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

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated