Reporter's Notebook

Struggling With Same-Sex Attraction at a Christian School
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Readers share their personal stories of grappling with stigma and shame on campus. Email with your own experience.

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Why Go to a School That Rejects Who You Love?

The most up-voted comment on the Atlantic piece that sparked our discussion thread is the following:

I say this as a gay man: Instead of paying for the privilege of attending a university that thinks you are an abomination—and thereby supporting them in their efforts to keep their awful beliefs alive—perhaps it would be wiser to attend one of the many (excellent) secular colleges and universities of our nation?

I have spoken out against and will continue to speak out against discriminatory behavior from businesses and government, but when you do business with philosophically-based organizations—i.e. the service they offer is inextricably bound with their philosophy—you tacitly agree that they are in some way correct, or at least due respect. So while you have every reason to expect a public bakery to sell you cakes without imposing their worldview on you, you don't have the right to the same expectation when you submit to an organization dedicated to promoting a particular worldview.

Separately but very relatedly, a reader emails the hello@ account with the personal story seen below. Among many points, she describes how “the most painful thing” about being lesbian at a Christian school is the sentiment expressed by the reader excerpted above:

Thank you for your discussion about LGBT students at Christian colleges. I am a lesbian who attended Olivet Nazarene University, which is part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and has a statement in its code of conduct prohibiting “homosexual acts.”

Most of the threats to free speech on campus these days are coming from the activist left, but here’s a reminder that the Christian right has its own problem at certain schools. A reader at a Southern Baptist college in Mississippi shares her frustrations living as a lesbian:

If any of this is useful to you, please preserve my anonymity. I work as a graduate assistant, and I’m not sure whether I’d be fired or not, so I’d just prefer to play it safe.

I am one of few gay students who openly accepts my sexuality, as many of us are pressured by our peers to “pray it away” in order to make friends and for administration to allow us to serve in student positions. We are not allowed to have any sort of LGBT-friendly student organization, publish anything in the school newspaper that could be read as pro-gay rights, or participate in other ways. For example, my college compiles a literary magazine every year, but I was warned not to submit any poetry that “mentioned lesbians,” since it would be immediately discarded, regardless of any literary merit. This is just one example of the limitations on our free speech.

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!”