Travis Williams, B.A., Psychology (2004); PsyD Clinical Psychology (2009), writes:
I came to George Fox nearly 12 years ago. It was my opportunity to start fresh and new in a new state. I could shed the persona of the “gay kid” that got teased in junior high and high school. I didn’t come out in undergrad. I dated girls. I had a lot of fun. I made a lot of memories that I hold very dear to me. I liked George Fox so much that I chose to attend graduate school there too. It was in this transition period that I started attending what I now refer to as a “degayification program.” The program taught me a lot about myself, and it actually affirmed my identity as a proud gay man. I am sure they would not want to hear that at the program. But that is what I learned.
While I was going through the graduate program, the faculty appeared to be a little suspicious about my personal life and began meeting with me, where I disclosed this part of my life. I was strongly encouraged to continue to attend the ex-gay ministry. It was at this point that I became disheartened with the school. But, I proceeded with my coming out process and told some of my closest friends. As I entered my final year in the fall of 2007, I got engaged and was preparing to travel to Hawaii to enter into a civil union with my now-husband. I told the professors, in hopes of them understanding why I was traveling mid-semester. This was when the barrage of letters and private meetings began to take place. I was told I was in violation of the lifestyle agreement and was told that I may not be able to continue at the school in accordance with the policies in place at the school. The faculty stated that they would need to pray about it. Ultimately, they told me I would be able to stay to complete my program and graduate. However, they told me that if this had happened any earlier in my graduate career, I would be asked to leave. I was then told not to discuss this decision or the meetings with anyone in the program because of the divisiveness of the topic. I was deflated and devastated.
When I found out about this project, I became joyous, the past week has caused me to have renewed hope in the George Fox community. I have been thinking a lot about this group over the past few days. I have added a lot of allies to the group from my own friends list, and with each addition, I was reminded of a lot of joyous times in my experience at Fox. When I came out as a gay man, many of my close friends from undergrad seemingly abandoned me. Some outright told me I was disgusting in the eyes of God. I know this isn’t the message the school would have its students leave its doors with. I truly believe the Quaker tradition to be one of openness and love; integrity and respect; peacefulness and community.
When I graduated from the graduate school, I left angry, damaged and distraught with the state of the school, and the entire church. I was ready to pursue legal action against the school for the way the lifestyle agreement is used like a buffet, where “sins” can be picked at random in order to meet some agenda. For several years now I have ruminated on my distaste for the school. A week ago when I was invited to join this group I wasn’t sure what it was all about, however, the more I examined, the more I read, the more relieved I became. I am so glad to know that there are others out there from the Fox community who are on my side and who want to bring light to this issue. But I am even more thrilled at the fact that this is coming about through love. It is coming from a place of unity rather than division.
I signed my name to this letter proudly! And I would sign my name on any other piece of documentation that fights for the side of unity and mutual respect for everyone. I know that Christ came to love ALL, and all too often we, as humans, lose sight of this mission and turn on each other. I want to regain my pride in George Fox. I am ready to let go of some of the anger and hatred for the actions of a few that have tainted my vision of the school. I believe this is a very powerful way to bring the community together and hopefully change the hearts and minds of others!
Thank you all so much for standing behind this cause and fighting for a mission of love and acceptance. As the tagline for George Fox says, “Be Known.”
Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org