Gay and Happy: The Journey of a PHC Alumna

By Anonymous

At QueerPHC, we welcome guest posts that are affirming and relevant to LGBTQ students and graduates of Patrick Henry College. To submit your own guest post, email queerphc@gmail.com.

I’m an alumna of PHC, and I’m going to tell you how I – finally – came out of the closet. If you are at PHC, you probably haven’t heard a lot of narratives from people in the LGBTQ community, let alone happy ones, let alone from someone who shares your background.

I was home-schooled overseas; the fundamentalist, non-denominational Bible church that my grandfather founded was the locus of my social life. I never fit in with the girls at youth group and preferred to shoot hoops with the guys. Boys were my pals, not my crushes. I pushed down any inklings that I was gay. I told myself that I had more important things to think about than love, like college admissions. I remember catching myself staring at bikini-clad women on the beach. This is wrong, I told myself. Not only is it a sin, but if I tell anyone of these inclinations, even my parents, I will be seen as an abomination. And so I didn’t. I didn’t even fully admit these tendencies to myself.

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Bishop Gene Robinson Reaches Out to Closeted PHC Students

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, of the Diocese of New Hampshire, recently visited the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., where he spoke with former congressman Pat Murphy about Robinson’s new book, God Believes in Love.

Robinson spoke with Queer Patrick Henry College after the presentation, and offered some encouragement to closeted students at the college. He’s used to such appeals for encouragement, and said he receives several emails a week from “some kid in podunk Idaho who thinks they’re the only gay person besides me in the world.”

“What I usually say to them is there’s just a big, wide, wonderful world out here, and it can be wonderful for gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people,” he said. “And you may have to stay where you are, you may have to be quiet about who you are for awhile, but find a few people that you can be open with, that you can be yourself with, because it will feel like an oasis in an awfully dry desert. And then when it’s possible, get out into this big wide world and meet some of us who are having the time of our lives and are not held back by being openly gay.”

Robinson said LGBTQ people who grew up in conservative environments as he did, and as many PHC students did, can do a great deal of damage to themselves.

“The hardest person to come out to is yourself, right?” he said.  “We learned all the things that everybody else was learning, and we became alienated from ourselves, not to mention our parents and our families, and so on. I think it’s a really tough row to hoe, but find some oases to feed yourself along the way, and then join this community that’s waiting to embrace you.”

As a queer Christian, it’s hard to overstate the impact that Bishop Robinson has had on the lives of people like me. To see someone who is both openly gay and openly Christian take on a bold leadership role in the church is nothing short of inspiring. At Patrick Henry College, there’s quite a bit of talk about “leading the nation and shaping the culture,” and Bishop Robinson is doing exactly that, with his ongoing role in transforming the cultural conversation on queer people of faith.

Robinson is retiring on Jan. 5 and leaving New Hampshire to move to D.C., where he hopes to assist St. Thomas’ Parish in Dupont Circle in founding a new Center for Non-Violent Communication, with the goal of changing “the nature of the debate” in the highly political city. Color me excited.

Hiding in the Closet on National Coming Out Day

To my parents:

As I meet with you this week for the first time in a few months to try to stitch up the tears in our threadbare relationship, I wish that I had a few minutes to be completely truthful with you about who I am. Just a few minutes in which I could share an important part of myself without worrying that you would interrupt me, or walk away, or, worst of all, tell me, in that terrible quiet voice that you’ve both adopted, that you’ll be praying for me to return to God.

But I’ve spent the last few months grieving the loss of my family, and I don’t want to lose you again just when we’re on the verge of establishing an uneasy peace. As much as I wish that I had the guts to be honest with you, I know that I’m a coward. I’m relieved that I can explain my actions by saying that I don’t want to make things harder for the younger children. If I were to come out now, I know that you would desperately try to isolate the other children from all the harmful influences that you think warped my soul.

But the truth is that I am most afraid of being shunned by you.

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Why is Your Sexual Orientation Such a Big Deal?

I was having a drink with a good friend of mine, when she asked me why gay, lesbian, and bisexual people* made “such a big deal” of their sexual orientation.

I asked her to clarify what she meant, and she said that she would never identify herself as straight.

I asked, “Are you exclusively attracted to men?”

She said, “Yes, but I would never introduce myself like, ‘Hi, I’m [Name] and I’m straight.’ I just think of myself as [Name].”

I fumbled in looking for the words to express my frustration with this question. She’s always been supportive of me, even when she doesn’t agree with everything I think, say or do, and I knew that this question was merely coming from a place of curiosity and simple ignorance.

And I’ve been thinking about this question ever since. I knew what she was referring to. Why do we make such a big deal of our sexual orientations? Why do we take part in pride parades? Why do we make certain deliberate choices about what to wear, how to talk, how to act? Why do we keep posting about it on our Facebook walls? Why do we keep coming out to people? Why do we keep talking about it?

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Guest Post: The Freedom to Be

Today we have our first guest post, submitted by the Reverend Don Prange with St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville, Va. We welcome guest posts if you wish to encourage LGBTQ readers or share about your personal experiences at or with Patrick Henry College in connection with LGBTQ issues. To submit a guest post or to inquire whether your guest post would work on Queer Patrick Henry College, email us at queerphc@gmail.com. We’ll grant you complete anonymity if you desire, and we love interacting with new people! 

