in a Unitarian Universalist church 33 years after I had the wisdom to save myself and leave a “Christian” community that would have mostly hated me if they had known me.
-Holly Hendricks, Class of ’71”