Revelations from parochial Christian school’s students
by Kara Kliewer
“As a queer closeted student, I felt a distance from my faith and from my country,” Trudy Hammons said.
“My internal homophobia grew as I heard how my teachers viewed LGBT+ individuals as perverts, child abusers and blasphemous. They claimed that the ‘gay liberal agenda’ was out to destroy the American family and the church.”
The Christian school Hammons attended has a mission which starts like this: “To produce true Christian scholars to restore our American Christian Republic to its historic, biblical foundation.”
“They were saying all of this about me and I grew depressed,” she continued.
Hammons said even their school mascot was “The Crusader”.
“They spent a week talking about homosexuality in my philosophy class and I was taught it was not only a sin but also a mental illness. I didn’t know whether I should go talk to a preacher or a therapist.”
Hammons said she was the only student in class asking questions and pushing for personhood of LGBT+ individuals. “I feared that my classmates would take notice of my interest in the topic, but I couldn’t help myself from speaking up. However, I knew if I spoke out about my own sexuality, I would disappoint everyone in my life.”
Fear of becoming more comfortable with her true self kept her away from anything remotely linked to LGBT+ including favorite television shows, authors, even a close friend.
A self-proclaimed “ex-gay”, one involved in ex-gay ministry, came to speak at chapel.
“His story started with a childhood deprived from male influences and grew into one where his college mentor engaged in sexual acts with him. He described himself as lost and hurting in the past and now he brags about his wife and family and attributes it to God’s healing power. I left chapel holding back tears and praying for God to fix me too.
“Most days I struggled to get out of bed, put my knee length dress on and go to school. I felt like an outcast with a secret that weighed me down. My senior year, I finally opened up to a friend about how I felt. Although I viewed her as a strong Christian, I also knew she’d love me regardless of my romantic preferences. She embraced me and gave me the courage to keep going in an environment where I suffered from shame and self-hate.”
As a gay graduate of a private Christian junior high and high school, Colin Peterson can say his life was shaped by those same influences.
“Even though I didn’t come out until I was 20, I always knew there was something different about me throughout my adolescence.”
In junior high, he had to sign a contract. “Most of it was standard behavioral rules, but one rule stood out to me. The school stated in their contract that being homosexual was reason for expulsion, along with typical offenses like drugs or alcohol. I was not prepared for this level of indoctrination.”
According to every one of his teachers, God hated homosexuality and it was equated to murder. Being gay would have simply not been allowed.
“On more than one occasion we prayed for the souls of gay men and women.”
He said the environment caused bullying to those who stood out.
“I tried my best to appear as straight as I could at school. I was outspoken against homosexuality and gay marriage and I even thought I had found salvation through prayer on more than one occasion.”
Even today, he struggles to be himself. “Even at 24, I still feel like I’m recovering. I still deal with the self-hatred left over from when I realized I was gay and I’m still figuring out how to be a part of the LGBTQ community. I feel robbed of my teenage years.
“Despite this, I’ve found incredible friends and a truly indescribable boyfriend who has helped me and taught me how to be nothing but myself.”
But after everything is said and done, Peterson said there is one thing that always sticks in the back of his mind. “It does get better.”
Copyright The Gayly – September 20, 2017 @ 9 a.m. CDT.