I write today in the hopes that you will share this message with your readers. Whether they agree with me or not is less important, although I do hope it will bring about a new discussion on campus relating to ACU’s policies towards LGBT students. Unlike most who have chimed in on this subject, I’m uniquely qualified to do so. As a 2002 graduate of ACU, former Executive President of the ACU Students Association, and someone who has worked professionally for LGBT equality at the national level for over 12 years, I offer a perspective that’s less focused on feelings and more on actual experience.
I’m not writing today to have an argument about whether or not your Student Handbook should be changed so that LGBT students can be viewed as equal in every way on campus. I have had these discussions behind the scenes, and, quite frankly, I’m too emotionally exhausted to keep having them. ACU’s policy is what it is. You are a private institution and must do what you think is appropriate. I
vehemently disagree with policies in place impacting LGBT students, but I’ve given up on ever being truly welcomed or accepted with my husband at alumni events, homecoming, or even casual gatherings with students I graduated with. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I have a handful of friendships from ACU that have sustained me to this day, friendships that in many ways have saved my life.
However, for ACU to welcome my husband and me would be false acceptance, an acceptance that too many LGBT students and alumni have experienced. Acceptance, just like love, should be unconditional.
ACU’s current policies towards LGBT students are policies that stem from tolerance. The problem is that tolerance is not meant for human consumption. We tolerate colds and the flu, traffic on our way to work, lines at the airport, bad cell phone reception, our steak not being cooked to perfection, and other miniscule mishaps on a daily basis. We should never tolerate people, but rather merely things that happen to us. People don’t crave tolerance, they crave acceptance.
Today, I’m writing to hand back my diploma to ACU, a diploma I earned ten times over by my service to the university, both as a student and as a representative. Whether it was earning a national debate championship for the university or working countless hours as President of the Students’ Association, I gave back. It’s not that I have all bad memories from being a student, quite the opposite. I remember having fun with my bothers in Galaxy Social Club, winning Sing Song, cracking up over jokes at the Bean, grabbing the best BBQ in the world at Harold’s for lunch, cookouts on the weekend, fundraisers for
charity, and moments of sadness that brought us all together. I was a Senior and President of the Students’ Association the morning of September 11, 2001 when the planes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. I remember going to Chapel, crying on top of one another, being afraid like never before, and truly being confused about the world we were living in. I remember opening up the Students’
Association offices so that concerned students could make calls to parents that were traveling on business that day. I remember being thankful that I was in such a caring place on such a horrific day. While all of these memories bring warmth and a sense of belonging, they do not change the fact that I simply do not belong to this community.
Yes, I wish I could turn back time, to say otherwise would be dishonest on my part. My life to date, while incredibly substantive and rewarding, has also been filled with heartache. I wish I could have come out and attended a university that not only tolerated LGBT students, but celebrated them. Alas, I did not. I wish I could say that my coming out to my family was a good experience and that it brought us closer together, but it didn’t. I wish I could say that my childhood friends were supportive when I came out, but 9 out of 10 weren’t. I wish I could say that my father wasn’t ashamed of me when he died of lymphoma
in 2009, but I can’t know that for sure. I wish I could say I don’t suffer from depression and anxiety from years of being repressed, but I do. I wish I could say that my being openly gay, married, and successful has somehow moved the hearts and minds of ACU leadership, but it hasn’t. I wish I could say my heart hasn’t been hardened over the years by rejection, but it has.
To end this letter, let me say that I’m not angry, I’m just sad. I can also say with sincerity that I love a lot of people at ACU and that I genuinely believe that policies towards LGBT students stem from a lack of education, knowledge, and experience in the real world. We’ve all heard of the “ACU Bubble”, and that’s because it exists. For this graduate, I can’t attempt to live in it or to gain acceptance in it any longer.
After all, bubbles aren’t designed for growth.
I need to move on, as do all ACU LGBT Alumni. Today, I’m no longer part of ACU in any form or fashion, but I believe in the saying that if you love someone or something enough, you have to know when to let it go.
– Jason Mida, ACU Class of 2002