LGBT Feature: Ryan’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.
Senior Ryan Struyk from Grand Rapids, Mich., is majoring in political science and mathematics. He is currently the editor in chief of Chimes and has served as a student senator and worship apprentice during his time at Calvin. He plans to pursue a career as a political journalist.
Last summer, I walked into Pastor Mary’s office and forced out the deepest, darkest secret this CRC pastor’s kid had to offer: I’m gay.
I never thought I would say those words out loud. To anyone.
I remember several late nights leading up to that day spent sitting in my car, clenched fists on the steering wheel, screaming and begging God to let me be attracted to one girl. Just one. Please.
Being attracted to guys was never supposed to happen to this pastor’s son who had gotten straight A’s through 16 years of Christian education, or to a Calvin College worship apprentice who has led worship since fifth grade.
I hoped and hoped that one day the switch would flip: I’d suddenly want a girlfriend and I’d get my 2.5 kids and my white picket fence.
So for 20 years, I faked my way through too many conversations, while trying to figure out why all my friends wanted girlfriends and I didn’t. I hid a lot of unwanted feelings in a box, hoping they would all just go away.
My attraction to guys, much like any straight attraction, is so much more than the physical. It’s a deep emotional draw, a desire to have a best friend, to know what makes a guy smile, to know his fears and his dreams and not just what’s under his clothes.
But I was terrified that if anyone ever found out, my life would come crashing down. After all, I had spent 20 years as a poster child for the church — and being gay definitely did not belong on the poster.
If people knew this part of me, wouldn’t they throw me right out the back door?
I thank God that, over the last 16 months, the answer to that question has been a resounding no.
Campus ministries staff here at Calvin, especially Pastor Mary and Aaron Winkle, have been phenomenally supportive. My friends and family have accepted me, without exception.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have lots of questions or we don’t have different opinions on how my faith ties into all this.
But it does mean that I haven’t turned into a political issue — I’m still Ryan: a guy who loves a good math joke and roots hard for the Detroit Tigers and can’t shop for clothes for more than 20 minutes without stopping to buy food. But I digress.
I’ll tell you why I wrote this article: because there’s a freshman in your English 101 class and there’s a guy on your sports team and there’s a 14-year-old kid in your church’s pew who is hiding a pretty big secret too.
And they’re terrified about what could happen if anyone finds out.
So often our picture of people who are gay is limited to a vocal minority, and we forget that there are even more who have come out only to close friends — or maybe no one at all.
But we can help in this effort, and it starts here: remember that when we have these conversations — no matter our views on the “issue” — we’re talking about real people, just like me.
Use respect. Speak with love. And remember that silence doesn’t count as being welcoming. Encourage dialogue and education, so talking about this part of my life isn’t taboo anymore.
It’s often easy for a religious debate or a political stance to overshadow the fact that, when it comes down to it, I’m just Ryan.
I definitely don’t have this all figured out. I’ve asked and still have a lot of questions. Just remember there are a lot more people where I came from.
They’re our good friends, our classmates, our teammates — and they’re scared that their world might come crashing down. Let’s show them it won’t.