DURING STEVE SLAGG’S freshman year at Wheaton College in Illinois, a gay-rights advocacy group called Soulforce announced that it was embarking on a nationwide bus tour of conservative Christian colleges that had campus policies against homosexuality to facilitate some of the first open conversations about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Wheaton College was one of their stops.
“We were talking a lot on campus about Soulforce and what we were going to do about them,” remembers Slagg about the spring 2006 tour. “It felt like nobody was really aware of the fact that there were people in this community who were gay.”
So Slagg decided to come out. He started with friends and classmates, but he also spoke with campus groups, and he held a meeting on his dormitory floor. He was interviewed in the campus paper, The Record, under the headline “Gay at Wheaton,” and numerous classmates approached him for private coffeehouse conversations around campus.
The pressure and attention grew to be too much, and Slagg quickly receded into normal campus life.
But during Slagg’s senior year, after feeling as though the conversations around homosexuality on campus had not changed, he wrote an essay for a new campus literary journal, The Pub, about being gay at Wheaton. “We exist,” he declared. “The most harmful and pervasive lie I’ve encountered at Wheaton has been that homosexual students either don’t exist at Wheaton or aren’t worth considering. Outrageously enough, I believed this lie for most of my freshman year.”