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Truth Hurts

Mark Andresen

Truth Hurts
Don't ask, and definitely don't tell, if you want to graduate from this school

This fall, when rumors were flying at Trinity Christian Academy in Addison that Neal Stephenson, a senior, was gay, he decided to quash the mystery by coming out. "Don't be stupid," one of his friends told him. "The entire class will flip." Stephenson--that's not his real name--told just a few friends, who told some other people, and eventually "the school knew," as he recently recalled. And then, to the surprise of the friend who had warned him, "the class reacted in the most positive way...some of the guys thought it was weird, but they didn't treat him any different."

Not so for the evangelical school's administration, which expelled Stephenson for running a gay-themed Web site, he says.

According to Stephenson, late last month, a student revealed to Jamie Heard, the dean, that Stephenson had created the site www.my-boi.com, where gay teenagers create profiles of themselves and meet one another. Stephenson founded the site, which has some 1,700 users, because xy.com, a popular gay teen site, started charging its users a fee (Stephenson's site is free).

"When [xy.com] released this greed campaign, I said this isn't right. Kids who struggle with this and need some kind of help won't pay money," Stephenson explained in an e-mail to a teacher at Trinity he confided in. "Think of the message it sends to a parent who reads over the credit [card] statement: $2 xy.com Gay Personals."

On December 1, Bob Dyer, the school's chaplain and counselor, called Stephenson into his office and asked him if he is "homosexual." "And because he's the counselor, I didn't automatically assume he's going to go blab his mouth."

"I am 18," he told Dyer. "I reserve the right for my parents not to know, and I do not want them involved."

Before leaving the room, Dyer told Stephenson not to worry about attending his afternoon classes or about turning in his 10-page research paper on George Orwell's 1984 the following day. Fifteen minutes later, Dyer returned with Heard and Kyle Morrill, another administrator, and they began asking Stephenson about my-boi.com.

Stephenson told them that he vets "every picture that showed anything that could be remotely found offensive to any age group or sexuality," as the site's mission statement points out. "Accounts get deleted that are trashy," he told them.

The tenor of the profiles on my-boi.com is in fact more quotidian than salacious: "OK...so I dunno what to put here," one of them reads. "I graduated high school this past May. I just turned 18. Umm...I LOVE Tennis and play the drums..."

"Well, we think people are using it for hook-ups, and that's fostering immoral behavior," Stephenson says the administrators told him.

Since Stephenson, who had attended Trinity since kindergarten, had asked the administrators not to get his parents involved, he was surprised to see them walk into the counselor's office 45 minutes later. "They have to know sooner or later," Stephenson recalls the administrators saying. He preferred "later" to "sooner." "Maybe after graduation when I'm not living in the house anymore would be great," he now says. (The evening after Stephenson had spoken with the Dallas Observer on the record, he requested that we provide a fake name for him because his parents had just threatened to kick him out of his house if his name appeared in the news.)

In an e-mail message to the Observer, Trinity Christian's headmaster David Delph wrote that the school does not comment on any student's academic or disciplinary record.

"As a community of Christian families we also believe the Bible provides insight to help us discern God's desire for our conduct," Delph wrote. "Therefore we demand high Biblical standards of behavior from our students both academically and socially. Our families are asked to embrace these standards of conduct by signing a covenant with the school when students are admitted...The code for conduct and discipline at Trinity Christian Academy comes from a desire to please God and preserve a wholesome environment for the benefit of all our families."

Stephenson was suspended from Trinity. Six days later, Stephenson's father got a call from Delph, who asked the family to come to his office at 3:30 p.m., after classes were over. "That's when my dad said, 'Well, is this positive?' and Delph is like, 'No, it's not.'" Because the school was not going to let his son back into classes, Stephenson's father made the decision to withdraw Neal from the school. "It's in my best interest to do that," says Stephenson, who now attends a public high school in Plano and was recently accepted to Purdue University in Indiana.  

Stephenson is far from a strident activist. Trinity's student handbook warns that the consequence for any student caught engaging in immorality is "probable dismissal," so this fall, Stephenson prudently asked several faculty members he trusted whether being gay and open about it could get a student expelled.

