Thanks for these comments, Rick. And thanks for sharing as a participant!
As a graduate of SBTS (in the 90s), I’m struck by your statement that half of your caseload consisted of LGBTQ students dealing with the fallout from their identities. Wow. I cannot overstate the crucible that the seminary was for me–coming to terms with my own identity, coming out to another person for the first time, trying to reconcile my orientation with the teachings of the seminary and the church, and trying to figure out how in the world I would find a path forward for myself. That was in some ways the worst/hardest time of my life. I’m thankful you were there for my colleagues who came before me.
I also want to speak to another issue you brought up–the cost of the closet. Hiding your true self, pretending to be someone you aren’t, protecting yourself by changing pronouns or never talking about your personal life in a work setting or in church–all of these things are incredibly expensive and can rob a person of the freedom to live their life with integrity and meaning and hope. I am convinced, from my own experience, that a person cannot be or feel “normal,” develop meaningful relationships, or thrive while living in the closet. I spent so much of my life being “on guard,” worried that I would be “found out,” and trying to figure out where I was safe and where I was not, that I believe a lot of my creative and productive energy for work, engagement in the world, and pursuing my dreams was lost. If a person hasn’t had to do that, it would be very difficult to understand the significance of that internal cost.
And, I echo Joy’s comments about your concerns for your grandson, Rick. Such a challenge to navigate those waters. I’m thankful that he has good mentors in his family and hope that he will feel safe reaching out for support and guidance.