A couple of weeks ago I wrote a response to Dustin Lance Black’s op-ed, describing his experience this past fall in my home town of Holland, Michigan. I also invited one of my sister’s friends, Arin Fisher — a Hope College senior in creative writing (poetry) and self-described “closet pamphleteer” who was involved trying to bring Black to campus to write a guest post about his own experience of how Holland and Hope College deal with homosexuality. Without further ado, here’s Arin.
I’m a gay cliché, especially recently. I’m now the gay who quotes Harvey Milk, gestures always with endearing melodrama, and isn’t afraid to wear ivory post-Labor Day. As you may assume, my behavior is a red-flag to hicks everywhere, especially at home in Indian River, that I’m a goddam homsexshul. I make trite jokes about the gay agenda and how, due to mail-error, the conservos always receive my copies. Fuck me.
But I wasn’t always so gay. I was the kid whose first very secret crush committed suicide, who went on short term mission trips with Global Expeditions, whose reorientation therapy failed (whose therapist’s son was gay, too, and who taught me a few of the tricks I now know), and who applied to all the conservative colleges in Michigan, including Hillsdale, and was accepted with enormous scholarships because of my promise in right-wing politics. But I chose Hope for the mentors who, like me, struggled to come to terms with their sexuality and who married women and led what many believed to be perfectly normal straight lives.
Freshman year I followed my RA, Erin, to a Gay Straight Forum meeting at a wee white house just off-campus, but then I passed the house, peaking as covertly as possible through cracks in the lacy curtains before looping back toward my dorm, spooked by the perceived threat of association and other threatening receptions from the gay people in the house. I thought quietly [righteously] that had I gone there to listen to the conversations, they’d know that I’m queer. Gawd.
Growing up in northern Michigan, I was skilled — I skirted every gay man I encountered. Those gays whose friendship I began to value, I diligently offended. All those whom I crushed on, I cut out of my life because I was Christian, and you know the story. I elegantly employed these hard-learned skills. I learned that to avoid other gay men, I must avoid situations where gay men would be present. All to say: I’m unaware of any concerted effort to dialog about sexuality apart from the Mel White battle in the late 90s as I spent a majority of the past three years praying the gay away.*
You might aim blame at me for Lance’s misinformation. I briefed him from my experience which was teleologically sub-gay until fall 2008. Now that I’m more on the front-lines in terms of having “friendly” conversations with the Dean of the Chapel and “friendly” discussions with the Dean of the Students and organizing 501c3 LGBT groups, I’m doing more research, both personal and academic, in hopes of self-informing enough to competently reflect informed LGBT students to the higher-ups at Hope and in the community. I’m happy that I’ve been able to contribute a little to the conversation, if not always in the most informed way, at least in a way that adds Dustin Lance Black and my supreme penchant for melodrama to the coveted repertoire of Hope’s self-consciousness of diversity.
*Editor’s footnote: “the Mel White battle” Arin refers to is the period I described briefly in an earlier post. Former Christian right activist turned gay Christian author Mel White was invited by a coalition of campus groups to speak at Hope in response to another guest speaker, Mario Bergner, a conservative ex-gay therapist, brought in by the campus ministry as part of a chapel series on Christian love.