Ex-student chaplain writes his way out of the closetTop Highlights, Feature Story Thursday, April 12th, 2012
T odd Clayton, 22, has been generating a lot of buzz lately. The former student chaplain at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), who came out of the closet a year ago amid a flurry of publicity, has just had his writing work published in the Huffington Post and twice on Sojourners.
He has had 40,000 online hits in his series of essays about his formerly repressed life and his new struggles as a gay man. Since LGBT Weekly readers first met him one year ago, Clayton has had his first boyfriend and his first breakup. As he bares his soul, he is so candid, and so vulnerable, many readers find Clayton’s work to be addictive.
He has had quite a metamorphosis. A religion major who was studying to be a Nazarene minister, Todd finally realized and accepted that he was gay in December, 2010. He broke up with his fiancée – in what he says was his “worst 20 minutes” of his life.
Todd’s mother sits on the Nazarene University’s Board of Trustees, and his father is a Nazarene minister. Todd made his unprecedented announcement in March, 2011, before 350 people, at the forum of “All God’s Children” that was held at the First Church of the Nazarene which is adjacent to the university.
In January, 2012, Todd returned to the “All God’s Children” forum, but it is now being held in the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Point Loma after it was banished from the Nazarene Church. He graduated from the college, in 2011, but 100 students attended his return talk and he still generates quite a following on his Web site.
Logging onto toddandrewclayton.com will reveal a floating land mass of mountains, with the expression “Because some words are too thick for air” above it. He is literally writing his way out of the closet.
He said writing about his fears cause the fear to lose its punch. “I’ve experienced the power of expressing honestly. There’s less inside to carry,” said Clayton. “Writing makes us better, more honest, more consistent people, I’m convinced.”
“I’ve started sharing my story, largely, because it helps me understand what has happened in this last year, and allows me to parse through what are mountains of tales for the things that matter most,” said Clayton.
“You tap into that genuine place,” said a female student to Todd at the last forum.
In the post “I Didn’t Call Her a Bitch,” Todd recounts how the mother of a PLNU student approached him where he worked at a coffee shop and she started off by saying, “I’ve heard about you” in an unfriendly way.
Todd recounted how the woman had written to his parents, and condemned them for “not trying to exorcise the gayness” out of him. “There are places that could fix him,” the woman wrote.
Clayton writes he was polite and helpful to the woman, despite her attitude of using “prayer as a weapon.”
In his post of “Scalded Fingers,” Todd recounts his younger years of using soap and prayers to try and wash away the gay. Now he says God made him gay and he is glad he is gay. He now attends a gay-affirming church.
In his last six weeks of college, Clayton resigned from his elected position as student chaplain because of anxiety and unwanted attention. Some students stopped talking to him, but others sought him out. He said there were 31 students who came out to him by the time he graduated.
Clayton also expresses frustration about an administrator who told him “not to act gay” while on campus. He abstained from sex, since all students were required to do so, but he was told he couldn’t date or develop a crush on a guy.
He vividly recalls a professor who saw him in the cafeteria and said in conversation “Hell’s real, you know.”
The campus itself has changed, as 35 years ago gay students were expelled by the dean of students.
On his blog, Clayton wrote how his parents changed officials’ minds. He quoted his mother as saying “my whole life I’ve thought homosexuality was a choice. After an hour listening to you, though, I know it’s not.”
Clayton now is working at the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, an organization named after a pizza deliverer who was shot and killed during a robbery by a 14-year-old boy. The foundation was started with relatives of the victim and defendant to mentor kids and provide after-school programs.
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