Being a Hospitable Community for Those Outside the Heterosexual Mainstream

It was a story I’d heard before, but hearing it in the Christian school I’d graduated from brought a level of emotion that surprised even me. In ten years of engaging with those outside the heterosexual mainstream, I have sat with countless individuals who shared stories of unsafe environments within the Christian community. But hearing my colleague tell of being beaten up by a group of boys at his Christian school during our seminar for teachers was a poignant moment. We had spent all day going through questions of identity, causation, disclosure, student support, and the reality of homophobic language and behavior that continue to persist in our school environments. My colleague’s story, told from the perspective of someone who had journeyed for as long as he could remember with the reality of same-sex attraction, packed an emotional punch that no amount of theoretical diversity training could offer.

“I’m so confused right now, and could really use some help. When I was twelve, I got caught messing around with a girl. I got in a lot of trouble. After that, I started watching gay porn. I’ve never had many guy friends, although I’ve wanted them. It’s mostly been girls. At this point, I’m almost exclusively turned on by guys, and I’m worried if I turned myself gay somehow, by watching gay porn and not being around many guys. Deep down inside, though, I feel straight, or at least bisexual. I really like girls and want a relationship with one. What should I do?”

—Male student, age fifteen

Questions of sexual and gender identity are a reality in our schools that can no longer be ignored. The tensions are complex and challenging. Teachers and administrators may feel the tug and pull of diverse needs and expectations. There are faith-based beliefs and values to uphold. There are parental concerns regarding what is discussed and taught on a topic like homosexuality. There are the needs of students who may be questioning, struggling, experimenting, or trying to navigate their own coming-out process. There are opportunities to guide students who are wrestling to know how to engage their culture, interact with gay people, and integrate their Christian faith in these areas. There are educators who deal personally with same gender attraction and who may carry the weight of hiding such an intrinsic part of themselves from their communities. There can be assumptions, misunderstandings, and fear.
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