The Rev. Prange says, “My own story of simply coming out of my straight closet happened many years ago when still in a Lutheran track, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod no less, but I became involved with ‘Lutherans Concerned’ back in 1975. It was part of an on-going revolution in my faith journey that had taken me into a pan-theology of sorts. I want to share a homily from about 13 years ago when I was doing an interim pastoral role at Georgetown Lutheran Church (ELCA), and that says something about my pan-theology. It still has relevance, I believe.”
The version shared below was preached five years ago at St. James UCC.

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Behind My Mask

By Kate Kane

I haven’t spoken to my parents for two weeks.

Not since I slammed my cell phone down, filled with despair, anger, and disgust after our last argument.

It was a stupid thing, really: a misunderstanding. But their prerequisites for reconciliation are so stringent. I must admit to malice and deceit, to hating my family, and I cannot admit to what is not true.

They view my relationships with my siblings with suspicion. I am backslidden and corrupt, prey to every whim and desire, they tell me, so when I am with my siblings, I am an open door through which evil can walk in and destroy the family.

After a few days of jumping in fear every time I hear my phone ring or see a new email notification, I realize that my feelings of grief, anger, and isolation are a preview for the probable state of my emotions after I come out to my family.

If they think I am a damaging influence while they still consider me to be straight, how much worse will it be after I tell them I’ve always liked people of all gender identities? I can hear their voices now: my father’s, strained with anger and a tinge of disgust, my mother’s, choked with fear for my eternal salvation and for the safety of the rest of the family.

I know the accusations that will fly: I am a godless pervert. The only steps below me on the sexual perversion food chain are bestiality, pedophilia, and necrophilia. I am the cause of various examples of relational dysfunction and sexual temptation in my family.

And then they will tell the rest of my extended family, and I will become a pariah. Sometimes, at the few family gatherings I am invited to, one of my cousins will come up to me with a too-bright smile and force the small talk until she feels she has done her missionary duty, and then I’ll be left alone.

But the thing that will hurt perhaps more than anything else is how my father will take this new knowledge about this part of my identity, and use it as the thread that binds everything together. With my sexual orientation, he can explain every fault of mine, every sin I’ve ever committed, every perceived instance of rebellion and disrespect.

It means he’ll never have to take responsibility for any part of our failed relationship. It means he can put all our family’s sins upon my head and cast me out into the desert, where I will wander until I die, too far away to ever corrupt my siblings again.

Growing Up Queer: “We Don’t Use That Word”

By Kate Kane

When I was growing up, my mother read me 1 Peter 2:9, from the KJV: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”   Because my mother was focusing on my vocabulary that year, she asked me what I thought ‘peculiar’ meant.

“Oh, doesn’t it mean strange or queer?” I asked innocently.

“You can say strange, but you shouldn’t say queer,” she told me gently. “Some bad people have decided to call themselves queer, so we don’t use that word anymore.”

I asked her what people she was talking about, and she only said that the some of the same people had stolen the word “gay” and I couldn’t use it to refer to happiness any longer.

Later my dad pulled me aside to tell me that this same vaguely-defined “bad” group of people had been cursed with a disease because one of them had slept with a monkey. He was sick at the time he told me this, and I remember his fever making his eyes strangely bright as he hoarsely whispered this story.

What I did understand left me horrified, and that was the beginning of my internalized homophobia. I now consider myself pansexual and genderqueer, but back at the tender age of twelve, I was just confused.  To my flat-chested FAAB self, puberty was a betrayal. I was being forced into a body I did not want. When my mother asked if I wanted to be a boy instead, I said, “Of course not! I just want to be a person — not a boy or a girl.”

“Well, sweetheart,” she said. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to choose.”

Except I didn’t want to choose.

The presence of certain boys and girls began to leave me breathless and weak in the knees. I correctly recognized that those feelings about boys were crushes. But my feelings about girls? I just wanted to be really close friends with them, I told myself. I dreamed of having a double wedding with one of my best friends. The faces of the guys in this fantasy were hazy, but the vision of her in white was crystal clear.

Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family, I did not even hear the word “lesbian” until high school. I did not hear the words “bisexual” and “pansexual” until I left for college.

A pastor at my church preached a sermon on how homosexuality was a result of demonic possession. He did not touch on any other portion of the queer spectrum. I was a firm believer in the spiritual realm, and my fear of demon possession caused me to reexamine my feelings for some girls.

One night, after tossing and turning for hours, I confessed to my sister that I was afraid of demon possession because I had crushes on girls. Alarmed, she told me she didn’t want me to sleep in the queen bed we shared any longer. In my depraved state, she said, I might commit incest with her. I fled the room and spent the rest of the night lying in the bathtub, crying.

I suppressed that aspect of myself for the next five years, until I began reexamining it at Patrick Henry College. I had so successfully blocked out the memory that I did not even remember telling my sister until I came out to her a few months ago, at which point she told me that she already knew this about me.

I was always told that homosexual attraction was a unique perversion that prevented those who suffered from it from having a relationship with God. However, my acute sense of loneliness and isolation, of queerness, made me identify more closely with Jesus. When he cries out that his father has forsaken him, I feel the pain in my own heart of knowing that someday I will tell my father, and he, too, may reject me. I may sometimes feel as if I’m too queer for the peculiar people, but I know when my Lord cried out in loneliness, he felt my loneliness too.