Ethan Kilgore

Sometimes I write things.

The Perseverance of Love

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:15 

A lot has happened since I first published “Gay at Gordon” in Gordon College’s student publication Vox Populi, as well as posting it on the internet. The “coming out” process was longer and more emotionally exhausting than I thought it would be, but others had warned me that would be the case. Anyway, this summer finally allowed me some time off to really process the whirlwind experience of the past two years. During this time I was reading any books I could get my hands on about the topic, but two helped me far beyond the others – the Bible (of course), and Torn by Justin Lee.

Fast-forward to the present. Each year, at least since I’ve been at Gordon, the college has something called “Sexuality Week,” which is exactly what it sounds. Over the course of the week there are many events exploring everything to do with sexuality, including homosexuality. Lo and behold, Justin Lee was invited to speak with his friend Ron Belgau; both gay men, Justin believes that gay-marriage is biblically sound, while Ron lives a celibate lifestyle. I was absolutely elated – the man whose book brought my family and me so much comfort was coming to my school! I eagerly anticipated sexuality week.

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Check out Justin’s Blog!

Then something terrible happened. It came like a whirlwind. The night before Justin and Ron were going to speak to the student body, we received an e-mail informing us that another speaker was going to be attending the same night – Mario Bergner, an ex-gay. There was much confusion about how he got on the schedule. All I’m sure of is that he originally refused to speak because he was only invited to one event, where our other guests were to speak at two- he found that “discriminatory.” In an e-mail to President Lindsay (according to Mario’s Facebook page) he stated “save Gordon College from having the false gospel of sexual immorality proclaimed to the student body on Thursday night.” He wanted President Lindsay to not allow Justin and Ron to speak – something that would have devastated me, but luckily the President did not heed his advice.

It saddens me even now to see him accuse Justin and Ron speaking from a “false gospel” – an untrue accusation of hurt. He would make the same accusation again the following night in front of hundreds. It wasn’t the first time Mario had said something like this; in an interview he stated,

“I would discourage Christians from partnering with those who call themselves ‘Gay Christians’ or with liberal Christians who are really simply modern-day Gnostics. We must simply refuse to join hands with those who are preaching another Gospel.” (SOURCE)

The following night Justin Lee and Ron Belgau gave a phenomenal talk on how to respectfully dialogue about sexuality when you disagree drastically. It was so wonderful to hear such sincere men talk with respect, kindness, and compassion. I was so encouraged.

Then Mario came up – wearing a cross necklace and a collar and his words were like knives. I won’t include all of what he said, as it upset me deeply, but I was devastated. He accused Justin Lee, to his face, that he was “speaking from a different gospel” – questioning his faith. He told graphic shock stories and stated “statistics” that were not true at all. He said birth-control caused cancer. He said 35% of sexually active gay men in the room would get AIDS. He said depression and anxiety were signs of homosexuality. He pushed for people of same-sex attraction to seek “healing” in order to become straight.

I had to walk out. I felt physically ill.

Later that night he questioned Justin Lee’s faith in front of everyone – our up-coming Dean of Students Jennifer Jukanovich stepped in and stopped him from continuing.  What happened next was something I will never forget. Justin Lee responded to Mario with a perfect example of Christ’s love and forgiveness. There was not a hint of anger in his voice. He acknowledged that he was hurt by Mario’s words, but not once did he show anything but kindness and forgiveness – it was beautiful.

Mario had done his damage to the college and its students, but from his hate came something incredible. The Gordon community banded together and came to the aid of those who were hurt. I myself received numerous messages from friends telling me how sorry they were for what happened. Over a hundred students responded to a prayer event for those hurt by the words from last night. In a time of struggle, the Gordon community rallied together to spread a message of Christ’s love. They put into practice the love that is found in the gospel of Christ.

I do not think Mario Bergner is a bad person. I think his words were hurtful and inappropriate, but that does not mean he is any exception to the love of Christ. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ – our actions do not disqualify us from His love. If anything, the weeks events caused me to keep Mario in my prayers more than I would have. It would be false to say I have reached complete forgiveness, but I am working on that with God – it is my problem.

Let me leave you with a quote from an e-mail President Lindsay sent out days after the event:

“In this season of giving thanks, I hope you will join me in thanking God for this special community of which we are all a part.  Unlike the vast majority of colleges and universities today, Gordon is a place where our institutional loyalty is expressed most fervently in how we love one another and those with whom we disagree.  This, dear friends, is how we most effectively bear witness to the Gospel.”

