In 2001, Justin enrolled in Baylor University at just 17-years-old. As he grappled with his own sexual identity, he was all too aware of Baylor’s history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination – and the specific policies in the school’s sexual misconduct policy that listed “homosexual acts” as an offense alongside sexual abuse, incest and adultery.
Justin’s introduction to Baylor was marked by a constant state of dread and anxiety.
“Would I be disciplined if I went on a date? Held another man’s hand? Shared a kiss? What if someone reported me for doing so off campus or out of town? Would I be expelled? How would I explain that to my parents? Would I be disowned?”
He recalls vividly a Baylor professor erasing a message of support for LGBTQIA+ students, a simple “God loves you” with a rainbow, from the sidewalk by scrubbing it off with his foot. He internalized the message: We will erase you.
Justin was so worried about being outed that, at the encouragement of fellow Baylor students and alumni from his church, he even enrolled himself in a conversion therapy program popular with the church, hoping that it would spare him Baylor’s disciplinary procedures should he ever “get caught” or “mess up.”
His fear and anxieties were confirmed and made worse when the director of the conversion therapy program he attended introduced him a Baylor regent who pastors the church that hosts and funds the program, joking that he'd have to have the regent "keep an eye on him."
He had watched as a gay graduate student was outed and had his scholarship revoked and had spoken with other Baylor alumni who report being subjected to exorcisms by other students, shunned, told they were mentally ill or demonically possessed for being LGBTQIA.
Some of Justin’s friends at Baylor didn’t report sexual harassment and assault because they feared that instead of holding their abusers accountable, Baylor would instead punish them for having been assaulted by someone of the same sex.
Justin continues to feel sadness, anger and pain, not only for his own experiences at Baylor, but in knowing that Baylor continues to harm its LGBTQ+ students and to shape generations of graduates who go into the world thinking it is their right to discriminate against and ridicule LGBTQ people.
It’s why he joined REAP’s lawsuit – alongside his husband Daniel, who face discrimination at Lee University – to finally hold Baylor accountable and stand up for the next generation of LGBTQ students who are facing discrimination and abuse at religious colleges nationwide.