A Gay Dad’s Letter to Gay Teen, Austin Wallis, and the High School That Rejected Him

austin willis evol eq

The world of teens and tweens can be a treacherous one. As the dad to two 12 year olds, I see it as a world where childhood cushions and play have fallen away and new, somewhat complex challenges have emerged. It is a world where peer relationships and socializations are paramount. Independence is practically a life force and hormones seem to be pumping through veins previously filled with sugar and spice. It is a world where kids discover themselves and those discoveries can range from the thrilling to crisis, and sometimes both at the same time.

Adults standing on the sidelines to this whirlwind try our best to lead, nurture and inspire. We try to guide our young charges to being their best, and set themselves up to capture a destiny worthy of the love we cloak them in.

Some adults do this except in the cases where the child in question is gay as Austin Willis, a high school student in Texas, discovered this week. Austin has been on an affirming journey over the past year. He not only has discovered who he is, he has introduced the real him to his personal social circles and the public at large through a YouTube channel.

His videos are fun, silly, charming, and his relationships with teachers and friends are warm and mutually supportive. Life has been good, even granting him a handsome boy friend.

From my perspective as a parent, seeing my child find himself so progressively would be life affirming. The principal at Lutheran North did not seem to share that view of young Austin’s development. He categorized it instead as the promotion of sexually immoral behavior. His answer was not to guide Austin Wallis’s development, but to shut it down all together.

We tell our kids to be true to themselves, to nurture self-respect and live with respect to others. Lutheran North did not encourage Austin in any of those initiatives. Instead, they asked Austin to hide who he is, pretend to be otherwise — or leave. He chose to leave.

I am choosing to write them, and him, a letter.

To Mr. Dallas Lusk, Head of School and Austin Willis, Former Student:

Gentlemen. As a father and a Christian, I wanted to weigh in on the current controversy in which you both are active participants. As a parent, I take a sincere interest in schools and their efforts to establish principles for their students, guide them into the world and create the new citizens who will lead us into the future. Whether or not my sons attend a particular school is irrelevant. Their peers, others who may be in their world, will have attended that school and will influence the world in which they live.

This has already happened at Lutheran North. Austin, you have already emerged as its product onto the world stage. You have made yourself known, from your joys to your recent challenges.

Yes. Mr. Lusk had a rule. That rule reads: “Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.”

I personally believe that “rules” are limited entities. They are based on bigger principles but address very specific situational elements. If the situation changes, the rule then does not have relevance. A city street might have a “rule” of 15 miles an hour due to high incidence of cross traffic. If all cross traffic is blocked, the “rule” needs to be adjusted and 40 miles and hour might be the appropriate limit to fulfill the bigger principle of public safety.

I am not necessarily saying that Mr. Lusk needs to throw out his rule, although its homophobia is evident, but I am suggesting that he needs to understand, support and advocate for the larger principle behind it. The fact is — there was a violation.

No worries, Austin. Neither the rule, nor its underlying principle were violated by you.

The rule states that students must not participate “in promoting, supporting or condoning pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity (emphasis mine).” It does not say that you cannot be gay.

In his videos, Austin, you were clear on your values. You stated that you did not intend to have sexual relations until after you were married. There was no advocacy for sexual activity of any kind, nor recommendations to view porn. You were demonstratively affectionate in the videos, but not sexual.

If the school somehow wants to take issue with the affection you share on camera with your boyfriend and classify that as “gay sex”, then they need to read their Bibles. Your level of physicality is reflected there. Here is the description of the affection between Jesus and St. John at the last supper: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John) Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?”

I am not implying that the affectionate cuddling on Jesus’s chest by John was participating in, or advocating for gay sex. Likewise, your school cannot and should not be implying the same of you.

So, no Austin, you did not violate the rule. You also did not violate its principle to “to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.” You have been a model for the “golden rule.”

Mr Lusk, you, however, failed this principle in several ways. First, you bore “false witness” against Austin by using a regulation about sexual activity, when in his public pronouncements he specifically stated he has had none. Your punishment of him was not reprimanding him for something he has done, it is reprimanding him for who he is. That is bigotry, not a “Christ-like” lifestyle. Christ was not a bigot.

Second, his social media activity reaches out to encourage and send love to others and to save them from harm. Your own social media activity has been dishonest and self-serving. His is to make fun love-filled videos, yours has been to interact with the review site Yelp and fraudulently portray yourself as a consumer of your school’s services. You then bolstered your school’s online review standing by rating it the maximum of five stars, designed to influence its average total score. (See image below.)

yelp luteran north

Rubbing salt in the proverbial wound of your dishonesty was the statement you made in your self-review of the school. You stated, “The kids really feel welcomed and loved…” By your own behavior, they are made to feel loved and welcomed, unless they are gay. Then they are devastated.

This leads me to my biggest issue with your point of view and actions. As a parent, I deal with the holistic range of my sons. They are not perfect, despite what I might tell you on a given day. There are very few issues that would put them into a zero-sum game emotionally and spiritually however. They may do things that are absolutely wrong, but I help them find ways to do those things better, to make an improved choice, even if they cannot make it to a perfect one. For straight kids in your school, you follow this model. You work with them to be the best of who they are, to help them be the best they can be.

You have demonstrated there is no such scale for a gay student. He is gone, seen as worthless automatically. He has no chance, in your eyes, to better himself as a person, to achieve self-improvement. To you, if he is himself, he is worthless — period. The rest of his behavior could be saintly, or he could be a charlatan, it would make no difference.

To me, that is a travesty, whether it was from a parent, from an educator and most certainly from a follower of Christ.

I don’t mean to be completely negative about your school, however. I have to acknowledge that it has produced a man who does live up to the heart of Christ, who lives honestly and who I would be thrilled for my sons to emulate.

