The struggle of a leader

Kelly Mills

Christopher Taylor, junior nursing major, is currently the president of Pride!Kent. LAUREN ANDERSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

When Chris Taylor looked in the mirror as he was growing up, he always knew he was different.

He didn’t look like a boy; he didn’t look like a girl.

“How am I going to survive in this world that can be so cruel to people who might be a little ‘different’?” he wondered.

Chris grew up in a Southern Baptist home.

At church, his minister railed against homosexuals. They would go straight to hell, he said.

“I will help to build up the wall higher and higher, segregating the righteous from the evil,” the minister said of gay people. The words hit Chris so hard that he wrote them down so that he always would remember what he fought against.

At home, his parents spoke the same way.

“It is a sinful lifestyle, although God still loves the sinner,” his parents would say.

At dinner, his parents and siblings would ask why Chris didn’t have a girlfriend.

“I’m more interested in studying,” Chris would say. They called him a loner. He let it go.

At his Christian school, things were just as bad.

Only two things were cause for expulsion: homosexuality and pregnancy.

The Chris Taylor file

Born: Nov. 8, 1984

Hometown: Columbus

Year in school: Junior

Major: Nursing

Because he looked and acted almost like a stereotype, some students would whisper he was gay. It made him nervous.

He thought about what some Christians call “pray out the gay.” But that wasn’t for him, he thought.

“I was made in the image of God just like the righteous men and women I had studied in the New Testament,” he told himself.

He knew his only choice was to accept his sexuality or uselessly beat himself up over his feelings. He knew he wouldn’t have chosen this. It would have been a lot easier if he had been attracted to girls.

Finally, during his junior year, he had to tell somebody. He picked a girl whom he completely trusted.

He debated preparing a speech. But in the end, he just said it in the hallway before his first class.

“I’m gay,” he said.

“Um, wow,” she said.

She said it was OK with her, that she still supported him. And she said:

“There is another guy who likes you. I will talk to him for you.”

The rumor wasn’t true.

The other boy never spoke to Chris again.

He didn’t want to give up his religion. He spent hours at the public library reading gay theory books and learning how to connect his faith and sexual orientation.

He studied the Bible regularly and learned how to answer people who told him that his Christian religion did not accept his sexuality.

Even with more answers, Chris was glad to leave the private school for public school the next fall.

This school was completely different.

He came out to many of his classmates and teachers at school. Most of the people didn’t care.

“I’m gay,” he told one girl.

That night at a party, she introduced him to everyone she knew.

“He’s gay, but he’s cool.”

His parents still didn’t know. He wanted to tell them in his own time, and he still hadn’t.

In his new school, Chris found himself attracted to another man for the first time. The problem was he knew the other boy was straight.

In the high school way, Chris told a friend – in confidence, he thought. And the friend told a friend and so on until the other boy heard about it.

The other boy simply told Chris he didn’t feel the same way, that he was attracted to girls. But he never treated Chris any differently.

But college was different. Not everybody he met accepted homosexuality.

He was attending a drag ball during his freshman year when a group of members from the Church of Kent arrived.

One member shoved a flyer at Chris telling him that homosexuality was wrong and he would go to hell. A friend took the flyer, threw it on the ground and stomped on it.

Chris picked it up.

“Do you see the light of God in me?” Chris asked.

“You’re going to hell,” the man replied.

He talked to the man for an hour that night. He recited scripture that backed up his case that homosexuality and religion could coexist peacefully.

In the end, Chris didn’t think he changed the man’s mind. He did hope he showed him another answer from the Bible.

Later that year, Chris began to attend meetings of PRIDE!Kent, the Kent State organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people. He began regularly attending during his sophomore year. Membership was collapsing.

When PRIDE!Kent held officer elections during the last meeting of his sophomore year, five people were in the room. They elected each other officers. Chris became president.

From the moment he took office, Chris pushed the group in new and broader directions. Meetings were advertised across campus with fliers and chalkings.

About 180 people attended that meeting.

This year he brought straight supporters into the group and membership hit 500 people. It has worked to raise awareness about AIDS and domestic partner benefits.

Chris ran for executive director of Undergraduate Student Senate. He lost but still received 46 percent of the vote.

The adolescent who didn’t know who he was had become a leader.

Contact features correspondent Kelly Mills at [email protected].

Editor’s note: This narrative is based on interviews with Chris Taylor.