My story will resonate all too well with queer kids who grew up Christian.
I have incredibly vivid memories of lying awake in bed at night as a child, a Bible in my hands and tears streaking down my cheeks. I was praying, begging, pleading God to fix whatever was wrong with me.
Before I had even formed the vocabulary to fully articulate my orientation, I knew I was different; it took me years even to acknowledge my feelings for what they were.
Growing up in a Baptist church gave me what I thought I needed to navigate my attraction. I assumed that as long as I cast my feelings at the feet of Jesus, he would take that burden from me and make me straight.
I prayed alone, trembling in the darkness of night and of shame, hoping God would take pity on me and relieve me of what I believed to be my most reprehensible and deadly sin. Of course, God never did.
It was not until college that I truly began to wrestle with my identity as a Christian queer woman.
As a senior in high school, to say I was obsessed with Baylor University would have been an understatement. My decision to attend Baylor was based on its dedication to a rigorous academic program through a Christian lens. In short, I chose Baylor because of its Christian commitment, not in spite of it.
When I arrived on campus, I made the careful choice to remain silent about my true self. I was hoping to keep my head down and focus on my classes, just as I had done for years.
However, I quickly found I was not the only one with a secret. I met other queer students who were confident in their identities as Christians, as members of the LGBTQ+ community and as Baylor Bears. They encouraged me to open up, and I began to feel my shame slip away.
Quiet conversations with friends in the middle of the night looked so different from the silent sobs of my childhood. I partook in vulnerable discussions with incredibly intelligent, dedicated professors who directed me toward texts that helped shape my opinions and toward pastors who affirmed my identity in Christ.
For the first time, I realized I might not have to choose between the many sides of myself.
Though I look back on my experience at Baylor in a largely positive light, some argue the acceptance of both Christianity and queerness does not fit Baylor’s mission.
Some still view Baylor University as a stronghold of conservative ideals, the last stand in the war against the liberal ivory tower.
Baylor remains years behind the curve in LGBTQ+ rights and is ranked by the Princeton Review as the 11th most unfriendly school for LGBTQ+ students. My experience at Baylor, largely comprised of love and acceptance, is the exception to the rule; our queer students are forced to fight for simple recognition.
A vocal and growing number of students, alumni, faculty and staff all support making Baylor a safer, more loving and more accepting place for everyone.
As president of Gamma Alpha Upsilon, Baylor’s unofficial LGBTQ+ student organization, my priority lies in providing Baylor’s queer students access to the same deliberations that changed my life.
I was lucky enough to find the resources I needed on my own, but we can no longer leave the lives of our students up to serendipity.
I understand the need for slow change. My own personal journey going from being ashamed of my queerness to standing proudly in it could never have been achieved overnight.
When I first came out to my parents, I considered it a blessing that they did not immediately reject me. Now, they walk alongside me in this journey, encouraging me to live my full truth. Watching God work in their hearts has been nothing short of a miracle.
Since coming out, I have seen God as bigger, more powerful and more loving than I ever would have dared to imagine. I want everyone to see God as I now do, and I believe Baylor is ready to be a catalyst for that change.
What better place to navigate the complexities of queer theology than an institution dedicated to academic pursuits in concordance with the Christian faith?
In order for Baylor to accomplish these goals, it must first invite its queer students to the table. Baylor is in the unique position to change the lives of its LGBTQ+ students and to show the love of Christ to a group of people historically shunned by the church.
By chartering Gamma Alpha Upsilon, Baylor has the opportunity to create a generation of future scholars who do not shy away from life’s most complex questions and to illuminate the lives of LGBTQ+ Christians around the world.
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. If you know anyone who might be interested, encourage them to submit their article for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org