I like puns. Marching forward in March. Seems appropriate for the month of March and to celebrate a new start. I am using the word celebrate, while also hoping that a positive new start will actually come true. Yesterday was the one year mark of my separation from my beloved wife. It’s been a hard year. And yet, during this year I’ve also been blessed to reconnect with friends across North Carolina and given the opportunity to make friends from other states and other countries even. It’s amazing how many different people come to Beech Mountain. I always celebrate friendships!
It is through friendships that we can get through life. I know that I have been blessed with many friends who have helped me learn to accept myself and live my truth. As a lesbian, this has been pure gift to me in a world that did not accept me when I was younger and even still struggles with acceptance at times. When I was younger I didn’t understand the problem, can’t say I really understand now. I am at the point however, where I get it when people say, “It is what it is. Deal with it.”
When I was younger, I wanted to change the world. My hope was to change the world to be a more loving place. Yes, I was idealistic and I still have that tendency. I think it’s what gets me through life so I don’t want to give that up. At the same time, one does have to have a grasp on what is real and present in our time. Our times continue to bring forth good things even amidst the craziness of the world at large. But by being truthful and good people, we can empower others to be good and truthful people. We must never give up hope. That is when friends come in. Friends give us courage, wisdom, love, and often a shoulder to cry on.
Throughout life, I have been blessed with precious friends. Some of my deepest friendships have come from my undergraduate alma mater, Pfeiffer College. Pfeiffer is now a university. In my time, it was a growing college. Next week I have been asked to be a part of a forum to talk about the challenges of coming out. This will be a huge honor for me.
Pfeiffer was a great place to go to college. I still think it’s a great college even though it’s grown. I attended the small campus in Misenheimer, North Carolina. Misenheimer is on the edge of Stanly County. Halfway between Salisbury and Albemarle, it was a liberal arts college that had an excellent choral program. It is also located in the county where I grew up. That’s not what attracted me however. It was the small classrooms and the excellence in music.
When I attended, it was during the days that it was both a Methodist campus and also an alcohol free campus. It was more conservative than UNCG which was the other choral program I considered. My first choice of all was App State, but they focused on band music. As much as I loved band, I knew that I wanted to focus on choral music. Singing was my first love, and Pfeiffer also had a Church Music program. As a missionary wannabe, Pfeiffer fit where I thought God was leading me at the time.
Looking back, I see Pfeiffer as an even more perfect fit, because I needed a liberal arts education. The liberal arts education helped me to broaden my horizon and broaden my knowledge. I liked the anonymity that the vast campus of UNCG offered because I knew that I was different. Knew that someday I would need to face the fact that I was a homosexual. Stanly County was a little too close to home to do that. I tried to date guys. Wasn’t ready to come out to others and very afraid to come out to my family. Like me, my family was religious.
What ended up happening is that at Pfeiffer I was able to begin to explore who I was as a human being. And in being human, God was there through the friends I made at Pfeiffer. No-one pressured me to give up on my faith. God provided an angel of a roommate who put up with me for four years. We had a blast! She was more like my sister than anything. When I did begin to explore accepting myself as a lesbian, my roommate was the first person I could trust with the information. Slowly, I began to come out to a few other classmates. Because Pfeiffer was a Methodist campus and I was focusing on Christian education as a minor, being able to come out in this atmosphere helped me better reconcile faith and who I was as a human being.
That doesn’t mean that I came out of Pfeiffer with my degree and a totally integrated sense of self. If that were the case, life would be much easier. But even all these years later, I still turn to my friends from Pfeiffer when I need someone to talk to about music, God, or life. The friends I made in college have been there as I came out, and became more fully who God created me to be.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have dear friends outside of college. Yet, because of the friends I had in college, I became brave enough to talk to the friends outside of college and realized those people love me too. During college, everyone is struggling to become. We don’t know what we’re trying to become, but some of the struggles are the same even though in different fields. If you’re in the area of Pfeiffer University next Monday night please join us at the Coming Out Forum at 7 o’clock. We will talk from different aspects of life about the challenges of coming out and especially coming out in a small rural community.
Monday, 3/26/18 – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Stokes Community Room (Stokes 207)
I am thankful beyond measure for friends and family who still love me and who see the good in me. It is because of good people who are kind and loving that our world has hope.
Robin Whitley has an undergraduate in music (A.B.) from Pfeiffer University. Her Masters Degree (M.Div.) comes from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina