Darren McDonald is a resident of Portland, Oregon. He identifies as a gay man and as a partially sighted person. He grew up attending a Presbyterian USA congregation, which he enjoyed because, he said, “I found a lot of acceptance at church because I was not viewed as the blind, fat kid, like I was at school. I was viewed as a whole person and part of a family.” He felt he had a voice and leadership role in the youth ministry at the church.
He graduated from Westmont College in 2002, and then later from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2006. Both schools were not accepting of LGBTQ+ students, including statements in their student handbooks opposing the freedom to marry and prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships between people of the same sex. Anti-LGBTQ debates were held in classrooms, and the cultural climate positioned LGBTQ+ dignity as at odds with the schools’ values.
Darren did not feel safe coming out while at school. “I felt suicidal,” Darren said. “The approach of both of these schools toward my sexual identity at the time was to encourage conversion therapy. I still suffer from depression, anxiety, shame, and internalized homophobia as a result of attending these schools.”
Darren is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Westmont College and Fuller Theological Seminary and religiously affiliated colleges across the country. “As a gay survivor of these institutions who has enough job security and privilege to fight back, I believe it is my duty to use everything in my being to resist the harmful practices of these institutions.”
At many religious schools, colleges, and universities, LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized students suffer discrimination, abuse, isolation, and hardship. If this describes you, you are not alone. We are in this together.
REAP fights for the safety, bodily autonomy, justice, and human rights of LGBTQIA+ and other communities marginalized at many predominantly white, taxpayer-funded religious schools and colleges. Using campus organizing, storytelling through podcasting, documentary film, and speaking and preaching on campuses throughout the country, REAP empowers students, faculty, staff and alumni at these institutions to advocate for human rights, while shining a light on the dangers and abuses of a major educational pipeline of white Christian Supremacy.