This is another excerpt from my memory and experience of a conversation regarding my termination with Young Life. I don’t want to say much, but I would just like to point out that the prediction I made about what would hinder us from going forward came true. Feel free to make your own conclusions.
Me: But my goal has been to talk about it and to try to prevent-
Me: -what happened from happening again. So if we’re going to move forward, that is my goal. If you want to meet and actually hear and learn from each other, I need to hear too, learn from each other, then I’m open to that, but it feels like, our last meeting felt like arguing, and I don’t want it to be that.
Me: So I’m open to like really explaining why everything seemed to me the way it seemed to me.
Me: And the goal of that is, I don’t know what you can do, but-
Danielle: Do you want me to share what you’re saying with-
Me: I don’t know, I don’t have a plan for what you do with it, but-
Me: -but I feel like, umm, I feel like if there’s anyone that’s going to be able to, not do anything, but at least hear rationally and reasonably, then it would be you.
Danielle: Thank you.
Me: So that’s my goal.
[local pastor]: There’s a, there’s a possibility here. After I talked to you yesterday, this is just kind of a possibility, all of us are caught in this transition time of this issue, right? By the time we’re all dead, it’s probably going to have been settled out.
[local pastor: Somehow the Church will, if not pro LGBTQ, at least accepting of LGBTQ.
[local pastor: Umm, but it’s a messy time, and people need to turn to each other and then to Young Life.
[local pastor]: To just kind of understand how to deal with this better. And for you and Young Life to hear, ‘Hey, here’s how this feels when its you, just fyi.’
[local pastor: And even if it doesn’t change how you believe-
[local pastor]: It might change how you say things, how you do things.
[local pastor]: Your theology may still stay the same.
[local pastor]: Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But at least how you deal that, if you talk about it, how you manage it, could change from you perspective. And then I think vice versa for you to hear maybe a little bit of ‘Here’s why its hard for us, you know.’
[local pastor]: ‘Heres why it’s hard to do that in in organization, here’s how its difficult, can you help us do that?’ There’s a possibility for you both, which could make you perhaps more articulate, and it could help the organization. So there’s a possibility you both present to yourselves, and by extension to Young Life. Does that make sense?
Danielle: Mmhmm. Like not to defend Young Life in any way, but to maybe make it so you would feel more comfortable talking to them. This is, like, sexuality, is an issue that they are trying to, like, not just like, ‘How do we make a mission statement that doesn’t just make it so people aren’t mad at us?’ Like they have like monthly calls that any staff is allowed to join on that just like, ‘How do we have conversations about this, how are we sensitive with our words?’ Like they have, like, Scott’s going to the training, I think, in February, but its like like about healthy sexuality and how we navigate this in a world of sexuality and how to be sensitive with our words and like accepting. Young Life, like, I don’t believe Ann is- she’s the head of HR, but Ann and Reid I think are very sensitive to the issue, and I think like it’s hard because everything that’s like happened and in the blog and like I don’t know if they would want to meet you, like I don’t know, but I think they can learn from you and hear from your experience, and I think it would be beneficial like to talk to them and tell them ‘This is how this feels,’ and ‘these specific words’ because I stopped paying attention when they sent the letter, I mean the original letter, because there was something that I was like ‘Oh, I cant handle that.’ But like they don’t know. And you don’t have to like like how we handled it or agree or like anyone in Young Life, but if you care you can like try to help them if they really care, you know, you have to see that on your own, but like I think it would be awesome out of all of this if it was like you and Ann and Reid got to talk and say like ‘This is where this is what this felt like to me.’
[local pastor]: It’s just straight people making decision about how to let gay people go.
Danielle: Yeah, I mean you know like its like Scott, I know Scott used the words ‘homosexual lifestyle’ with you, and it’s like you told him that’s not very sensitive. And I know that he doesn’t use that anymore because he’s like ‘I had no idea.’ You know, it’s like, but you had to be the person to say, because even me saying, like that’s not, you know what I mean, like it has to come from someone who knows what they’re talking about and feels it, you know and like I do believe, I am trying to challenge things a little bit, I have no power, I’m part time staff, there’s like 5000 part time staff.
[local pastor]: But you said, I though it was kind of a compliment. You said, ‘You’re the one that would be the most rational.’
Danielle: Yeah, yeah, and I am trying to like use, I am trying to like, I am trying, I met with our Regional Director, and he’s talking with Ann, and I’m waiting to meet with Ann like over the phone just so this can stay between us, because like I don’t them involved, I don’t want them to say ‘You can say this, you can’t say this’ because they will, you know it’s a legal issue, so they are, you know, but I think it would be really beneficial for them to have a better understanding of how to treat people in this.