Finally I pray: Lord grant me your peace, mercy, and grace – for I cannot have these things without You.

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A Queer Situation

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. – 2 Corinthians 4: 7-11

Recently at Gordon College there have been quite a few discussions regarding the college’s stance on homosexuality. A few weeks ago an e-mail was sent out informing students of a new practice (the school emphasized that it is not a “policy”, though I’m not sure what the difference entails) which prohibited campus-wide programmed discussion of the topic outside of one week of the year. Most surprisingly to me, this included the ban on student-run groups and clubs talking about it, as well. What it doesn’t mean is that we aren’t allowed to discuss it in class – this is still allowed.

Some people are very upset about the e-mail, others don’t think it is a big deal, and me – well I don’t really know. I’m just happy we’re finally talking about it. Its funny given the fact that what started the conversation in the first place was the administration informing us of a practice that was supposed to minimize discussion. To be fair – the e-mail was worded in such a manner I’m not entirely sure what the new “practice” even means, so I can give no definitive information regarding it. I would recommend calling the school if you wanted to know more details.

I hate arguments about sexuality. I love discussions about sexuality. What I think people often times forget is that there is so much to learn about sexuality that is not even tied to the morality of it! It is a topic so complex and rich that you couldn’t even scratch the surface in an hour long conversation. Heck – I’m gay and I still have so much to learn about the topic. What I do know is that my situation right now is nothing like it’ll be in two years. I chose to go to a Christian college full well knowing that it might be difficult for me sometimes, but I wanted to be able to have these discussions because I know that I’ll never have an opportunity like this again. When I am not at college I am much less aware that being gay separates me from certain people, when I am at Gordon I am more acutely aware of this – but that isn’t always a bad thing. Being one of the few openly gay people are my school has opened up some great opportunities for me to dialogue with my peers, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t wear me down sometimes.

Most of the time I love my college – I really do. That is something I learn more and more every week. I am so lucky to go to a school that allows for the opportunity to really get to know your professors on a personal level – it has helped both academically and spiritually. I often take it for granted. In fact, when I was first coming out to the school, it was a professor who I went to when I needed someone to listen. Truly a blessing.

So don’t get me wrong – I have no bones to pick with anyone – I am just doing what I love, which is discussing something very very important to me. The e-mail confused me, but without confusion clarity just isn’t as rewarding.

On another note: I apologize for not keeping my blog more updated. I definitely over committed this semester – but better doing too much than doing too little, am I right?

Thanks for reading,

Ethan Kilgore

Coming Out

I don’t struggle with my sexuality. In fact, my sexuality is one of the simplest things in my life. What I do struggle with is facing the challenges that come with being gay in this society.

Being gay is never going to be an easy path – no matter how accepting the people around you are. The world is heteronormative, so you are forced to adapt and fend a path that is still quite untouched. When people talk about the confusion that comes with acknowledging your sexuality, they are often referring to trying to fit into a culture that is geared towards the heterosexual person.

Gay people are constantly coming out – it isn’t a one time deal. Straight people don’t need to clarify their sexual preference because it is just assumed they are attracted to the opposite sex. LGBTQ people are forced to inform people that they don’t fit into the standard box that society puts people in – so they have to come out over and over again with each new person they meet. It is emotionally exhausting, and can often be isolating. It is a tricky thing, figuring out when to tell someone you’re gay. My handshake isn’t paired with me coming out every time I meet someone new.

There were a lot of factors playing into whether or not I would come out during college. Staying in the closet would probably have made my life at college a lot easier, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to stop lying to people – I didn’t want to have to deceive anyone about my true self anymore. I knew that being truthful about my orientation would lose me a few friends, but it was just the price that I needed to pay in order to find some sort of peace.

I started off telling a few of my closest friends – slowly building a group of support around me. It shouldn’t have to be such a big deal, but it is – it felt like I was dropping bombs every time I said those two words, “I’m gay.” Most of the time the person you told won’t look you in they eye after you tell them – it is the discomfort from such a personal exchange, and honestly understandable. Almost indefinitely in Christian circles the very first question you get is, “Will you act on it?”

Eventually I told enough people that I knew it was no longer in my control who knew and who didn’t. That was when I decided to seal the deal with an article in one of Gordon’s student publications. When I was coming out I didn’t have anyone to talk to who understood what I was going through. I didn’t know any openly gay people well enough to seek out their advice. I felt very alone and isolated – trapped with no knowledge of resources to help me survive the path that I had decided to take. I was going to have to do it on my own. I don’t want other people to feel that way – I want them to know that they are not alone. If anything I pray that my article let any one person know that they’re not alone.

