Courageous Woman's Journey
The next day I asked the dorm mother if I could change rooms and be
Karen’s roommate. “No,” she replied. “That space is too
“We don’t mind,” I assured her. “We really would like
to be together.”
“Is there a problem with the girl you’re now with?” she
“Not at all. She’s very nice, and we get along just fine.
It’s just that Karen and I are good friends and enjoy being
together. We really do want to room together.”
The dorm mother then turned to Karen. “Is this
something you want? Do you agree with this request?”
“Yes. I’d really like for Lou Anne to be with me.” “Well, the
accommodation is too small for two, but
if you want, I’ll assign both of you to it.”
We were elated. Karen and I spent some of our happiest times in that
tiny dorm room, which we kept the rest of our sophomore year and all
of our junior year.
I continued to date boys on a regular basis, and during my junior
year I dated a senior named Eric McGill, whose father was a Baptist
preacher in West Texas. Eric had little money. He struggled to make
ends meet and worked in one of the dining halls in order to pay his
bills. He could afford to attend Baylor only because of the
allowance available to P.K.s (preachers’ kids). Consequently, when
Eric and I dated, we always just walked around campus, had a Coke,
and attended a free campus event or, occasionally, a movie. We
seldom ate out.
One evening as we were strolling across campus, he said, “You’re one
of the few girls I’ve ever dated who doesn’t expect me to spend a
lot of money on a date. You and I have fun just doing simple things,
and you don’t realize how much I appreciate it.”
“Spending a lot of money on me isn’t necessary, Eric. I enjoy going
out with you.” And I did—up to a point. When I sensed a fellow was
falling for me and wanted to hold and kiss me or, even worse, marry
me, I was ready to turn him loose and look for someone else to date.
But until Eric made the comment about inexpensive dating, I’d never
thought about it, one way or the other. What we did together wasn’t
One evening we double-dated with his roommate, Jeff Tatum, and then
Jeff asked me out. I accepted, and we dated a few times. Then Eric
called. “Lou Anne, I like you a lot, and I’d like to continue dating
you, but if you prefer going with Jeff, I understand and will step
I hadn’t thought about Eric in a serious way, but he’d obviously
thought seriously about me. It was probably good that he was willing
to back off and allow me to date Jeff. “Thanks, Eric,” I said. “I do
like you, but I need to think about this. You really are a great
He said again that he wouldn’t stand in Jeff’s way and wished me the
best. I appreciated his attitude, and Jeff and I ended up dating
rather exclusively. But Eric remained in the picture as the three of
us worked together to help establish a little Baptist church just
outside Waco. I played the piano when no one else was available, and
Jeff and Eric took turns preaching and leading the singing. We met
in a family’s small three-bedroom home. Bedrooms became Sunday-
school classrooms, and the den and kitchen area was the sanctuary.
One of the tragedies of being gay and having to keep it a secret is
hurting others. Jeff fell deeply in love with me, and I liked him a
lot. But I couldn’t fall in love with him, much less spend my life
with him. I was in love with Karen.
Jeff asked me to marry him, and this wasn’t the only
proposal I turned down—certainly not the only heart I broke. How
much better if I could have been open about my sexual orientation.
While I was dating Jeff, Karen had become interested
in a senior in her psychology class, Russell Hampton. I became
accustomed to hearing, “I’m heading to the library to study. Russell
may be there. Don’t wait up for me.”
Returning from the library, she was either down,
because Russell hadn’t shown up, or elated because he had.
Occasionally, she’d be in the clouds because he’d asked her to the
student union to have a Coke.
I wasn’t jealous of Russell. After all, I dated boys
and had dated them all the time Karen and I were together. But Karen
had never dated. She saw herself as overweight and therefore
undesirable. The truth was, she had no experience being with boys
and no self- confidence along that line. Her mother had convinced her
that no boy would pay any attention to her until she lost some
weight. The more critical her mother became, the more Karen ate. The
two of them battled constantly when they were together.
Karen’s skin was unblemished, her makeup flawless, and her hair
carefully coiffed. A large-boned blonde of German descent, she
probably weighed 135 to 140 pounds. I really didn’t know, and I
didn’t care. I just knew that I loved her and yearned for her to
feel good about herself.
