Friday, June 22, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets: Sic 'em Bears

As you know, I've dedicated this space on a once-monthly basis to revealing one of my "dirty little secrets." I had barely recovered from last month's revelation, when I realized it was time for another. Apparently, time flies regardless. So, here goes.

My "dirty little secret" is that I graduated from Baylor University. There, it's out. What's the fuss? Read on.

I transferred to Baylor in 1985, after completing my Freshman year at the Unversity of Texas/Austin. Truth be told, I never wanted to go to Baylor or UT. In high school, I had my heart set on Vanderbilt University. Not quite Ivy, but sounding like it was, Vanderbilt appealed to my white-trash soul. I had been accepted and assigned a roommate before my father reneged on his eve-of-the-divorce concession to my mother to "pay for my education." Plan "B" was put into action and I crammed my life into a baby blue 1973 VW Super Beetle and drove from Dallas to Austin. Tuition at UT in the Fall 1984 was an unbelievable $4 an hour; I spent more on dry cleaning a month than I did on tuition for that entire year.

One of 50,000 students at UT, where dorms are large enough to merit their own zip codes, I came to define "lost." I lived at The Goodall-Wooten on Guadalupe Street, a dorm that catered to the white fraternity pricks from the Houston and Dallas suburbs (my high school friends), and had a decades-old reputation for materialism, elitism, misogyny, and racism. I pretended I was spoiled. I was convinced that I had finally arrived. Ahhhh, the arrogance of Texas in the early 80's.

Closeted beyond belief, I was the guy who always disappeared before the end of the evening. Three alcoholic anythings and I was out the door, sneaking across town and slipping into gay bars and peep shows. Needless to say, it was a dark, confusing time.

At the beginning of my second semester, in the midst of a gray out, I was sexually assaulted by two men [Note: men can't technically be "raped," as the legal definition requires a vagina]. It completely rattled me, particularly because I had never had sex [read: penetration] with a man prior to that, so that was actually my first, and I suppose, second time. It's only hot in porn. I didn't/couldn't/wouldn't tell anyone.

My first semester 3.8 G.P.A took a heavy hit attempting to balance out the 1.2 G.P.A. from my second semester. I drank non-stop, became more withdrawn and deeply depressed. At a place like UT, no one notices. I left for the summer, knowing I wouldn't be back.

I knew little of Baylor other than it was in Waco (remember, this is pre-David Koresh). That summer I drove to Baylor with a high school friend -- a good Baptist girl -- who had to do some late registration. While she was in the Registrar's office, I wandered into Admissions. I'm still a bit fuzzy on how it happened, but when I left, I was admitted (in less time than it took my friend to register). Since this was also a time of significant spiritual growth, deep suffering serving as a powerful catalyst for that, I took this as universal affirmation that Baylor was the next step.

And in many ways, it was. Things worked out; four years later I left Baylor with a B.B.A. (Economics and Finance) and an acceptance letter to start at SMU School of Law the next Fall.

So why is Baylor my "dirty little secret?"

Baylor, long considered the "crown jewel" of the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC"), was largely funded by the religious right. Neither drinking nor dancing was allowed on campus and there were no co-ed dorms. Generations of the Baptist girls had arrived and departed Baylor, hymans intact. I'm quite sure that the Baylor "experience," affectionately described as living in the "Baylor bubble," remains a comfortable, although unrealistic, one.

Like many American colleges, Baylor was founded as an institution of higher education based upon religious ideals. But unlike most, Baylor remains firmly commited to "its interpretation" of those roots. So commited, in fact, that violations of Baylor rules pertaining to drinking and sexual activity can, and often do, result in immediate, severe disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion.

Here's a copy of Baylor University's "Sexual Misconduct Policy" [Warning: The following material is highly offensive in nature]:

"Baylor will be guided by the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from the creator God and that the purposes of this gift includes (1) the procreation of human life and (2) the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond in self-giving love. These purposes are to be achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage. Misuses of God's gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts."
They are serious; no tongue in cheek (or anywhere) here.

What's ironic is that the campus is full of "bad girls" and gays. The joke when I was at Baylor was "Where do Baylor girls go to have sex with men?" The punchline, "Texas A&M, just like the boys." In retrospect, the reason seems obvious. What better place for closet cases to hide and "pass" than a conservative, religious school that forbids pre-marital sex. The peer pressure at Baylor is too "not" sleep with girls. ["Oh, okay, twist my arm. If God really doesn't want me to have pre-marital sex with women, then I guess I won't."]

In 1985, Baylor's "bubble" was, without a doubt, exactly what I needed. Still smarting from the first 18 years of life, and licking my UT wounds, Baylor became a coccoon, of sorts. I made wonderful, albeit naive, friends. Learned how to learn, and discovered a love for literature and writing that continues today.

I also picked up a great deal of Baptist baggage, that took me years to unload. College, a time many spend "coming out," was time spent fine tuning the art of self-repression. For a while, I tortured myself with the mistaken belief that something was inherently wrong with my sexuality and that if I tried hard enough and prayed hard enough (to the right God) this affliction (my "cross to bear") was conquerable. My closet not only expanded at Baylor, it was redecorated and had locks installed on both sides.

After law school, I moved out of Texas and, over time, teased out what was valuable and true from my Baylor experience. It's taken a lot of time and effort, and the assistance of many great therapists and good friends.

Despite officially separating from the SBC in the early 1990's, Baylor has continued along the same path of intolerance, becoming more shrill and judgmental over the years. Here's a sampling of Baylor's most recent acts of idiocy.

In February 2004, Baylor revoked a full scholarship it had awarded theology student, Matt Bass, when the university discovered that he was a homosexual.

In September 2005, Baylor banned Starbucks coffee cups on its campus that included a quote from gay author, Armistead Maupin ("Tales of the City"), because Baylor felt that it "promoted homosexuality." Ironically, Maupin's quote echoes the same sentiment I have been expressing and is pictured below [click image to see larger size]:

In November 2005, Baylor's Hankamer School of Business dismissed 1983 Alum Tim Smith from its advisory board after learning that he was gay. This, despite the fact that Tim had donated over $65,000 of his own and raised an additional $60,000 on behalf of the university.

And most recently in March 2007, Baylor had six individuals, including one current student, one alumnus and four members of the Soulfource Equality Ride 2007 team, arrested on campus for chalking the sidewalk (a Baylor tradition) with scripture quotes promoting tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians.

As an educated, spiritually-awake, gay male living in New York City in 2007, I consider Baylor's policies and actions highly immoral, inexcusably intolerant, and patently illogical -- in short, completely unacceptable.

Every cell of my physical being and every vibration of my sacred soul rejects Baylor's interpretations of scripture as dead wrong and wholly inconsistent with a loving God. Baylor is uniquely situated to take a strong lead in bridging the gap that has existed for too long between the GLBT and church communities. Not only are they not leading, they are squandering immense resources and deepening the schism that already exists. As an institution, Baylor has chosen Fear over Love, and has sown seeds hate, dissension and intolerance.

Shame on you, Baylor. You break my heart.

And just when you thought it couldn't possibly get worse: Baylor University has announced that it is one of two universities left vying for the "honor" of becoming the home to the "George W. Bush Presidential Library." They want it bad and, in fact, they're a perfect match. The sole remaining competition? You guessed it -- SMU -- my law school alma mater. It never ends!