Everyone deserves support in times of strife. You’re not alone. Someone will be there for you, and it might not be the person you think. Cling to the knowledge that though you suffer silently, you do not suffer alone.

Once again, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

On Bravery and Buffy and the Vampire Slayer

If you know me at all you understand the vast undying love that I have for television. What you might not know is that television just might have saved my life.

When I was seventeen I was in the midst of one of my worst periods of depression. I had graduated High School in three years which left me a year in-between school and college. I didn’t go anywhere, I cut off all contact with my friends, and I seemed to sleep more hours than I was awake. I was also struggling with whether or not I was ever going to tell anyone that I was gay.  To be completely blunt – I was barely holding on to life and I wanted to let go.  Depression was a hot coal in my stomach. It was an all consuming problem, and one day it was going to burn something vital. It just so happens that around this time I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It quickly became one of my favorite shows of all time, and it relieved the pain I was feeling, if at least for 45 minutes at a time.

So how does a strong, independent, female protagonist fit into my fight with depression? Well the Season 5 finale, The Gift, is an episode that I regard as one of the best episodes of television ever written. In the final minutes of what was supposed to be the series finale, Buffy utters the most unforgettable lines I have ever heard on the small screen.

“You have to be strong […] the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”

It might not be as powerful reading it on a blog, but at the time I broke down weeping. Not because the show was sad, not because Buffy was going to sacrifice herself to save her sister, but because a television character put into words what I needed to hear for so long. “The hardest thing in this world is to live int it. Be brave. Live.”

Television helped me to start feeling again.

Television helped me to start feeling again.

Wait….what? You mean that the simple act of breathing in and out can be brave? Absolutely. You see, when it comes down to it we are the ones who get up day-after-day and choose to face the harshness of reality. While it sounds dramatic, choosing to live is often a brave act in itself. No one ever said that it was going to be an easy thing – living. During a time when I didn’t even want to be alive, this message that Buffy delivered  was clear and powerful.

You see, bravery is subjective and every person’s circumstances are unique. Bravery is seen in the police officers who protect us every day. Bravery is the mother or father who raises their children by themselves. Bravery is the little kid on the playground who overcomes her fear of the monkey bars. Bravery is the act of persevering, overcoming, and surviving.

While one action might be brave for someone, the entirely opposite action might be the brave route for someone else. For example, for some people the act of coming out as gay is a brave act – it takes guts, strength, and a whole lot of support. However, it can be just as brave to decide that it is not the right time to come out yet. There are kids who are in situations that only harm would come to them if they were to reveal their sexual identity, and  as horribly sad as it is, the decision to keep their sexuality under wraps for their own wellbeing is also an act of bravery itself, and one that should be respected.

An act that will put you in grave danger now in Russia, and quite a few other areas unfortunately.

An act that will put you in grave danger now in Russia, and quite a few other areas unfortunately.

There are thousands of LGBT in Russia right now who have to keep their homosexuality a secret for fear of being beaten, arrested, tortured, or even killed. To suffer in silence for their own safety is a tragedy, but how can you deny the bravery of those who preserver in the face of such great danger for just being themselves? When it comes down to it – only you know what is best for your own being.

Let me charge you with this: be brave – however that may look for yourself. And try to recognize the bravery of others, as it might not be in the form you expect it to be. We all will stumble – it is the act of picking ourselves up that is what we should focus on – the little victories.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

On Depression

“That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.” – Prozac Nation

I have a very hard time talking about my struggle with depression, so forgive me if this post isn’t very well written. I’ve typed entire paragraphs and deleted them because I don’t find them capturing what I want to express. However I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be able to fully describe my struggle with depression to you – that would require me understanding it, which I most certainly do not. It’s hard to say when my first depression started, but it was sometime around my sophomore year of Highschool – four years ago. I’ve been battling it ever since. There have been a few good stretches where it has seemed to lie dormant, but for the most part is has been consistent. It is the little demon on my back affecting everything that I do – and unfortunately it controlled me for quite some time.

The most important thing that I can say is that depression is not just the state of being sad. It is much more haunting and debilitating. The best way that I can describe my depression is this: Understanding the concept of hope, but knowing that there is none for you. It feels like everything is pointless and painful. You have to fight every morning just to get out of bed, and when you do your entire body aches like a giant bruise. You lose interest in the things that once brought you joy, and eventually you lose all interest of everything. Then comes the worst part: when the pain is too much and you no longer register any emotions at all. You might as well be one giant square of apathy. You isolate yourself and cut off connections with the outside world – you let relationships fall to the wayside. Life just flies by you while you’re lying broken and bleeding on the side of the road.

