Anthony Villarreal
Student Athlete Booted From Christian College

By Annie Hollenbeck

Originally published on Advocate.com June 04 2014 2:20 PM ET

A former distance runner at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif., says he was kicked out of school, and he believes the reason is that he is gay.

Anthony Villarreal writes on Outsports that he was just eight courses away from his degree when he was expelled. Since his dismissal, Villarreal says, “it’s been hard to recover emotionally.”

In his candid piece, Villarreal describes his insecurities growing up Christian, while discovering his gay identity during puberty. He describes the heartbreaking experience of coming out to his mother and sister on New Year’s Eve, 2010. “My mom didn't take things well,” he explains. “We didn't talk for six months after that, other than the one time she called me saying, ‘I hate you Anthony, you make me hate you. You're going to hell.’”

Without the support of his family, and fearing retaliation from his Christian university, Villarreal felt hopeless. He turned to the support of his partner at the time, and he also contemplated the unthinkable.

“I ingested almost a whole bottle of muscle relaxers and Vicodin,” he remembers. “The rest of that story is a blur to me. I woke up in the hospital 12 hours later, hoping to never wake up again. My partner at the time was holding my hand as he cried.”

His relationship with this partner ended, but the next year, he met and began dating a man named Chris, and the two moved in together. While he still wasn’t out, Villarreal found genuine happiness in living with the man he loved. Chris accompanied Villarreal to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' national championship marathon.

“After the race, Chris told me that my coach had spoken with him and insisted that he was always there for me and wanted me to know that I could tell him anything,” Villarreal writes. “At that point, I was well aware that my coach knew what was going on. That was a great comfort to me.”

That summer, Chris and Villarreal had a loud argument in their home, primarily about the fact that Anthony was not yet out to his family, friends, and teammates. Although the argument was nonviolent, according to Villarreal, it was intense enough that police reported to the men’s home.

“Police responded, nothing unusual,” Villarreal writes. “As they came to the door, both my boyfriend and I were separated and questioned. We were both asked what was going on, and if there was any physical abuse. We both insisted there was not. Both of the officers refused to take ‘no’ as an answer and made my boyfriend remove his shirt (he [is] very white and pale compared to my dark complexion). He asked, ‘is this really necessary?’ They then threatened us again. The officers examined every part of his body as I stood back and watched. He had one scratch on his elbow, and they said, ‘Oh he scratched you, okay that's enough.’”

Villarreal says he was jailed for nearly a week, booked for “resisting arrest, domestic violence, and corporal/spousal abuse.” Chris called Villarreal’s coach and informed him of the arrest.

Not long after the incident, Villarreal was told that he had broken the university’s student handbook rules by living with Chris. According to Villarreal, he was told that only with an amended living situation and counseling would he be allowed to continue studying at and competing for the university. He said he felt pressured to sign a contract, agreeing to this request. This contract — in addition to his charges, which were dropped — eventually served as justification for his expulsion.

“Students who engage in unmarried heterosexual cohabitation or any homosexual/bisexual activity will be subject to judicial action,” the student handbook reads, although it claims the handbook is not considered a “contractual agreement.”

Villarreal says he is still reeling from losing his college education so soon before graduation, the loss of his social life at the school, and the perceived injustice of being kicked out of school without the explanation that such an impactful decision should warrant. Outsports’ attempt to contact the athletic department at William Jessup University received no response, while a statement issued by university president John Jackson deals exclusively with biblical authority and beliefs.

Contributor: 
Annie Hollenbeck