Me Going to Hell

“I had a boyfriend on campus. And it was fine. People knew that. He himself wasn’t comfortable with being gay.”

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions Story One

  • Look back at the details of the story from freshman year.  Where do you think this conversation might have taken place?
  • Would different locations have impacted the speaker differently?
  • What kinds of “damage” do you think the speaker is referring to?

Implication Questions

  • If you had overheard this conversation, how would you want to respond?
  • What might make it challenging to respond? How could you meet those challenges?

Clarifying Questions Story Two

  • Look back at the story of the frat party.  How does the speaker respond to Mark saying “you’re a cool gay person?”
  • What do you think the speaker means by “sweet as he could be under the circumstances?”

Implication Question

  • How might you work with a group like Greek life to change these “circumstances?”

Clarifying Questions Story Three

  • What stands out to you most in the chalking story?
  • How would you describe the speaker’s reaction to seeing the work of the anti-chalkers?

Interpretation Question

  • What messages do you think straight people receive when they see such anti-chalking?

Implication Questions

  • How might you respond to the anti-chalkers? to the speaker when he’s first angry?
  • What actions could you take to change the campus climate generally so anti-chalking might no longer happen?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Me Going to Hell

I mean, I had a boyfriend on campus and it was fine, people knew that. He, himself, wasn’t comfortable being gay, but after living in the same place as me for three–for three months anyways, then it was fine. Or maybe not fine–it was still complicated–but he certainly wasn’t as protective about, um, being in the closet.

I remember having a conversation my freshman year about me going to hell, and how my friend was okay with that because she loved me anyways. And this was someone I had been really good friends with four months up to that point and had no indication that she thought this way. And, since hell isn’t a place I believe in anyways, the only credence I could give her was that, like, this was a crazy person condemning me to some sort of afterlife of eternal suffering. But to hear her say that she was okay with that, because she loved me in spite of it all, was just unfathomable. Later this friend retracted that entire night, but obviously, I mean, the damage had been done.

I was at a fraternity party one time, and Mark was on the front porch. He was just like, “You’re like the only gay person I know on this campus.” And I was like, “That’s cool.” And then he’s like, “But at least it’s cool that you’re a cool gay person. Because it would suck if, like, I only knew bad gay people.” I was just like, “Well, I mean, you have to be able to assume that for every bad gay person you meet there’s going to be a good gay person. Like, I know some real shit-head straight guys, but I assume there are some awesome straight guys at the same time.” And then Mark pondered that. In his own way, he was being as sweet as he could be under the circumstances.

My sophomore year, there was a National Coming Out Day that our organization had promoted with sidewalk chalk. But there were, of course, the anti-chalkers who come out. Most of it was bible passages, and some of it was like lightly padded homophobia, in the way of “stay in the closet.” It can be construed loosely as hate speech, but it wasn’t–it was just people who were very much disagreeing about gays on campus being out and being open.

I was so mad, actually, that I couldn’t even talk to the people who were writing it. And they were busy, they were so industrious, and there’s nothing you can say to them as they’re writing, because they have their bibles and they have their verses. But I was also stunned that nobody else on campus was just like, “This is really lame, like, just let the gays have their one National Coming Out Day.”

Um, so then I spent like an hour and a half on my knees at, like, one in the morning just going over the chalk that was blocking out our chalkings. And then the cops were called on me, and the only thing I could say was just like, “I’m exercising my freedom of speech as well. These kids had their opportunity. If they feel like getting up at two in the morning and coming and re-chalking over the chalk that I’ve already chalked over, then they’re more than welcome to. But I don’t see how you can do anything about it.” And the guy agreed. He was just like, “Oh, yeah, I bet that was really tough seeing this in the daylight, walking among your peers.” So there was this, like, this afternoon of complete rejection, the plain of the abyss, and then there was this night of this mesmerizing, transfiguring, transcendent meeting between me and this, um, would-be persecutor.

  • Just an anonymous commenter

    The first interview, i don’t think, said much of anything new. Someone believed his sexuality condemned him to hell. So be it. The second interview was an interesting story. I find it hard to believe that the fellow who said “It’s cool you are a cool gay person” pondered this young mans response. It seems pretty obvious that being straight or gay doesn’t make you “cool” or not, being that cool is an opinion of each individual. At 1:50 the young man spoke about a chalking campaign. I think freedom of speech is important, so I respect both the people who wrote with chalk, both the pro “National coming out day” jargon, as well as the anti-“National coming out day” ones who wrote bible passages and expressed themselves freely. At the very end, he calls the anti-coming out writings “persecution” which I find very misleading frankly. Unless they were writing that they wanted gays off the campus, I hardly call an expression of opinion either way “Persecution”. The way he worded it, I couldn’t tell if they, the anti-coming-out writers, blocked out the pro-coming-out writing, in which case, his re-chalking is, in my opinion, absolutely fine to do. Otherwise though, his bleating out of other peoples writing is pretty wrong. As Stated before, freedom of speech is very important. Honestly, I have severe doubts that the chalked writing would sway anyone in either direction. If they believed gays should be out, then reading the chalk probably wouldn’t sway them otherwise, likewise for those who believe gays shouldn’t be out. The point of the pro-coming-out “chalking” was to encourage people who were gay that it’s ok to come out, and the point of the anti-coming-out chalking was to sway gays the other way. Two expressions of opinion, nothing wrong with that. What disturbs me is that he felt that that no one else on campus felt that the anit-coming-out “chalkers” weren’t being defended. It felt to me like he felt he was owed some sort of condolence that these people tried to speak against his opinion. I know Valparaiso University is a private campus and could potentially call either of these “chalking’s” vandalism, and could have them removed and the “chalkers” punished if caught. But I am glad the campus is open to other peoples opinions and allows it one way or the other. I guess I can’t get a full story from a short 2 minute interview with one or two people. I myself don’t recall a chalking campaign at all, I guess I need to get out on campus more often.

    • aschuet1

      Thanks for taking the time to share your response. I can see that allowing people their opinions is important to you. And I agree although I would add that opinions are not heard in a vacuum and so some have deeper impact than others. For example, a gay student who felt incredibly supported by his or her family would hear the comment from the friend about gays going to hell very differently than a gay student whose family rejected him or her for their sexuality. Context is important to include and consider when we think about the impact of words and ideas on people.