I once opened up to someone about my depression they told me,”Sometimes I feel depressed, but then I just choose to be happy. That is what you need to do…” Do you know what saying that to someone struggling with depression is like? It’s like telling someone who is stuck under a hundred ton boulder that all they need to do is lift it off of them. It doesn’t work that way. And it sure sounds a hell of a lot simpler when you’re not the one under the rock.

There were nights where I would fall asleep praying two specific prayers. The first was that I would not wake up in the morning – that  God would take me home to find peace and rest in his arms, but thankfully that prayer was never granted. The second was that if I needed to continue this struggle, that He would provide me with a friend who be with me every step of the way – and this is where God has shown himself to me more than any other aspect of my life. Jesus answered that prayer in ways I could not even imagine. He blessed me with an amazing family, and dog whom I love desperately (and also the first living thing I told I was gay), and friends who have shown such patience and understanding that they’ll receive hundreds of crowns in Heaven.

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Some of those previously mentioned friends…

On my worst days I scream at God for allowing this to happen to me, and on my best I thank him for seeing my fit enough to carry this burden. For a very long time I blamed God for putting me through this, but then my mom told me something that I have never forgotten. She said, “Honey, it is important to understand that God didn’t do this to you. Why he has let it happen to you, I’m not sure, but I promise you he is with you every step of the way.” It was so simple, but it was also was exactly what I needed to hear. There were years where I felt like God had abandoned me, but then I look back and I see his love and mercy through the people he has surrounded me with every step of the way. My family (whom I love more than I could ever try and express to them), my friends, and equally important – my dog.

People often tell you that, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” That is a lie. I believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle with His help. Lord knows that I could never have survived this without the wonders of Mercy that He has provided me throughout these difficult years.

I would ask something of you – if you know someone with depression (and I’m sure you do) keep them constantly in your prayers. It is a horrible illness that can too easily wreck someones entire life. Go out of your way to show them the love of Christ.

Not all afflictions are visible, and unfortunately depression is as rampant as the plague.

Thanks again for reading what I have to say – it means a lot to me. If you ever have any questions for me about depression, sexuality, or anything I’ve discussed, don’t be afraid to ask me. I want to be as much help as I possible can.

Ethan

On Vulnerability and My Experiences

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

The past few years of my life have been eventful – to say the least. I by no means have had a harder life than anyone else, but it has been a bit different than the average adolescent tale. I often tell people how thankful I am that God doesn’t reveal our future to us – we wouldn’t be able to handle it. When I was 15, if I had known what was ahead of me, I’m afraid I would have died of a panic attack on the spot.

The two things that have weighed most heavily on my heart these past few years have been my struggle with depression and the acceptance of my sexuality. I feel like I could write a book on both these topics, but then I realize 1) My experience is highly subjective 2) I have already written it – it’s called my journal, and 3) I don’t (and doubt I’ll ever) have a stone solid grasp of either topic. All I know is how they have affected my life. The number of nights I’ve spent belching words onto my journals pages have been too numerous to count. It is how I process things – that, and talking through it with my friends. Bless their souls, my friends have endured countless hours of me spewing my frustrations about everything and anything. “I just don’t get it,” I must have said a thousand times if I said it once.

I say all this to touch on a topic that I have thought a lot about during this period of my life – vulnerability. It is a practice that I have grown to value in the highest regard. I used to abhor vulnerability, but now I’m only scared of it. Because it’s a scary thing! Opening up to someone – saying, “These are my scars. I’m sure I’ll have new ones, and old ones will open up the same. Will you still love me?” Through vulnerability I have found sanctuary in acceptance and kindness.

stop hovering

This has literally nothing to do with the text, but you’re statistically more likely to keep reading this post if I put a picture in it – you’re so high maintenance.

I distinctly remember the first time I consciously chose to be vulnerable and open up to one of my guy friends about my sexuality. I swear I literally almost peed my pants  (okay, not literally, but……okay yeah actually literally) It was one of the first times that I made the choice to cast my fear aside and seek refuge in friendship. We were sitting in a booth in Gillies (a sub-section of the cafeteria at my college) It was just me, him, and his girlfriend – at that moment no one else in the world existed, I was terrified. And you know what he said to me?

