LGBT Feature: Richard’s Story
In our feature, the term gay refers only to the attractions and orientations of individuals and not to their sexual activity. The writers have left out any reference to positions on moral and political questions to avoid polarizing discussion.
For those of us who are not LGBT, we hope these stories provide a glimpse into the lives of some of our brothers and sisters at Calvin. For those of us who are LGBT, we want you to see that you are not alone, and the Calvin community cares deeply about you.
Many of the students who are LGBT have not experienced a supporting, caring community at Calvin, but after we hear stories and place a face on an issue, we may still take our differing positions, but we will refuse to do battle. Join us as we listen attentively, respond thoughtfully and love graciously.
As a writing and film and media studies double major and member of the Calvin Theater Company, senior Richard Martin from Bowmanville, Ont., hopes to make music and write screenplays after graduating from Calvin.
During the spring of my freshman year, I was eating lunch with a table full of friends and somehow the conversation turned to, “What if someone at Calvin is gay?”
Most people were honest and said that gay people weirded them out. A couple people said that they knew gay people and that fact didn’t bother them, but one guy at the table said that if a gay guy hit on him, he would, “punch the guy in the face.”
Maybe he was trying to be funny or the conversation was making him feel uncomfortable. He seemed to think that no one at the table or within hearing distance would challenge him on his hypothetical actions.
I can remember trying not to show shock, anger, fear or anxiety. “Keep eating,” I thought. “Don’t look suspicious. Someone might notice that you’re bisexual.”
That’s how I felt in a lot of situations at Calvin. I felt a constant, underlying anxiety that if I accidentally brushed past a guy on the path, shifted uncomfortably when a professor implied that every man in the room would marry a woman, or hugged one of my guy friends, the secret would be out.
When I first came to Calvin, I didn’t think there were any safe spaces to have this conversation.
But as time passed, I made friends and as those friendships deepened, I was able to begin being honest with others and myself, even though that continues to be difficult and sometimes frightening.
On one of the couches by the tall tables and low-hanging lights in the Fish House, I sat across from one of my best friends trying to formulate a complete sentence.
She might tell you I didn’t seem nervous, but I was terrified as my mind reeled with worst case scenarios involving her disowning me as a friend and outing me to everyone.
Nineteen years of my life had gone by, countless days of lying to others, and myself, and I was about to tell her the truth about my sexuality. I am bisexual. When I finally spoke coherently, being the wonderful person she is, she proved my worries had no validation.
This conversation has happened in different places on campus with different people, but thus far, every response I have had has been a welcoming and accepting one. No one has cast judgment; no one has tried to change me.
But I chose to tell these people because I love them dearly and know that they love me too. However, the silence that surrounds honestly discussing LGBT topics at Calvin cultivates a space that does not seem welcoming or safe as a bisexual member of the community.
Walking down the hall in the dorms and hearing “that’s so gay,” “faggot” or “no homo” does not create a welcoming environment. It actively shuts down the potential for good and healthy conversation.
When living in the dorms I felt there was a blanket belief that everyone living there was heterosexual, and that everyone acknowledged these slurs and conversations as acceptable. That feeling is one of the reasons I never came out to my floor.
I have met many great people on campus and found spaces where I feel truly safe and I am able to be myself. Not just most of myself, but all of it.
What makes these places feel safe is not agreement on political or religious views, but a mutual willingness to communicate honestly and respectfully.
As education and discussion on LGBT topics continue at Calvin, I pray that these areas of safety will grow and strengthen.