He is the young man you forced to leave, Mr. Lusk.

Mr. Willis, that man is you.

 

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About robw77

A single gay dad who cares. His story can be read here: http://www.imagaysingleparent.com/2013/02/02/rob/ and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/rob-watson-gay-family_n_4689661.html
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25 Responses to A Gay Dad’s Letter to Gay Teen, Austin Wallis, and the High School That Rejected Him

  1. David Trigueiro says:

    I am somewhat confused. To my certain knowledge the Evangelical Lutheran Church along with the Episcopal Church welcomes homosexual people.

  2. coffeeaugur says:

    Mr. Dallas Lusk is a complete piece of human garbage. There should be a garbage dump where all the trash like him can be sent to, so they don’t crap up the rest of society.

  3. jon says:

    sadly enough, when ever a bible or religion is involved to any real degree, truth, depth and honesty – something so desperately needed these days – rarely will see the light of day

  4. JTLooking says:

    I feel bad for homeless gay kids, not this wannabe YouTube star. If he’s crying on his boyfriend’s lap in public over something like this, he probably won’t go far in life.

    • robw77 says:

      Obviously, homeless gay kids are a huge concern, and I am glad to be part of an effort to reach them and find them homes. I am baffled by the heartlessness of your post however. While being thrown from your home is devastating, for a 17 year old to be thrown from your whole school life, friends and social circle can be extremely hard as well. I do not fault Austin for showing his emotion at all. I disagree with you completely, I think someone who walks away because he has to have personal integrity, but can express that it hurts like hell, will go very far in life and be emotionally rich and well adjusted.

      • JTLooking says:

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. And I don’t see myself as heartless, merely discerning. I think he’s another of the spoiled attention-hungry look-at-me types we see all over YouTube : people who want to be celebrities for doing nothing. Other guys his age (gay and straight) are in the military getting limbs blown off. HE made a deal with a stuffy private school and only decided to leave when they called HIM out for his videos. But, again, we just disagree.

        • rfcno says:

          You have uncanny powers to discern so much about people you don’t know… so do I. You’re a shallow, bitter person who believes you’re better than everyone else.

          What does being in the armed forces, losing limbs, have to do with this situation? Zilch. Some in the military have youtube accounts, by the way, so are they spoiled, attention-hungry types as well? I dislike youtube because it’s mostly a waste of time but there are worthwhile videos and it sounds as if Austin’s were in that category.

          As robw77 pointed out, Austin was not advocating “homosexual activity,” simply telling others it’s OK to be who you are. The “Christian” actions of Mr. Lusk, however, were anything but Christian.

          What’s wrong with “crying” in his boyfriend’s lap? You never cry? Crying is a determinant of future failure? Guess what? Many soldiers cry, and have cried, and have nothing to be ashamed of, and many go on to lead productive lives. Sadly, many take years to recover from their injuries, physical and mental/emotional, and our nation, especially our politicians who so easily send them to war, ignores them.

      • I absolutely agree with you Rob…My partner and I know how harsh life can be out there..Especially for a young man who has no place to go…We would have no problem taking in a few boys so they feel safe and loved, have food in their bellies and a warm bed to sleep in. I’m not sure how to reach out to those who really need the help. We are relocating to Florida this Summer and plan to have a spare room or two. Any info you can provide would be great appreciated.

        • robw77 says:

          Hi Darin, you can check local resources in the area — either child protective services or homeless outreach. Also, please contact Raiseachild.us (you can tell them I sent you), and they can help connect you to where you can make a difference.

  5. mwaylon1977 says:

    Reblogged this on Miss Piggy's Lipstick and commented:
    I try to find the words to refute the extreme hypocrisy of people using Christianity to oppress the LGBTQ community. This father so magnificently stated the obvious about the real hero and outstanding character of Austin Willis.

  6. salcam18 says:

    Reblogged this on .

  7. Dr. Rex says:

    This is excellent!! Reblogged “It Is What It Is” ….. great post!!

  8. Dr. Rex says:

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    You are not alone, Austin Wallis …. there’s a whole world of us with you!! Feel the embrace of those who accept and love you are you are!!!

    • Dan says:

      I guess im not in the world that loves him, this was obviously a christian school, why should they allow a gay kid there, violating christianity

      • robw77 says:

        I am hoping that you are not pretending to represent Christianity declaring your non-love for another human being. Christ (heard of him?) made a commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”. That would make you more at odds with “christianity” than Austin. Christ never said a word about gay kids violating christianity.

      • Dr. Rex says:

        Christianity is all encompassing … that’s what I was taught, not by school, the bible or church. You may be right …. and the teen chose to leave which was a painful, more mature reaction than the principal’s …. a Christian. There’s where the problem lies: not accepting diversity & hanging on to unbending principles. Not loving him is not loving humans … therefore the Christian love is a conditional one.

      • Ben in oakland says:

        so you are without sin?

  9. It has ceased to amaze me when a self-professing Christian lies intentionally about someone else. It does show that they believe in their religion no more than I do.

  10. daphnepurpus says:

    This is so sad and so wrong. The letter to Austin Wallis is lovely and I hope Austin knows that he is a wonderful young man, doing what he should, being who he is, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with who he is. All the best to you, Austin.

  11. ChloeAlexa Landry says:

    Rob, beautifully stated with love and understanding, appreciate your writing’s as they impact Us all.

  12. jayinrva says:

    Exactly what they need to hear! Thank you!
    Peace❤
    Jay

  13. Corinne Lightweaver says:

    Another winner, Rob. Thank you for expressing your thoughts again with such compassion, generosity, and insight.

  14. carol says:

    That was a beautiful letter. Hope that young man finds an education institution worthy of him.

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