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Gay Author Discusses Religious Upbringing

Emily C. Wong

Marc Adams discusses the challenges of growing up gay in a religious conservative environment. Adams, the gay son of a fundamentalist Baptist minister, shared his own experience growing up at the Graduate School of Education to promote HeartStrong, a support organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who are negatively impacted by religion-based academic institutions.

Amidst a recent surge in reports of suicides by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth suffering from harassment, gay author and activist Marc Adams spoke at the Harvard Graduate School of Education yesterday about the challenges facing queer youth in religious schools.

Over the course of the discussion, Adams, an award-winning author of nine LGBT-themed books, shared his experiences of being raised in a fundamentalist Baptist home and educated in various religious institutions.

Adams became aware of his attraction to his male friends at the age of seven, and soon entertained suicidal thoughts: “I felt like I had two options—either end my life, or change my life and become ‘ex-gay,’” he said.

At 19, Adams finally started his journey towards self-acceptance. “I never felt like a whole person,” he said. “I realized that what I needed to do was learn how to accept myself not only as a gay person, but as a human being.”

He dropped out of Liberty University, a private Christian university, and founded HeartStrong, Inc., a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization to provide outreach to LGBT individuals adversely affected by the anti-gay environment at religious educational institutions.

“There’s a clock ticking on the emotional life of students in these schools. Our work is a rescue mission, and it is more relevant today than when we started 15 years ago,” he said. “All they look for is hope, and we give them hope.”

Adams concluded his speech by calling on the media to pay more attention to the situation facing LGBT youth in public institutions of education, as well.

“We need people to assume leadership in this country to move things in the right direction,” he said.

GSE student Quyen T. Truong, who attended the event, said that Harvard ought to do more to support its gay community.

“There should be more representation of queer students and students of color at Harvard’s various graduate schools,” she said.

James F.L. Croft, chair of QueerEd, the LGBT student group at GSE that organized yesterday’s event, echoed Truong’s call for increased effort by the University to create a more accepting environment for LGBT individuals.

“Just because we’re in the ‘People’s Republic of Cambridge’ doesn’t mean that there isn’t some fear and discrimination toward LGBT individuals,” he said.

Adams’ talk was followed by a planning meeting to create a Harvard entry to the “It Gets Better” campaign, a project started by relationship and sex advice columnist Dan Savage to send messages of hope via YouTube videos to young LGBT people around the world.

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