It Gets Better?

Gay Alums Forced to Beg Evangelical College to Treat Gay Students with Dignity, Respect and Equality

It’s not easy being gay or lesbian at a conservative Christian college. Kristen Winn knows. As a student at Wheaton College in suburban Chicago—the sort of place where male-female dances were just instituted in 2003–she lived in two worlds. “I personally was academically challenged, had some great professors, made lots of friends, and was active in student clubs,” she told Queerty. “But I felt very burdened, tormented and ashamed, and did everything I could to make sure no one found out. I so wish that in those darkest moments I had known that hundreds of people just like me had come out, were happy, and were okay.”

Hence, OneWheaton, a group of Wheaton College alumni who want to reassure LGBTQ and questioning students that things do get better. A group of about 30 alums handed out letters to students as they left a chapel session (that’s the kind of school it is) to reassure LGBTQ students that their lives “are not tragic.”

In response, Wheaton President Philip Ryken sent  an internal email to the campus community, acknowledging the pain LGBTQ students may feel but adding to the anguish by emphasizing that “Scripture condemns . . . homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman.”

Guess that means tormenting other human beings is just fine and dandy.

Wheaton has long been held up as a paragon of Christian educational fortitude. Its chief academic officer, Stanton Jones, is the author of several volumes condemning homosexuality, dismissing all scientific evidence in the process. “Science has nothing to offer that would even remotely constitute persuasive evidence that would compel us to deviate from the historic Christian judgment that full homosexual intimacy, homosexual behavior, is immoral,” Stanton wrote in one book.

Still, Winn says that the college is acting with the best of intentions, but with terrible consequences. “I sincerely believe that the College is not trying to intentionally hurt people, but by telling students that who they are is a tragic sign of a sinful world, that is the exact effect they are having.” Unfortunately, the Wheaton assault on gay students is replicated throughout the Christian college world, as this Queerty story and this one depressingly remind us.

Amazingly, there are out students at the school. Zach Labutta is one of them. “I took time away from Wheaton and I eventually said, ‘I have God and gay in my hands and I cannot deny either, Labutta says. “I’ll see you on Judgment Day and just live my life as best as I know how.’”

Zach graduates on Sunday.

How much need is there for OneWheaton? The day after the alums distributed letters to the students, the website temporarily crashed due to the over 16,000 hits it received.

Photo of Zach via Bev Horne/The Daily Herald

Wheaton protest photo by Zolk

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  • fagburn

    Another pee poor post from the new “Queerty”.
    Get angry, get funny!


  • PerplexedStudent

    Limited sympathy. They’re not really going out of their way to “torment” people; why would a gay person choose to believe–and support a school that taught–anti-gay religious nonsense?

    The solution to the problem between christianity and homosexuality is not to convince churches to selectively choose to ignore the numerous condemnations of homosexuality in the bible; those (and numerous other) sections highlight how faulty the entire work is.

    The solution is to encourage inquiring minds to carefully research and analyze their own religions and find the truth for themselves–I did. That’s why I’m not a christian. There’s zero evidence that a huge percentage of the events described in the bible are anything more than stories, and (naturally) zero evidence that any of the sections were “divinely inspired.”

    If people didn’t indoctrinate their children from birth, and instead let them keep an open mind and come to their own conclusions after they’d been taught how to do research, there’d be many fewer faux-religious people, and we’d all be better off.

  • Rachel

    They weren’t “forced” to do anything. They CHOSE to fight for equality and their decision is inspiring.

  • Scott Nelson

    Remember that many of the people who choose to go to Wheaton are often unaware of choices available to them, or come from EXTREMELY conservative families who don’t give them much of a choice, or simply have grown up steeped in a world where even thnking that you’re gay is terrifying–and many are genuinely trying to reconcile the many GOOD parts of being involved in a Christian college like Wheaton with being gay. Please don’t discount the struggles these great kids are going through. We’re doing all we can, all things considered :)

    Thanks Rachel–it’s a choice that needed to be made, and that alumni from all generations are embracing–better later than never one hopes :)


  • Ray

    Oh boo freaking hoo. If you want to support the gay community stop giving attending these cult shit holes that hate you. Some part of your tuition goes to pay for the hatred they put out against gays fools.

