Daniel Christopher Tidwell-Davis
For most of his time as a student at Lee University from 2002-2007, Daniel was closeted.
Lee University policy specifically sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ students and Daniel had heard of far too many terrifying examples of what might happen to him should he be outed as gay. His fear ran so deep that he even joined an on-campus conversion therapy club in hopes that he wouldn’t suffer the same consequences.
“I knew a student who was expelled for having a DVD of the feature film Latter Days, a gay themed movie, in his room. I knew of another student who was expelled for having been seen on a date with another man over the summer when he was at home in another state. I realized that other students were being expelled because they were LGBTQ, and that my participation in the conversion therapy group was a way to keep that from happening to me.”
In his job as a resident assistant, Daniel was forced to search students’ rooms for LGBTQ materials and watch for any indications that students might be in same-sex relationships.
But it wasn’t long before Daniel was a target of harassment himself from the students who were under his watch. During one extreme incident of harassment, Daniel was awakened in the middle of the night by students throwing pool balls at his bedroom door. Daniel laid in bed, crying, hoping they would leave.
After the students persisted, and relentlessly pounded on his door with their fists, he was forced to open his door to confront them. He was met by the ringleader of the group, completely naked, doing a handstand in his doorway with his genitals inches from Daniel’s face, while 8-10 young men stood behind him howling with laughter.
In that moment, Daniel didn’t know if he was going to be assaulted, or if he reported it, if he would be expelled for being gay. He cried himself to sleep that night.
Daniel knew of many LGBTQ and straight victims of sexual assault at Lee who did not report it for fear of being expelled.
Even if he did report it, he knew that the religious exemption granted by the U.S. Department of Education to Lee University meant that the University could legally expel him for being gay. And if he were expelled, he would lose his scholarship and be forced to come out to his hostile family.
Now, Daniel is joining REAP’s lawsuit – alongside his husband, Justin Tidwell-Davis, who faced anti-LGBTQ discrimination at Baylor University - to hold schools like Lee University accountable and ensure that no LGBTQ student ever again has to live in silence, particularly if they have faced sexual assault on campus.