[local pastor]: Would you be willing to talk to Scott?
Danielle: I mean, he doesn’t even have a lot of power either because I know he was like-
[local pastor]: But you all have a voice.
Danielle: Well, yeah.
[local pastor: And I’m sure that Scott, things are binding him that are coming out of Colorado Springs. (national headquarters for Young Life)
[local pastor]: But we don’t live in Colorado Springs, we live in Seattle, it rolls different here.
Danielle: Yeah, no, it-
[local pastor]: Colorado Springs is a little island in 1950.
Danielle: And even when they use the word ‘journey.’ Like, why?
[local pastor]: I actually want to meet with you because I’m like ‘really? That’s a bad word?’
Danielle: Well it’s not a bad word, it just felt like his journey to discover, it just felt like, I don’t know, I just thought that was dumb.
Me: Well yeah
Danielle: like your own personal journey
Me: Well it’s not like offensive, but like a recurring theme is like don’t tell other people’s stories, and I have tried to learn that too, but like they said you ‘used kids to process the difficult matter of your personal journey regarding your personal sexuality.’
Danielle: Yeah, that line.
Me: And they don’t know, nobody was there, nobody talked to me about it.
Me: They told my story, they have no idea how anything was presented.
Danielle: Right. And they should ask you, how did these conversations, like I agree like, it should have been included in the conversation, in your termination, like when letting you go, like what happened in your conversations. For sure they should understand, tried to understand more about that before saying that.
[I have been saying that is is impossible that the reason provided to me in my letter of termination on October 16th, 2015, was actually the reason for my termination on August 31st, 2015, because the way they obtained the information was by reading a blog that I wrote on September 28th, 2015. Danielle confirmed that no one ever discussed me if and how I told students I was gay, so they are operating under assumption about how those conversations occurred. They cannot say that I used kids to process anything, or that I was talking about personal stuff that I was going through, because they simply do not know.]
[local pastor]: So, umm, my suggestion for you, it seems like you maybe have heard, like there’s enough reconciliation here. You guys could just go have coffee, and I think my suggestion to you and Young Life would be and me, as the head of an organization, I think we have to start first by listening.
[local pastor]: Because we don’t know.
Me: Yeah, that’s the thing, like I feel like I was so immersed in that world, like probably the Colorado Springs world. I know the core and the heart of that.
Me: And they have no idea-
Me: -what this is about. And I didn’t either, like I didn’t either. Like I came out so quickly and so differently than most people, and I didn’t even know I came out differently than most people, but I didn’t know anything about it either, so I can empathize with that perspective way –its like literally impossible-
M: -for them to know this. But it is, like, I absolutely understand that.
[local pastor]: Which makes you potentially very valuable.
Danielle: Well yeah, that’s why I want you to talk to HR.
Me: That was my goal, and I felt like it could have happened, but what really changed it was when it was like, ‘We can’t say what really happened.’
Me: And that’s the first part to anything, is admitting where you really are.
Me: Like admitting where you’re starting from. And like we started from ‘We told him in a meeting that he couldn’t lead because he’s gay, and that’s our policy. And then, but we can’t admit that that’s what happened.’ That’s unacceptable, and I have a feeling that it is like a legal matter and like that’s going to continue to be their version of things, and that is going to interfere with any sort of effort to go forward. Like they kind of have to be able to admit like-
Danielle: We were covering up.
Danielle: I’m sorry.
[local pastor]: And well, what I said to [M] yesterday was institutions, the thing about institutions, one of the things that sucks about institutions, is they inevitably have to create policies.
[local pastor]: Because we’re dealing with so many people. But communities have conversations.
[local pastor]: So to the extent that Young Life could be a little more community and a little less institutional and have a conversation.
[local pastor]: Policies are conversations that have been summed up and sort of totalized and distributed to everyone. Umm, it’s impossible to run a large organization without policies, but it sucks because it gets in the way of conversations
[local pastor]: And opportunities for conversations. But, umm, ok, so I’ll leave it with you guys to-my suggestion is to go have a cup of coffee and hear each others’ perspective. And maybe just because Young Life is a big giant machine, maybe it’s two parts listening for a little bit.
Danielle: Yeah, that’s fine.
[local pastor]: You don’t have a ton of power, and then Scott doesn’t even, but you do have a voice.
