Growing up in a conservative home and attending a conservative Christian high school, I never saw same-sex relationships portrayed in a positive light.
But I never saw members of the LGBTQ+ the same way as those around me because I always held Jesus’ teachings close to my heart. “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31).
I lived most of my early years respecting people with sexualities that were different from mine. Who was I to judge them for something that God blessed them with from birth?
With regard to my own sexuality, I assumed I was straight because I found myself being attracted to women and my thoughts about my sexuality always stopped there.
Why let my mind wander onto any other idea of my sexual identity and risk getting into trouble at home or at school?
I knew I liked women, so I must be straight, right?
My LGBTQ+ friends in high school were hesitant to tell anybody about their sexualities or gender identities because they all feared that the school would “ask them to leave” if they were open about their sexuality or were in an open, same-sex relationship.
Fearing expulsion, I paid no attention to any non-heterosexual thoughts that crossed my mind. Even when I would have these strange feelings about my male classmates, I didn’t know what they meant because I didn’t possess the language needed to understand these feelings.
As my time in high school came to an end, I began looking to the future – ever curious to see where God would take me and how God would encourage me to grow in college.
I eventually decided to attend Baylor University, a Baptist institution with fantastic biology and pre-medical programs – a field I placed much of my interest in.
Because I assumed I was straight and knew very little about the varying levels of LGBTQ+ acceptance at different schools, I neglected to research how Baylor treated its LGBTQ+ students.
I spent half of my freshman year learning about biology and woefully ignorant of the struggles faced by my LGBTQ+ friends and peers.
Later that same year, I stumbled across an unofficial LGBTQ+ student organization formerly known as the Sexual Identity Forum and now called Gamma Alpha Upsilon (ΓAY) that held meetings once a week on campus.
I was captivated by the existence of this club because I had never known members of the LGBTQ+ community who were willing to openly discuss their sexual and gender identities.
ΓAY was founded back in 2011 and has applied to be an official student group every semester since its inception. Yet, every semester, Baylor has refused to grant them an official charter.
I began to attend their meetings at first as an ally and a friend because I was beginning to learn about their struggles in finding a safe environment on a campus that didn’t seem to care about them. Many of my new friends had been rejected by their families and other members of the community.
Learning that this institution, much like my high school, was unfriendly toward its LGBTQ+ students, I was gravely disappointed. I began to reflect upon my upbringing – sorrowful that I didn’t experience an environment that was supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Once I joined ΓAY, my new friends not only provided me with compassion and acceptance, but they also blessed me with the language I needed to understand those non-heterosexual thoughts I have had since I was young.
This support group allowed me to both love and learn more about myself in ways I never could alone. I was able to grow into my identity and guide others learning about their own identities.
I had finally found a community where I felt safe, seen and understood.
After I made these discoveries about myself, I was able to initiate conversations about my sexuality with my family. They welcomed me with open arms and genuinely cared about learning more about my sexuality.
Being able to share my growth with my family and include them in this meaningful conversation filled me with great joy.
I am so grateful God guided me into finding ΓAY, a wonderful group full of loving people. I want nothing more than for other closeted students to find an accepting group like ΓAY where they can learn more about themselves and their identities in a safe and welcoming environment.
I believe that Baylor University is in a unique position to assist and love its LGBTQ+ students.
As an institution with a Christian background, what better way to live and love like Jesus than to allow LGBTQ+ students to officially organize on campus and find support in their peers.
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 email@example.com.