I never planned to be a gay rights activist. In fact, I never really planned to be out of the closet. The older I got and the more I realized that there was never going to be a second puberty for me where I would suddenly fall in love with a wonderful Christian man (or any man, for that matter), the more firmly I believed that I would have to be single and silent forever. I had no idea that there was any other option for my life. Thankfully, over the process of years of prayer and study and counseling, I apprehended the importance of living a holistic life. My entire life had been completely schizophrenic to that point, Church Rachel and Work Rachel and Family Rachel and Gay Rachel, never meeting, never intersecting, never coalescing in truth and transparency. My coming out process changed me, made me a healthier, more honest, and more loving person. For the first time in my life, I felt truly free to be fully myself.
But I never wanted to be one of the PRIDE kind of queers, the activists, the vocal ones, the ones with rainbow tattoos. I feel I am defined by so much more in my life than my sexual orientation. I feel like there is so much in my life that is actually more important than my sexual orientation. I love to read, hike, cook, write, snowboard, and garden. I like to get my nails done. I go to church. I am obsessed with Clemson football. I am just like everyone else. I am just like you.
I am just like you, except for the fact that in twenty-nine states, my employer can fire me because I am gay. I am just like you, except in the nineteen states that still do not classify violence against LGBTQ individuals as hate crimes. When I want to adopt or foster a child, I am treated exactly like you… if I live in one of the ten states that allows GLBT people to adopt. And I am just like you, because when I fall in love, I want nothing more than to love and care for my partner with everything that I am, with all of my heart and all of my resources, for all of my life— I want to get married someday, except, I can’t.
Sexual orientation should be a non-issue. In an ideal world, no one cares. People love whom they love. God loves everybody. The end.
But we do not live in that world. We live in a world where violence against LGBTQ people is sanctioned from Christian pulpits and political platforms. We live in a world where children find death more appealing than a life full of bullying and harassment. We live in a world where my private, personal sexual orientation and activities has been made a civic matter by groups persisting in pushing nationwide social conservative public policy.
So while I live in a state that protects my rights to safety and employment, while my life is comfortable and my orientation is an understated and inconspicuous aspect of my daily life, that is not true for many, many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. While I made it out of Christian fundamentalism alive, that is not the case for other people who are closeted. While my family has not shunned or disowned me, that is not the case for other children of fundamentalist parents. While I have found the love and acceptance of Jesus, that is not the case for those who have been told that they are damned to an eternity in hell because God hates them.
I stand with LGBT-BJU. I stand in my state capitol and beside my Congress people who are advocating on my behalf. I stand with the network of GLBT Alumni Groups who are working for change in universities around the world. We cannot be silent because there is no other voice at Bob Jones University countering the hatred and bigotry spewed from the chapel platform. There is no other voice speaking in the fundamentalist Christian churches, schools, and colleges across America and the world to tell scared, closeted youths that God does love them.
Things do not change when people like me, people who live comfortable, quiet, unobtrusive lives, refuse to speak out, refuse to act for justice, refuse to expose ourselves to all of the ridicule, judgment, and persecution that we have walked away from and left behind. But things can change. We can change. We can speak. We can act. I believe the promise. There will be a day when there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more fear. There will be a day when “justice runs down like a river and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5: 24). Until then, we work.
Director of Student Outreach