Danielle: Right, and I am trying to use it, but that’s why it’s like I do want to know more, I mean like I’ve read your blog, so it’s like I’ve heard your story, but its like I do want to know more. I am trying. Yeah, I don’t have power, but I am trying. It’s like we do live in a unique place where we have more of a voice, like the staff and volunteer leaders in our area have more of a voice than in other areas. And so like we’re lucky in that sense, and they, Colorado Springs, is aware of that, so but I and I, I don’t have a lot to lose, like by speaking up. Like I’m not like, no one depends on my job. The only thing I would lose, and I won’t really lose it, is like my relationships with my girls. I’m not like planning on having a career in Young Life, you know. So I don’t mind speaking up. I just like, you know, I do want to like, like, know more, it’s, you know, I want, I don’t know, also it is hard. Like I believe in the issue, for sure, so I speak up for my own sake, but yeah, it was hard, when you’re trashing Young Life, to be like, ‘No he’s really a nice guy.’ You know, like, and even wanting to say that, but like yeah. I would like to go forward like having coffee and discussing, but I don’t know what you need to have a safe, and if it’s not a friendship, we do both care about something 1. We know we both care about the kids in this community. 2. I believe that we both care about the issue of sexuality and homosexuality in this community and the church coming together, like what would it take for you to feel safe with me? Like at coffee or just you know?
Me: Well one thing that is, I don’t, you’re not, yeah I don’t know if you’re. I do feel like- if you have to go-
[local pastor]: My next meeting is in someone else’s office. You guys can stay.
Me: No, I have to go.
Danielle: I do too.
Me: Yeah, we can end.
Danielle: No, can he tell me and then end? Or no?
Me: Well just something to think about, like, I think if you understand now that having a significant discrepancy between what was said to me when I was terminated, and what was presented to other people as the reasoning of my termination, and how that is not OK for a lot of reasons, I think it would be appropriate and very meaningful to me if you take some sort of effort toward correcting that understanding for those people. So I would appreciate if you tell the leaders and student leaders something about that, I don’t know what you’re able to say, but I would appreciate it if you at least, at the very minimum, say ‘What you guys heard was the reasoning for the termination was not originally what [M] heard at the time and location of his termination.’
Me: I would appreciate that, and I would appreciate it if you think about that and consider that.
Danielle: Umm, I will think about that for sure. That is something that I feel like totally comfortable bringing forward to our region, and I already have a little bit, and like will continue doing that and bring that forward to Ann. I can ask Scott if I can do that. And that wouldn’t come from me on a leader or student leader standpoint, that would come from Scott. But I can.
[local pastor]: You can advocate.
Danielle: Yeah, no, like I’m saying I can, I can, because whether I agree with Young Life’s policy or lack there of or whatever, like I believe in separation of church and state, I believe that, people can gave different theology and all that, but I do not like how things went down, and I don’t like the discrepancies, and that is like what feels wrong to me personally about the situation, and like I can for sure be an advocate for that and take that to Young Life on all levels, but like addressing the- all the leaders and students- that probably has to come from Scott, but I can advocate for that. And then maybe that’s also something that you and Scott can discuss, like.
[local pastor]: I’m going to tell Scott you’re willing to meet with him, and, and I think that might, I think that would be good.
[local pastor]: Umm I’ll let him know that. And I may say, if you don’t mind, give him some version of what you said, at least to articulate your- [M] pretty much feels like what you said in other meetings was different than what he got told, and that’s, it feels unfair.
Me: It’s unfair to me, but also-
Danielle: It’s unfair to other people, yeah.
Me: The bigger issue is that kids are not-
Danielle: Well and I don’t know for sure because it’s just been said off the cuff to me, but I think they are trying to figure out like their mission statement and how to be super clear, like, with it, because I didn’t know this, but I was like ‘Why do we even have the part about marriage in it? Like I don’t understand that.’ And some of, some of the mission statement and code of conduct was written, I guess, when we went into, expanded into Europe, like people didn’t believe in marriage as much there, and so it was that- like ‘We need to like address this so people are kind of aware, like just because you’re living with someone and sleeping with them doesn’t mean you’re married,’ Like in Europe it kind of feels like that, I don’t know, and I think they are trying to figure out like ‘Are we hurting people with this? And how do we be more clear,’ but that’s never been said to me by HR. I just heard that, so, but having your insight, and more conversations, I think would be really beneficial, or even calling Ann. Like I do know this is personal to the people in HR. I know that it is personal to them, so it isn’t something where people come out and they’re like ‘Oh they’re evil’ like its not. It is personal and it is in their families, like they have seen pain and I don’t know if they’ve experienced it personally but I don’t think its, I don’t know.
[local pastor]: All institutions and Christian places are grappling with this, so it’s, um, complicated because there’s people on all sides of the issue.
[local pastor]: No one knows how to deal with it well, so maybe you guys can help.
[local pastor]:Ok, so leave it there?