My name is Dale Forsythe. I attended Bob Jones Elementary School through Bob Jones University, graduating in May 2012 with a degree of Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance (as well as in Saxophone Performance.) About 2 weeks after graduation, I wrote a letter to my parents telling them that I am gay, and I left home. My friend Kris was in a similar situation and, through BJUnity Vice President David Diachenko, my amazing friend Rachel Wilk provided a place for us to stay in her home. The following is my story about the struggle to accept who I am.
If you ask anyone who knew me growing up, they’d say I was a good kid. And I was. But the part of me that no one saw was my attraction for other guys. I remember those thoughts coming unbidden into my head while I was in elementary school and trying to push them back out. My dream was to someday become a great husband and father. Whenever my family watched tv or movies and less-than-conservatively-dressed girls came on, we were told to look away, and I always wondered why. Those images did not tempt me.
During junior high, the thoughts kept coming, and I tried even harder to keep them at bay. Whenever I did entertain those thoughts about guys, my mind would create incredible fantasies, probably because I kept everything inside. High school came and went with a couple junior-senior dates with girls, but inside I still remained attracted to guys. However, I fought it as hard as I could. In 2008, I began college and soaked up most of my classes. I was devout. I gave myself to God. I read my Bible and focused on having a relationship with Him. I participated in church activities. I had “accountability friends,” and I prayed faithfully for myself and others. Still, my life was a vicious cycle of thinking or secretly acting on my “lustful” homosexual thoughts, then praying and trying hard to force them back out of my life. I never told anyone because I knew my “sin” was viewed as being extreme: not only would I be wrong for lusting, I’d have the double sin of lusting for guys. It was too shameful to think of anybody knowing I thought that way.
During my sophomore year, I met a cute, spunky girl whose company I enjoyed, and later that year I asked to date her. I thought that dating would bring something new to my struggle. And it was nice. . . except for the attraction part. It was enjoyable: we had great conversations and we had a lot of fun together. But my desires for men didn’t change. About a year later we broke up, and I actually felt relieved when she called and told me she wanted to break it off! After the break up, I decided that I needed to figure out this issue.
By my senior year of college, I started seriously considering that I might be gay. This was a big step for me since I had never even put that option on the proverbial table before. I found the BJUnity site but chose not to contact them because I wanted to be able to choose between accepting I was gay or else to try “fixing” myself. 1
I can’t condone everything I did during my senior year, but as I was slowly learning to accept myself the way I am, I got in contact anonymously online with another student. This student, whose identity I still don’t know, was an outlet for me to express what I was going through with someone who wouldn’t judge me. The friendship started off being healthy but quickly soured. I found that I really needed a true friend to be open and honest with, and all I had was someone who never even shared their name with me; an anonymous confidant who never reciprocated by opening himself up. My desire to know this person grew so strong that, as he dropped hints, I tried narrowing him down to students on campus. I just wanted someone to talk to, a friend I could actually confide in who supported who I am. Finally, I had to tell someone. I ended up emailing three guys who I thought might be this confidant. It turned out to be none of them, so that was really awkward! One of them was cool and said everyone had their own struggles; he avoided contact with me. Another had a friend who emailed me and told me how being gay was wrong and to get counseling; he also avoided me. The last guy was friendly enough and also told me to get counseling from Dr. Olinger or Dr. Ormiston.
A few years prior, I had heard Dr. Jason Ormiston preach a chapel message about the “Life-dominating Sin of Homosexuality,” which actually opened my eyes to the possibility that being gay might be more complex than something I was stuck with. In other words, something that could be “fixed.” So, being famished for an outlet, I contacted Dr. Ormiston and set up an appointment. We had a chill talk. He could tell I had my own thoughts and was after more than just simple answers. He asked if I had been molested as a child, when the attraction started, etc. and he directed me to the “Door of Hope” program.2 I almost met with him again for future appointments, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I remember thinking, “if only someone would take an interest and tell me to go to counseling and go with me, I’d go.” And I would have gone, too, but I am doubtful today that this kind of counseling would have been successful at changing my orientation. I prayed that God would do something miraculous and direct someone to take me by the hand and help me get counseling. No one, however, came. It was an awkward rest of the semester knowing that a few people on campus knew I was gay. Anytime I passed a guy I had told, it felt like his eyes were burning into me even though many of my friends were cool about everything. As I walked across the platform to get my diploma, I knew that Dr. O and the others could see me. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. But I made it; I graduated! The next part of my life came pretty soon: coming out to my family.
