My first real memories of the LGBT community outside of watching “Ellen” and “Will & Grace” were in college.
I grew up in a small town in the middle of Nebraska and I just don’t have many memories of knowingly interacting with LGBT people. It’s not to say it didn’t happen. I just don’t remember.
Those first real memories came in my first few weeks of college at Creighton University in Omaha. I was attending an activities fair full of booths representing different organizations on campus.
So when I walked by a booth for the Creighton Gay/Straight Alliance, I signed up without hesitation. You see I’m one of those people that always wants to know more. I didn’t know any LGBT people. I didn’t know much about the cause so I said why not.
It turns out that the GSA wasn’t even an officially recognized organization on campus at that time in the fall of 2000. That means for decades the organization often met underground, in secret meeting rooms, without knowledge by college leaders.
Part of that comes clearly from the fact that Creighton University is a Jesuit Catholic college and the Roman Catholic Church has and had at that time very strong views on homosexuality.
I’ll admit I don’t remember too much from that first year other than meeting a group of wonderfully funny and delightful gay men who were my classmates and friends.
It was during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year that things changed for the organization that gained official campus organization status.
I can’t say for sure but the group members and I attribute it to the fact that the new college president who had just finished his first year on the job had come to Omaha from the University of San Francisco, another Jesuit Catholic college in California.
Either way, I remember the joy and pride on the face of my classmate, a gay Catholic man who had just been given a “seal of approval” from a Catholic leader.
That fall I was elected the secretary of the organization and was thrilled to get started on making real change for the group.
It was only within days of my election that I remember receiving a pamphlet that had been shoved under the door of my dorm room. Actually I shared the dorm with my roommate and it was she who presented me with the pamphlet snootily saying, “I believe this belongs to you.”
I don’t remember all the details of the pamphlet nearly 20 years later. What I do remember was it was a tri-fold glossy pamphlet and there was highlighted biblical passages inside basically implying that I would be burning in hell alongside my homosexual friends.
I remember not so much being shocked by the pamphlet as I was by the fact I learned my three roommates were upset, angry, insulted by the fact that I would be in a group that supported “those people.”
My frustration only grew as we were appointed an advisor, a very strict Jesuit priest, who wouldn’t let us do anything to promote sexuality. We couldn’t attend PRIDE events. We couldn’t put certain messages onto pamphlets, fliers and posterboards.
By getting official campus recognition, our name was now out there but we suddenly were under many restrictions that only angered members of the group.
Back then the world was still a much different place.
Today one of my fellow Creighton grads has a six-year-old son with his partner and they are together where he runs a school in Spain.
Another Creighton grad who works for Union Pacific only came out a few years ago but honestly I couldn’t be my proud of him.
There are LGBT politicians and LGBT country music singers and LGBT teachers and doctors and mothers and fathers and children.
My children’s pediatrician is a gay man and he was recently married. I told that to my daughter and at first she questioned two men getting married and I said, “yep they can do that. They love each other.” She said “yay” and ran off to do something else. From what I hear, that amazing couple is now starting the process to adopt a child and I can’t think of another more deserving couple.
I teach my children to love all people. Love is love.
While I won’t be attending a local PRIDE event this year due to the pandemic, I will stand with my friends and neighbors in support of the LGBT community.