A Response to the Chimes’ LGBT Feature
As I’m sure many of you know, last week, Chimes put out an LGBT Feature, which included the stories of several LGBT students at Calvin, as well as a lovely, articulate introduction called “Listen First.” This post serves as both my response to this feature as well as my own story.
I came to Calvin with a lot of baggage, most of which, looking back, I can see stemmed from my fears over being “outed” as a lesbian (I use this term loosely. I believe that sexuality is fluid. At times, I have identified as bi-sexual, but feel most comfortable under the umbrella term: queer). Since I was in middle school, I had had crushes on women, which I had buried deep and pretended meant nothing. My parents had taught me that it was not only okay to be gay, but that it was most definitely not a sin. Still, my Christian middle and high school, along with the greater Grand Rapids community, had taught me otherwise. I adamantly defended gay people, especially my close friends, but I would never admit that I was one of them.
Calvin was no different. It may have been worse, living in the dorms with a bunch of girls, none of whom I felt I could trust with my secret. This wasn’t an unwarranted fear. Phrases like “that’s so gay” were tossed around pretty lightly at Calvin, at least while I was there. Because of this, I hated living in the dorms. I felt isolated, partly because I was isolating myself. But also, I didn’t always feel safe, especially not safe to share an essential part of my identity.
I moved home for sophomore and junior year, and as a junior, I switched my major to English. In the English department, I found the support I so desperately needed from a couple of professors, with whom I shared the truth of my sexual orientation. I also found a group of friends who were not only supportive, but encouraged me to not be afraid of the reactions from others at Calvin.
My senior year and fifth year, I lived in Koinonia, one of the Project Neighborhood houses. At first, I was terrified of exposing myself to these people, upstanding Christians that they were. I felt that being gay not only made me a bad person, but a bad Christian. But, I didn’t want a repeat situation of my dorm experience. I came out to a couple of my housemates, and then a couple more. Eventually, I came out to the entire house.
The second year, it was easier. I came out right away and the response was better than I could have hoped. I still have close friends from my Koinonia years. Some of these people are coming to my wedding reception in July.
I had known Clarissa while at Calvin, but we lost touch. But after I graduated, a mutual friend reconnected us. We fell in love; we are getting married in Connecticut in June at the home of one of my dear friends from Calvin. The minister who is marrying us also went to Calvin. Because of these things, it is impossible for me to say that Calvin is an unaccepting place. However, I would never have felt safe being in a relationship with a woman while going to Calvin. I don’t think this has changed, but I hope it will.
Clarissa and I are happy; I don’t think I have ever been so happy or felt so loved. Our parents and siblings are supportive, for which we are infinitely grateful. I am also grateful to the Calvin community for shaping me as a Christian, to the Calvin English department for listening to me and allowing me to be out in that community, and for my many Calvin friends, who have continued to be a part of my life because of their love and support.
I am so thankful that Calvin has opened up the space for a dialogue about LGBTQ issues. Hopefully, this will lead to greater understanding simply through the act of listening. Hopefully, we can all learn to be more Christ-like through listening to the stories of our brothers and sisters.
Bethany Tap (’12) received her MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she also worked as the managing editor of Chautauqua: the literary journal of the Chautauqua Institution. She is currently working on her first novel. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her wife, Clarissa, and son, Alexander.