  • Scott Nelson

    Well, Ray. I don’t think anyone in OneWheaton is asking for any sympathy from anyone. And I’m glad that you were so enlightened when you were 17 and selecting a college–we can’t all be as mature as you, to be sure. We simply exist to help people in genuine conflict know that there are choices. And it appears to be working :)

  • Shannon1981

    I think someone needs to reach out to these gay kids considering these institutions and let them know what they are in for. I accepted long ago that bigots will be bigots. We cannot force these people to love and accept us. We can work to keep their bigotry out of government and keep them away from our community, but the thing is, gay kids don’t need to be anywhere near these people. End of story. Now, how to keep the kids from these conservative,sheltered homes from going to these schools? No idea, but definitely something for us, the out LGBT activists to think about and work on.

  • MikeE

    Besides, there isn’t a single anti-gay word in the whole damned Bible!!!!

    This is supposed to be a real christian school?? Don’t they have any scholars capable of doing any real research? They should stop using the their mistranslated Bibles and go back to the source. The original texts contain nary a word on homosexuality.

    Every single sentence, verse, passage, ever quoted from the Bible and wielded as a weapon against the LGBT community is a lie! And THAT (lying), I KNOW is considered a grave sin.

  • PerplexedStudent

    @MikeE: This argument is faulty, and a waste of time. You’re trying to twist christianity into something that it isn’t, so that you can force homosexuality to be viewed as “acceptable” under a christian perspective. Who cares if it is, or isn’t? (and I’d argue that you’re wrong–it is. The only difference you’d be able to prove by arguing the difference in translation is that those civilizations didn’t really understand homosexual orientation as an identity, and focused on the end result).

    You can spend your life arguing with people over how *you* think something that’s been translated twelve times should “really” be understood, but the bottom line is that you don’t need christianity’s approval or permission, for anything.

    It’s the conservatives who have problems with gays; the best argument to make with them, I’ve found, is stressing that we’re a nation founded on principles of liberty, including the freedom for religious people to worship as they see fit, including being free from other people’s religions, and that they have no place, either from a moral, religious perspective (Jesus’ stories are not about campaigns to force the Romans to enforce religion) or a democratic/liberty-oriented perspective.

  • PerplexedStudent

    Edit: Meant to say “I’d argue that you’re wrong–it isn’t.” From a moral perspective, anyway. As I later said, I don’t think there’s a logical case for christians trying to enforce their moral beliefs through the legal system.

  • FearstheFutureUSA

    A lot of people like to jump on the “well if they don’t like it they can go somewhere else.” Having considered several Christian schools and being friends with a lot of people who went to Christian schools it’s not always that easy. A lot of these kids come from conservative homes that likely don’t know they are gay. There are some I knew of in an area Christian college that were the children of alumni. Some were told their parents wouldn’t help them with any financial support at all unless they went to these schools. Also lot of parent’s see these schools as a way to change something about their child they don’t agree with like drinking, promiscuity, and homosexuality. Others are there on athletic or financial scholarship and couldn’t afford the quality of education they are receiving if they went elsewhere.

    Also a lot of these schools have well respected programs. If you were in the situation of choosing a school where you could be yourself or one that would help get a job with the least amount of student loans I don’t think your choice would be as clear either.

  • Cam


    Actually, you can argue it from a Biblical perspective.

    Adultery is banned in the 10 commandments, and later on Christ saidt hat if a man divorces his wife and marries another, then he is committing adultry against the first wife. So that divorce and remarriaage specifically goes against one of Gods Ten Laws, as stated by Jesus.

    The sections against Homosexuality are all from things written by side players. Example, St. Paul’s letters to the Romans.

    So I would argue that the first order of business, if they REALLY and TRULY believe the Bible, and aren’t just picking the parts the need to to support their bigotry, would be to be protesting, and fighting to have divorce outlawed in the country and to not accept the children of divorce into the school.

    If they aren’t doing that then they are hypocritical bigots and nothing they say about their religion can be taken seriously nor can it be used as a defense against their behavior.



  • ait10101

    @UPYOANUS: Someone who was raised as an Evangelical?

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