Diversity and Inclusion
After coming out at 18, Jonathan struggled with his conservative town, family, and Baptist upbringing. Needless to say, identifying as gay in a rural farming community and wanting to remain loyal to his family and friends was seemingly an impossible task. He felt one of his only options was to attend a "Pray the Gay Away" conference, reject his gay identity and attempt to live a heterosexual lifestyle for the next three years.
It was three years full of pain and mental anguish. Self-described as a psychological roller coaster of emotions, that ranged from encouragement, like when he found a girlfriend, to strife and confusion like when he would be overcome with homosexual feelings. Jonathan spent countless hours praying, attending religious services, surrounding himself with conservative, Christian believers, and going through therapy. At the end of his college career, he would find friends who were also secretly experiencing the same plight and came to the realization that trying to be someone else not only wasn't the right choice but an impossible one to maintain! Although it wasn't a light switch change, he knew he wasn't heterosexual.
Now living as a proud LGBTQ-identifying, non-religious individual, Jonathan is sharing his unique story about the dangers of conversion therapy and the danger it poses to young people across the nation, right now. In his keynote, Jonathan shares his fascinating story and helps students learn how the stress of conflicting identities impacts their communities. He proves a powerful example of living authentically while empowering campus communities to actively show their support of those desperately needing an escape from abusive religious doctrines.
Jonathan is passionate about how people can find and follow their own authentic path with courage and joy, developing their spiritual independence. Religion doesn't have to be harmful and Jonathan has discovered many religious communities that are very supportive to those just like him. Through his experience, Jonathan shares ways people can freely gather, develop their own true sense of self, and form healthy supportive communities that at times may be needed during life transitions.
Escaping Redemption: How One Man Survived Conversion Therapy and Learned to Love Himself
“Just be Yourself!” An easy concept one would think but not when you’re conflicted and confused about who you are or who you think you should be. The human experience can be difficult to understand when we focus on one identity but that’s only the start of it! We have the gift of holding multiple intersecting identities that make this life wonderfully exciting at times but also horribly confusing during others.
Escaping Redemption encourages and inspires students to live and lead authentically by learning about the psychological harm of trying to be someone you’re not with a focus on the LGBTQ+ community and faith.
This program generates self-awareness to help students understand their held identities, appreciate who they are, and celebrate the differences in others. If we can reflect and accept our identities only then can we can begin to inspire others, create purpose, and enact change. In addition to helping students find their voice, Jonathan assists them to use that voice with their local elected officials to help pass bills condemning and banning conversion therapy for minors.
Part of the bad guy affirmation from the Disney movie Wreck it Ralph is “There’s No One I’d Rather Be Than Me”. As a cartoon lover, Jonathan identifies with this statement and helps students find and appreciate their authentic selves.
Audience members will...
Identify and reflect on personal identities and their potential conflict
Recognize strategies to live authentically with perceived conflicting identities
Discuss Allyship and how one might support those with conflicting LGBTQ+ identities
Utilize authenic living tools and apply those tools toward personal success
LGBTQ+ and Identity Development Programming
Diversity and Inclusion
First Year Experience