Exchanges of Support for Bullied Gay Teens Draws Attention to Oppressive Atmosphere on Christian Campuses

The L.A. Times has turned its focus to a letter of support from a group of LGBT alumni at Westmont College, a Christian college in Montecito, for bullied gay teens. The support comes in the form of a letter written to the college's newspaper in November from an outsider named Artie Van Why, who attended school at a different Christian college in Kentucky.

Westmount Here's Artie Van Why's original letter published by Westmount's student paper, Horizon, in November. It reads, in part:

The recent suicides of gay teens has moved me to think of students currently on Christian campuses who are gay.  This letter is to them.

I know what it is like to be gay and to be at a Christian School. In 1972 I was a freshman at a Christian college. I was a fairly new Christian. And I was gay. My four years there I lived with that secret and a fear that I was going to hell, pleading with God to change me, afraid to tell anyone.

We are assuring our gay youth that “it gets better.” And it does. I also want you to know you have choices. You didn’t choose to be gay (just as no one “chooses” to be heterosexual), but you can choose how to live with your sexuality.

Read it in full here.

Here's the letter of support from the LGBT alumni:

Dear Westmont,

We are a group of alumni who were moved by Artie Van Why’s letter in the November 16th Horizon. That article was not written by a Westmont student. However, it resonated for those of us who, as Westmont students, experienced doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college’s stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. We affirm, with Artie, that it does get better and hope that it will get better at Westmont too.

Read it in full here.

The exchange is drawing attention to the prohibitive conditions for LGBT youth at such colleges:

At the leafy campus near Santa Barbara, there are no gay-pride events or clubs in which gay students can socialize openly. The small, nondenominational school requires incoming students to sign a campus code that forbids "occult practices, sexual relations outside of marriage, homosexual practice, drunkenness, theft, profanity and dishonesty."

Such restrictions would generate loud protests at mainstream schools, but at Westmont, even now there's barely a raised voice. Instead, parties on all sides are issuing declarations of love and respect, with calls for a campus-wide dialogue.

"We're hoping to do a better job of talking to and loving each other and holding true to our scriptural principles," said Jane Higa, the school's vice president for student life.

Gay alumni question policy of Christian college in Montecito [la times]