Opinion: Keep your prayers — we’re not broken

Andrew Atkins

I can’t remember the first time somebody called me a “faggot.”

Was it third grade? Fifth grade? I don’t remember. Through most of my childhood, that was the label my peers gave me, how they identified me.

And this followed me — until I actually came out, people twisted my status as a gay man into an insult.

Even after the explicit name-calling stopped, I was physically threatened. My spring semester of my sophomore year in high school, I had to get dressed in my gym teacher’s office bathroom because a classmate threatened to hurt me in a handful of ways. All of his hatred stemmed from my identity as a gay person.

Today, I’m in a much better place. I am surrounded by people who love and accept me, but yesterday, I was reminded that many don’t have the same luxury I do.

Yesterday, my boyfriend Facetimed me, so choked by tears that he couldn’t get the words out of his mouth. He could only sob, his shoulders shaking, chest heaving. Tears streaked down his face, and his voice cracked.

When he stopped gasping for air, I watched him swallow and take a second to breathe.

“They found out,” he said.

He meant his dad found out he is bisexual and in a relationship with me.

Often, a closeted person’s worst nightmare.

His family is religious. They go to church every Sunday. His brother plays in the church band. My boyfriend is not religious; he found himself questioning his faith through his early teens and eventually departed from his beliefs altogether.

When he texted me — three hours after he wiped his eyes, told me he loved me and ended the call — he had just finished praying with his dad and his brother.

Now, this is something of a show — he’s doing this to appease his dad in the hope his father will leave the subject of his son’s sexuality alone.

What I fear the most, however, is that these fires won’t be quenched.

Like so many pointed conversations with my own family, I worry these questions and arguments about religion and morals won’t end. Not for me, not for him.

And I’m angry.

I will never forget his face when I answered the call. Like so many of us, he’s been hurt. Like so many of us, he will carry those scars forever. Like so many of us, some of his wounds may never heal.

And, frankly, what is there to pray about? LGTBQ people are not broken.

We are not sick.

We are not damned.

There’s nothing wrong with us — at least, not in our LGBTQ identity.

You can pray for us, but your prayers are wasted.

I desperately wish it was me and not him. I’m angry and hopeless and frustrated because his story is not unique. So many parents and family members and friends turn away their LGTBQ loved ones.

I wish nobody had to go through this. I wish I could take the place of every single LGBTQ youth facing the overwhelming hopelessness and pain of being rejected for who they love or how they identify.

I think of the LGBTQ youths who felt they had no other option than to take their lives — like Leelah Alcorn — and it breaks my heart. I wish I could take their pain away so they didn’t feel like only death could

But I don’t have the power to be a martyr.

What I do have the power to do is offer the same piece of advice so many people before me have: it gets better.

Like so many of us, my boyfriend has hope.

June is Pride month. If you can, stand tall and stand proud. If you can’t, that’s okay, too. Sometimes, it’s not safe to be out.

Wherever you are in your journey, you are loved and accepted.

It gets better. It truly does.

I can’t remember the first time somebody called me a “faggot,” but I can’t remember the last time, either.

Andrew Atkins is the campus editor. Contact him at [email protected].