"We want to see you change," he says they told him, "but you can't be expelled for being gay."

Stephenson says that before he was suspended, he agreed to comply with several requests school administrators made: He told them he was confused about his sexuality, not outright gay; he closed down the contentious Web site (though it is now back online); and he agreed to go to counseling. "I wanted to stay in school," he says. "Thirteen years, that's a lot of time and money." But when Stephenson and his parents met with the headmaster, the board of trustees members the headmaster had consulted all said that Stephenson needed to be expelled.

Stephenson even agreed with Trinity administrators that homosexuality is a sin, "but not any different than going out and drinking." He struggled from the eighth grade until junior year to "overcome" being gay, but "just kind of gave up. I'm not willing to go through a brainwashing process to get rid of it...Bottom line is, it's not going to send me to hell." --Claiborne Smith

Fish Out of Water

Next time you think you have Dallas figured out racially, give a listen to "The Dallas Examiner Live" on KNON Radio 89.3 FM every Tuesday at 7 a.m. Host James C. Belt III and frequent guest Russell Fish will tie you into mental knots.

And the strange thing is, you may enjoy it.

Belt exploits Fish, an arch-conservative education activist, as a goad. "I bring Russell on the air to show the audience how white folks think," he said recently.

Come on. Which white folks?

Fish recently came to the studio armed with a sheaf of liberal editorial cartoons attacking Secretary of State designate Condoleezza Rice as a racial sell-out. One by Ted Rall, published last summer, characterized Rice as George W. Bush's "House Nigga" and said she needed to turn in her hair straightener and admit that "You're not white, stupid."

Fish's question--Is this not racism just because it's liberal?--sparked mild interest among black listeners, more of whom were offended by Fish's description of Rice as "a gal who came from Birmingham, Alabama." Little bit tone deaf.

The intense response, more like absolute screaming fury, came from white listeners: "Oh, you know, Russell, you're the one who wants to make racial issues out of everything," said a female caller, her voice rising half an octave with every word.

"Now as a white woman, particularly as a white liberal woman," Fish interrupted, "I understand how you might want to support this."

Things went south from there with a shrieky debate on whether or not you can tell that a person is a white liberal from her voice.

It's provocative content, but with way more twists and turns than the stuff the right-wing shock jocks crank out--a way to have fun and get a headache at the same time. --Jim Schutze

Bloody Minded

To Anita Bennett, it was a routine question on a routine form at the beginning of a routine doctor's appointment: Will you accept blood in emergency situations? She checked no. Bennett is auto-sanguineous, meaning she will allow only her own blood to be used in transfusions. She wrote this on the form next to her answer.

As a nurse, Bennett has seen this kind of form hundreds of times. She didn't consider her answer to be that big of a deal. She gave the completed form to the receptionist and prepared for her appointment with Dr. J. Douglas Smrekar, whom she had not seen before. That's when her visit to North Texas OB/GYN Associates became less than routine.

"The receptionist said, 'You better change that or he's not gonna see you,'" Bennett says. "I said, 'Do what? Change it? You're gonna refuse me care because I don't want blood? That's against some people's culture, religion.'"

Gina Martinez, the clinic's office manager, told her yes, that's exactly what they were going to do.

"What it is, basically the patient is saying if they're under surgery and they don't want any blood transfusions or anything at all, basically you have to just sit there and watch them die," Martinez says, noting that the policy has "never really been an issue" previously. "And the doctors don't like that feeling. They want to be able to give them more blood and help them."  

A representative of the Dallas Medical Society says that Dr. Smrekar and his associates are entirely within their rights and can choose to see whomever they wish for whatever reason. The representative added that the reason why policy is not simply stated and remains a question on the form is that doctors don't want to be passive. They want to make sure people see and understand the policy. Bennett, who found a new doctor the next day, still doesn't agree.

"They asked me a question, and I answered it honestly," she says. "I'm a nurse, and I can't refuse patients I see. It's much different if we were going into the surgery room, and you thought this was a dangerous surgery and I wouldn't sign it. Then I can see. " --Zac Crain


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