My fall semester of 2008 I had picked off were I left off and happy to be back at the Purdue LDS singles ward, the Queer Student Union, and once again attending weekly GRAD sessions. In addition to this Kay had gotten a fellowship from Purdue to start the first student chapter of NOGLSTP (National Organization for Gay and Lesbian Scientist and Technical Professionals). The only thing I was in that huge acronym was gay, but really you didn’t have to be any to become a member. So I had gotten involved in that as well. I was elected as treasurer for the QSU, and I received a calling to be a greater at my ward. NOGLSTP did an event for Transgender day of Remembrance.
This event gave a voice to all the victims that lost their lives for trying to be who they were. This was an election year and we had used political lawn signs that one organization didn’t need anymore and we turned them inside out and used them as a sort of tombstone each containing the names of each victim and how they died. They were placed out in the Memorial Mall of Purdue University and on the evening of that day I helped carry a mock casket on to the sight were there was a moment of silence and then speakers gave talks, among the talks were Chris and Kay. This event was a reminder to me of how fortunate I have been to where I am and how important it was for me to be authentic to give the voice of authenticity to those that had lost theirs in this world.
As I was being authentic in my ward about not just being gay but turning into a bit of an activist, I was doing the same outside of the church about being Mormon. In my experiences I learned that it was more difficult for me to be an out Mormon outside the church than it was being out gay inside. I had become a bit of a go to person in the queer community at Purdue for things of religious significance. There was one event when our public relations officer of the QSU was invited to this one event by a Christian organization where a person was going to talk about being gay. So she went and felt completely offended that she had been invited to hear a gay-to-straight Christian give a talk on how you can change to righteousness through Christ. She had to leave before she blew up.
I had met a gay to straight person before and we actually had a great conversation. We both could tell that we were committed to our path and both had an appreciation for being able to freely express our feelings. She had actually still had been in the closet about her past as she was now a leader of a congregation on campus, so it was quite amazing that she opened up to me and she told me that she felt god wanted her to. So my problem wasn’t because of the person being a gay to straight it was because I was given the impression that he was telling people it was the only right way. There is no way of knowing for me whether another person as truly changed their orientation or was bi and leaned the other way or whatever as long as they believe they are being authentic to themselves I’d gladly support them.
So it wasn’t long later were I heard about it. She told me the person that invited her asked her how she liked the talk and she was straight forward and honest about how offensive it was towards her and eventually she invited him to have dinner with her, the president of the Episcopal Student association and the treasurer of the QSU (me). We had dinner at Applebeee’s and the conversation went as well as could be expected. The leader of the ESA made good comments. He is actually an ally of the GLBTQ community and has a son so he had talked about the necessity for a caring and loving environment for his son to grow up in regardless of who he is. I believe this put it in more of a personal sphere now that they had to consider the chance that they could have a gay child. I have often used what he said to put the necessity in creating a loving community with less queer friendly groups. The other interesting thing that happened was as soon as I got to the so I became Mormon part of my authenticity choice speal it was like he forgot the main reason why we were all there and seemed more concerned by the fact that I was Mormon than that I was gay.
These conversations are always fun because I am completely out of their comprehension as these individuals who have a problem with who I am most likely never questioned their religion and have lived in their blissful little world of ignorance. I enjoy talking with them in a way even if they don’t listen because I get to defend my orientation and my religion who many have told me don’t mix well but have made the perfect team in confusing the heck out of someone to the point where they really don’t know what to do with me. All the while I show an authentic caring for the individual because really I wasn’t any different than them just a couple years back and If I hadn’t been gay I still could’ve been so I do relate to them and it has often helped me navigate through many sticky conversations.
At the end of the dinner we invited them both to meet more GLBTQ members at the coffee night we were hosting that night he said he would come, but he never did. At that time though I said I would go to one of his services, which I did a few weeks later and had a nice time until one of the members thought it was his mission to convince me I was wrong, pftt good luck with that. I gave the other guy another chance to take a step towards reaching out to the GLBTQ community of which he later failed and that was that.
At Purdue there are two religious organizations that actively got involved with the QSU in helping the queer community in their efforts to obtain a safe environment to be themselves and learn. I got a bit involved with these two organizations which were the Episcopal church, and the Wesley foundation of the Methodist church. The Wesley foundation hosted a bible study on GLBTQ themes. I participated in these studies and would bring my complete set of the LDS Gospel and we had a great time studying together and sharing perspectives. This was a very empowering event I was allowed to be me and I was allowed to share some Mormon perspectives then I listened to their perspectives and we all gained something from it.