Ryan Blanchard, B.A., Philosophy (2003), writes:
I am a straight man, but I wasn’t always sure.
My first experience of a sexual nature was when I was 12. So was he. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing, but I knew it felt sinful. Throughout middle school I found myself developing feelings and attractions to lots of people, boys and girls alike. I can’t express how much shame accompanied these feelings. Because of how strongly I clung to my faith, I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. Every single support person in my life would have condemned my feelings as evil. It was not an option to be attracted to other boys. It was sin, and I just hoped it would pass with time. I blamed it on puberty, on my experience as a 12 year old with curiosity, on anything I could besides the obvious. Despite what I wanted and believed in, I had feelings and attractions for people of the same sex.
By freshman year of high school, I was in full-blown depression. I was incredibly afraid that I was destined to desire men for the rest of my life. I spent a lot of my evenings by myself, in my room, listening to the first Jars of Clay album on repeat. I’d cling to lyrics like “he loves you, he needs you, he wants you,” in hopes that this is really how God felt about me, and that he would have mercy.
At the end of freshman year, my feelings towards my male classmates disappeared. I can’t explain how it happened. One week they were there, the next they weren’t. Gay intimacy went from seeming desirous to seeming strange. What I thought was a curse I would have to endure ended up being (most likely) just a normal part of going through puberty. Those feelings have never returned.
I tell this story because the conclusions I’ve reached as an adult are worth living by. Those feelings I had, that I would have done anything to eliminate, were not my choice, and I shouldn‘t have had to fear rejection from my family and friends. I had no more control over them coming than I did for them leaving. But the faith I embraced for all of my youth and into early adulthood would call those feelings sinful. And evil. And an abomination. And the people I worshipped with, myself included, would have denied people with those feelings the same rights, acceptance and privileges afforded to straight people, who also have not chosen their attractions.
My faith was the source of my guilt. As an adult I’ve come to realize that faith means a lot of things, but it must not be allowed to be the source of a person’s guilt and shame. We must not write tithe checks with the same hand we vote down gay rights. We must not tolerate the idea that a loving God would create someone with feelings they are not permitted to have. I no longer have faith in a deity, but that’s not the point. Having faith and accepting all people are not rival ideas.
Those in the LGBTQ community that have kept their faith, or have dared to attend a school like George Fox, are incredibly brave. But they shouldn’t have to be. I am committed to fostering a society where nobody has to be ashamed of who they are or how they feel. The mission of OneGeorgeFox is vital, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
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