I came out of the closet as a gay man in 1981 at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
I guess I’ve always known I was different but wasn’t sure what it was.
The product of a Baptist upbringing in a large metro church, my chief concern was being the best Baptist I could be so Jesus would love me. By high school, I realized I was being “tempted by the sin of homosexuality” and began to pray that away.
My two older brothers were already away at college and had gone to Baylor University. Our family fairly bled green and gold. I longed to become an architect, but Baylor didn’t have an architecture school. Most importantly, if I went somewhere other than Baylor, it might be more difficult to stay away from the homosexuals.
At Baylor, I thought, I’d be safe. I still laugh about that to this day. So, it was with confidence and excitement that I enrolled at Baylor.
Immersed in everything I could find, I continued being “Bobby Baptist.” Choir, band, Baptist Student Union, fraternity life.
By my junior year, I realized the gay thing wasn’t going away. And I’d met a lot of other guys and gals like me.
Perhaps against my better judgment, I didn’t hide it, believing my devotion to God was going to cover me. Boy, was I wrong.
I had virtually no emotional support at that time on campus other than the community of fellow students I knew experiencing the same recognition of their sexual orientation. I was made to feel unwelcome by my fraternity. Sly joking at my expense became the norm.
Worse yet, in my religious naivete, I told a fellow gay, secular fraternity brother that I was better than he because I was a Christian. I’d give anything to take that back.
My one source of understanding was Dan Bagby, my pastor at the time at Seventh and James Baptist Church. How I wish there had been a larger resource for me then, but 1981 was a very different time. Life goes on.
In 2000, I was one of several Baylor graduates to create an informal group of gay and lesbian alumni. While the university, through their lawyers, sent us a cease-and-desist letter on the ground of trademark infringement, we have continued to thrive and grow online.
I am now the point person for what we call Baylor University Gay and Lesbian Alumni (“BUGLA”). Over these 20 years, we have not desired to engage in any legal entanglement with the university but have remained a support group for each other and for current LGBT students who have then become a part of BUGLA.
I am now closely involved with “BU Bears For All” in its efforts to encourage the university to allow LGBT students to have the same rights to formally organize and form officially chartered student organizations to facilitate support, common interest and community for the LGBT community as done by other chartered student-led organizations. This is something I longed for as a Baylor student.
I feel Baylor needs to reinterpret its statement on human sexuality to allow a non-discriminatory clause to be added for LGBT students.
The argument that students should never have gone to Baylor if they were LGBT doesn’t hold water, as my case shows. So many of us were trying so hard to deny it, but so wanted to be at Baylor.
Even further, why should being LGBT prevent someone from wanting the quality education that Baylor provides?
Baylor’s current interpretation of human sexuality harmfully discriminates against many students and makes it clear that it believes Christ’s love and grace is only reserved for some. Jesus said (and Baylor’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion states) to love thy neighbor. I believe this is not conditional.
I would love to see Baylor become a safe, loving and accepting place for all students, the kind of place that truly shows Christ’s love to all, not just some. To that end, I hope the university will consider recognizing the proposed LGBT group, Gamma Alpha Upsilon, as an official student organization.
One thing Dan Bagby taught me has stuck with me all my life: “If you think you can ever fully understand God, your concept of God is way too small.”
May Baylor expand its concepts to embrace God’s love for all. Oh, how I would have loved that in 1981.