“I need you to know, Ethan, that this changes absolutely nothing about our friendship.”

I could have started sobbing, except for the fact that I was still in utter shock that I had told him. This simple phrase changed my life – and to this day I value this guy as one of the best friends I have ever had. He’ll have to kill me before we lose contact. It is one of those moments I think back on and realize I turned a corner in my life.

So, very slowly and on my own terms, I started opening up to people about what I’ve been dealing with – not just my sexuality, but also my depression (which I find to be the more uncomfortable of the two topics, to be completely honest. There is a stigma that comes along with depression, but that is a whole other post). I won’t put my life story on the internet – it doesn’t feel right, but now I am happy to talk about it with anyone who is willing to give the time. I figure if someone actually wants to devote a part of their day to hearing my story, it is a kindness – it’s saying, “I want to know what makes you who you are…”

Of course, sometimes I must admit to being too vulnerable. If someone asks me, “How are you doing?” and we’re not just walking by each other, I will actually tell them how I am doing. I forget that some people are just being kind and don’t have any vested interest – so if you’re one of those people I’ve suddenly spilled my jumbled mess of feelings to – I sincerely apologize. I’m weird- I know.

One thing I pray is that God can somehow use this growing confidence in truth I have to help others. Aside from personal growth, one of the reasons I try to be so open about my experiences is so that if they want to open up (maybe for the first or millionth time) I am most willing and can hopefully empathize.

In my own experience thus far I’d give vulnerability a five star review for opening up relationships that I will be thankful for the rest of my life.

So, this is my blog. I’m going to write a lot about my life. I imagine I’ll talk a lot about my “coming out” experiences, faith, problems, questions, and of course movies. It’s a mess, but so am I.

Thanks for reading – I hope I didn’t waste your time.

Gay at Gordon

It was the weekend of my Discovery camping trip and our group had just finished making Smores over a campfire. I was in the middle of cleaning up when I heard the conversation going on just a little ways away from me. It didn’t take long for me to realize they were talking about me, and more specifically discussing whether or not I was gay. The conversation ended fairly quickly when one of them established that “Yeah, he’s definitely a faggot.” The group heard a short version of my life story that night – I was in no mood to be vulnerable.

That wasn’t the first time I had been called a derogatory slur, but it was the first time that I had been called one at Gordon. For me, that made a difference. I had come to college praying that I would find refuge in a body of believers, but it seems my expectations were set too high. In every group of people there is going to be someone who speaks hatefully, but it’s just a little bit worse when it is coming from someone who is supposed to represent Christ’s love.

Right now I don’t want to talk about choosing sides, or start debating theology, and I most definitely do not want to talk about politics. I just want to shed a little light on a topic that too few people are discussing. I want to acknowledge an issue that is more prevalent than most of us believe.

So what is it like being gay at Gordon? In my experience you’re never allowed to forget that you are different from most people. The few who are open about their sexuality can rarely talk about it without being engaged in theological debates. You keep tight-lipped for fear of drawing too much attention to yourself – you learn to lie in the name of self-preservation. People take your humanity away when they perceive you as an issue. More than a few people have told me that I am the first gay person that they have met. It’s something that I have a hard time hearing, not because of the isolation, but because it becomes your definition.

For me, love cuts both ways. It’s the thing that I rely on to get through each day, but also the thing I’m told that I’m forbidden to ever have. Imagine someone coming up and telling you that you aren’t allowed to ever be in a relationship, or that you need to break up with whomever you’re dating. Imagine being told you aren’t allowed to have the kind of love your parents shared – or that you could never start a family.

What would it look like if the body of Christ showed His love to a group of people who are so often desperately hurting? To tell them that they are loved deeply by a God who knows their hearts? It would be a beautiful sight, but one that I fear is much too foreign in our current society, even at Gordon. That isn’t to say there are not people at Gordon who are eager to show their love and support to those who open up. In fact, I have found that there are many amazing Godly people who sincerely want to help and do not see you as anything different than a brother or sister in Christ. If only everyone could be such accurate displays of Christian love.

One of the most common questions I get when people find out that I’m gay is “Why did you come to Gordon?” It’s a valid question, and one that even now I’m not sure I can fully answer. The best I can do is say that I felt God calling me to the campus, and that I honestly believe he has a purpose for me being here. He never promised that it was going to be easy. I said that I’d leave theology out of this article, but we all know its lurking underneath. So I’ll be forward and end with the verse that has shaped my time here at Gordon.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13: 9-10