Gail Bumala, B.A., Liberal Arts (1980); B.A. Psychology (1981), writes:
In thirty-two years, I’ve seen a great deal of change in this world and in this society, especially, around the issue of GLBTQ rights. When I first moved to Portland, it was not a hospitable place for “queer” people. I was a queer Christian; having spent six years in celibacy, seeking God’s healing hand on the issue of my sexual orientation. If I could just reach out and touch Jesus’ garment as he walked by…
After I had graduated with two undergraduate degrees from George Fox College, I realized that no miraculous cure had befallen me. I decided to end my life, because I could not face life without God. At the hour and place of my death, God met me there and I asked why my pleas had been met with deafening silence. The answer was that I had been ignoring the answer, because I didn’t have the faith to believe God could tell me something so different from what I had been taught that I was incapable of comprehension. That was when the most complete surrender came and I went on to live…and love.
I learned how to navigate in the world at large as an “out” lesbian. I came out completely to my family and friends in 1982 and engaged the long road of struggle, pressing for equal rights, for reconciliation, and for love. Along the way I ran into a surprising number of friends from college who were gay. The first person I knew who had AIDS, and died of AIDS was the president of my senior class at George Fox College, and a founder of the Portland Gay Men’s chorus. One night when we had gone to a gay bar-then one of the only places one could meet other queer people-I saw yet another college friend and my beloved turned to me and said, “Where there ANY straight people in your school?”
The fact was that while we were students, few of us had any awareness of the others, except by accident, and we didn’t dare even talk to one another about it. I’ve seen the disastrous effect of that on the lives of my friends over the years and I’ve also seen God work miraculously in many hearts and minds-healing the hurt and the betrayals where there was true effort to communicate and to understand.
My beloved Kimberly and I have been together for twenty-two years. But the struggle isn’t about that, really. Queer people require the right to love…and lose…to experiment with relationships like everyone else, by dating, flirting, breaking hearts and having our hearts broken, losing, and triumphing. We all make poor choices, but those crucial years when young adults are in university are the times when these things really prepare us for what we face when we embark on the rest of our lives, and so we learn to make wiser choices.
I’m incredulous that it took thirty-two years for me to touch the hem of that garment. But Jesus has felt power flow out of him into me. I possess power because this cause is a righteous and just cause. It is humbling to know that despite how little has changed in certain areas of collegiate life at George Fox University; students there are finding that strength. They have learned that thirty-two years is too much life to waste. While we adults in the queer community are telling them that “it gets better,” they are showing us what it takes to make it better and I stand with them.
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