Although I felt no jealousy toward Russell, I began to dislike him
because he never asked Karen out on a date. He would hint to her
after their psychology class that he might study in the library that
evening and maybe they could study together. That’s all it took for
her to spend the evening sitting there, hoping he’d show. And
sometimes he would come, though sometimes he wouldn’t. Helplessly, I
watched her infatuation with him begin to control her emotions. The
more he took over her thoughts, the less she wanted to be with me.
She finally informed me, “I’m in love with Russell. Your
relationship with me must end. I don’t want us touching each other
any more. I realize this won’t be easy for you, especially with us
rooming together, but it’s time. I don’t want us to even hold hands
I was devastated. She was my very life, and she was rejecting me.
Just a year before, I’d been willing to halt our relationship, but
she’d convinced me not to. Now the shoe was on the other foot, and I
couldn’t handle it. I was
so accustomed to cuddling with her at night, to sleeping next to her
in that single bunk bed, that I couldn’t go to sleep by myself. I
thought constantly about her, about being with her, touching her,
sleeping with her. When we turned out the lights each night, I’d be
in the bottom bunk, she just above me in the top one. I wanted so
much to hold her, yet after she told me not to touch her again, I
didn’t. I never forced any attention on her, but not because I
didn’t want to. I loved her terribly, completely, and was miserable.
This was the first time someone had totally rejected me. One night,
beside myself, I begged, and Karen ignored me. I told her I was
going to kill myself, but she didn’t take me seriously, so I headed
for the bathroom and found her bottle of sleeping pills. I emptied
the bottle and swallowed all thirteen pills. “That’s not going to
kill you,” she said. “Those pills aren’t strong enough.”
She was right. With a lot of effort on her part, I awakened the next
morning. “Wake up,” she kept saying as she shook me. “You have to
get up. You have a date to the football game, and you need to get up
I felt absolutely awful, like I was in a stupor. I could hardly hold
my head up, but it never occurred to me to cancel my date. I
dressed, but not with any wisdom as I wore a sweater when the
weather turned out to be warm. My date brought me a corsage, and I
had great difficulty pinning it to my sweater. The heavy corsage
drooped down from my loosely knit teal-blue sweater. It didn’t look
right, but I couldn’t very well change clothes with my date standing
there ready to go.
The game was a blur. I had a terrible time just staying awake. I was
miserable. Ill. Hot. Uncomfortable. I recall nothing of the game,
even less of my date. He never asked me out again.
While Karen wanted nothing to do with me, I quietly cried myself to
sleep most nights—those nights I was able to get to sleep. I
couldn’t sleep alone but finally devised a plan that provided me a
few hours’ sleep. After we turned out the lights, I waited until
Karen was asleep, then quietly crawled up into her bunk and curled
up at the foot of her bed. Just barely touching one of her feet, I
was able to sleep. I awakened before she did in the mornings and
returned to my bed without her knowing I’d slept with her. At least
I assumed she never knew.
Our little dorm room was probably ten by ten. Besides the bunk beds,
it held only a chest of drawers and a small desk and chair. We had
our own tiny bath, which was much better than having a larger one
shared by up to six girls.
We’d spent many happy hours in that little room, but now, as we
shared this cramped space in the first semester of our junior year,
we avoided touching each other. We both felt the strain. My love for
Karen continued. I hated Russell. If he’d shown a normal interest in
her, I probably wouldn’t have disliked him. More than anything, I
wanted her to be happy. We were convinced we would find happiness in
marriage and family, so I wanted her to find someone good and loving
to marry. But Russell never asked her out on a date, never took her
out to eat, to a movie, or to any campus gathering. In no way did he
show her off as someone special to him. He just furtively met her at
the library and occasionally bought her a Coke. I knew this wasn’t a
normal courtship, but Karen didn’t. She was smitten.
I couldn’t tell her Russell wasn’t treating her right. I realized
what he was doing to her and hated him for leading her on. The
little bit of attention Russell gave her was enough to cause her to
fall in love. He was her first beau. Occasionally I’d try to
warn her about him, but I couldn’t do so very often or she’d think I
was just being a sore loser. I stayed very concerned.