Secret Sexuality at a Christian School

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

After reading David R. Wheeler’s piece for us on the “LGBT politics of Christian colleges,” a reader in Georgia shares his own story:

I went to a Christian college in a southern city from 1975 to 1978. I am a bisexual male, though I didn’t fully recognize my homosexual side; I just knew that naked guys interested me at least as much as naked women, and in my dorm there were plenty of opportunities to see men in the flesh. A great experience, though I had to work hard to keep from seeming overly interested, if you know what I mean.

The college administration banned any sort of sexual activity, but it strongly encouraged male/female romances. The college president was famous for saying in chapel when he announced one of the college-sponsored socials, “You might meet your future wife!”

As for gay couples, there were actually a few of those there—unacknowledged, of course. They all lived off campus, and while on campus they did nothing to draw attention to themselves. They seemed content enough.

If you were gay and lived in a dorm you had to be very careful. A couple of guys down the hall from me were quietly expelled. It was cruel of the college to kick them out; they were both seniors. I don’t believe I ever heard the full story, but I know they weren’t that cautious about their orientations. They enjoyed hanging out in the showers every morning taking some obviously admiring looks at us. It was creepy, but I know I secretly enjoyed it.

In my senior year, my roommate and I had a few mutual masturbation sessions that were our first sexual experiences. We were cautious about it and got away with it the whole year. Had we been caught, it would have been catastrophic: We’d have been expelled, and I know my family would never have accepted it, and I doubt his would have either.

It was a good school, academically speaking, and it got me off to a good start in life, for which I’m grateful. I’m now married to a woman I met at that college and we’ve had a good life. I’ve felt some attraction to men every now and then, mainly to guys who reminded me of my old roommate, but I’ve never acted on them. As for my roommate, he also married a woman from that college and went on to lead a good life, though I haven’t seen him in years.

I’ve wondered whether attending a state or secular college might have enabled me to live a more open gay sexuality. Perhaps, but remember this was just about the time the AIDS epidemic was getting underway, so I might easily have become another statistic. I’ve visited the college a few times since graduating, but I have no idea whether their policies on sexuality on campus have changed.  

If you’ve had a similar experience you’d like to share, let us know.