An open letter to OU’s Board of Regents.

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I emailed this directly to regentspurcell@ou.edu to express my dismay at Kirk Humphreys’ recent horrible homophobic comments. (OU students, alumni, faculty — if you haven’t done so already, email them too and give them a piece of your mind.) But I also wanted to post this publicly. I’m done being silent about all this.

~~~

Dear Regents, President Boren, and anybody else this may concern:

The short version of this email is this — I’m among the many OU alumni who find Regent Humphreys’ recent comments comparing homosexuality to pedophilia absolutely unacceptable, and I too call for his removal from OU’s Board of Regents. But I’d like you to keep reading, if you will, because I want to do what years of English classes at OU taught me how to do. I want to tell you a story.

I used to be so ashamed of being bisexual. I was born and raised in Oklahoma, the proverbial buckle of the Bible belt, and all through my childhood and adolescence, I felt strange, set apart somehow. I absolutely refused, however, to ask myself why exactly I felt so different. Doubts crept up on me occasionally, nagging voices in my head that tried to tell me I wasn’t entirely straight, but I squashed them down, shoved them to the back of my head and willfully refused to acknowledge them. For eighteen and a half years, I kept a huge part of myself walled off, because I was terrified of what might happen if I admitted, even just to myself, that I was eyeing girls as well as guys. Let me repeat: I was terrified to know who I really was, to be who I really was.

All that changed at OU. My journey through undergrad sounds for all the world like a wacky sitcom pitch — “a cynical bisexual atheist trips and falls into a group of evangelical Christians and learns the true meaning of friendship” — but god, it’s true. I just so happened to get involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship through my wonderful potluck freshman-year roommate. They were so warm and welcoming, and they cared so much about me, for me, that over the next four years I gradually gained the self-confidence I’d been lacking my whole life. It was, I think, in part because of them that I finally felt comfortable in my own skin enough to actually figure out my sexuality my freshman year. The first person to whom I came out was an InterVarsity friend. (I shouldn’t tell this story, however, without mentioning that the national InterVarsity organization declared its opposition to marriage equality in fall 2016, a move which distressed me tremendously.)

Now I’m twenty-four and proud of my bisexuality, thanks to the many wonderful experiences I had at OU, including mentorship by Dr. Julia Ehrhardt and an LGBT history reading group led by Dr. Ehrhardt as well as Dr. David Ray. I used to be ashamed of my sexuality. Today, because Regent Humphreys’ comments cut so deep and hurt so much, I’m ashamed to say I graduated from OU. But I shouldn’t have to be ashamed, that’s the thing. My queer and ally friends, my wonderful professors, and I embody OU’s core values of inclusion so much better than Regent Humphreys does. We show up to the Big Event, we lead student organizations, we work to create an inclusive and nurturing environment for our fellow Sooners. We have nothing to be ashamed of.

So now I have to ask you this: will you commit to making OU a place where queer students and faculty can feel part of the community? Or will you keep Regent Humphreys among your ranks, as your future chair, as a member of the group who will select OU’s next president and establish its direction for years to come? These remarks, if you stand by them even implicitly, will drive away prospective students, including probably a good number of National Merit Scholars, and destroy the trust your students have in you as a governing body — do you really want that?

I doubt you do, to be frank. Please, Regents, stand up for your students and remove Regent Humphreys from your ranks immediately. If he really doesn’t speak for you, then quite literally don’t let him speak for you. Don’t let him paint OU students, alumni, and faculty with his bigoted brush. Stand against his intolerance and with the students who form the heart of the university.

Sincerely,

Whitney Thompson
BA English, Class of 2015
Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude
2014 Jeopardy! College Championship semifinalist
National Merit Scholar

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