I went on vacation for a week after graduating, and, with no plans for the coming year other than working, I decided I couldn’t take hiding myself any longer. I couldn’t live a double life, pretending to like girls and church on one hand and being gay and finding major problems with fundamentalist views on the other. I made a plan to leave home after writing a note explaining who I am to my family. I was scared. There was some graduation money, and my friend Kris had a place for me to stay, but I was apprehensive about the consequences of coming out of the closet. For a couple days I quietly packed up all my stuff, then left on a Sunday and left my note for my family.
For a while I was distant, not wanting to talk to anyone. Eventually I came back to Greenville to work on getting enough money to move out of Greenville, and Kris and I moved in with Rachel. Both Kris and I have been involved in local Greenville Theatre productions. Kris mainly, since he’s awesome like that. And I’m currently working at, of all places, Chick-fil-A! But we both have high hopes for our careers, including moving out of Greenville soon. My story is really just beginning, and I am happy today with who I am.
I’m very thankful for all those who have been there for me. Obviously, BJUnity gives incredible support. Rachel has provided so much, and she, as a true friend, wants to see Kris and I succeed. Many in my extended family have been supportive, and I want to say “thank you” to everyone who has kept in contact with me. Cutting someone off only pushes them further away, so I feel appreciative that you care about me enough to keep talking even though we disagree!
My parents still talk to me. They don’t approve of my sexuality, but they have taken the stance that it’s most important to love me and stay in contact. My siblings have been very cool and I love them so much; it often feels as though very little has changed. My dad’s family has taken the same approach as my parents, with the exception of my grandparents who have chosen to avoid fellowship with me until I “get right with God.” The hardest part of being out and dealing with people is realizing that many people don’t understand, won’t understand, and will not even try to understand this part of my life. To many people from Bob Jones and my church, I’m simply a “sodomite” who has “chosen” to be attracted to guys and have sex with them. They aren’t interested in getting to know the real me. I haven’t gone into detail about what I think the Bible says about homosexuality with any of them.
I guess if they did engage me on this issue I’d pose the question “where in the Bible is someone like me mentioned, someone who can’t help their attraction and has tried to change it with God’s help but hasn’t been able to?” I don’t have Bible answers, and I know that might bother some people. But I know this: I have to be true to myself, and I cannot live a lie.
The primary thought I want to leave with you is this: if you’re wondering about or struggling with who you are, know there are people who love you and will be there for you. I love you and I am here for you, and I hope that my story encourages you. Please reach out to BJUnity. The leadership of BJUnity will provide confidential support as you sort through these issues on your own and embrace you for who you are, not because you follow some prescribed plan or agenda.
1 Ed. note: BJUnity is here to affirm you regardless of the outcome of your personal journey. Dale would have been welcomed and embraced if he had chosen to contact us while still a student, whether his ultimate personal conclusion led him to embrace a life of celibacy, to attempt to live in a “heterosexual” marriage, or to come out of the closet and embrace a gay identity, as he is doing here. BJUnity affirms your autonomy and your right to self-determination above all else. If you are a student at BJU, we also know how dangerous it is for you to be openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* or even just questioning while there, and we will not disclose your identity to anyone without your consent, should you elect to confide in us. We are here to support you as you find your own answers. You can email us confidentially from an off-campus computer at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone our confidential hotline on 864.735.7598 from your mobile phone if you need someone to talk to who understands.
2 Ed. note: BJUnity does not endorse programs like “Door of Hope” that claim to offer “freedom from homosexuality,” because we believe such programs are more likely to cause serious emotional and psychological harm than to provide any meaningful help. As Alan Chambers, Executive Director of the former Exodus International has noted, “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.” We oppose any minor child’s being placed in such a program, and we discourage adults from seeking help from such ministries, based on our own experiences within them. Nonetheless, we are here to support individuals in making their own determinations. Please don’t feel you cannot contact us because you are also considering undertaking this type of program. We are here for you!