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The Beauty of Dualism: The Story of Levi Franklin

By Renee Goergen

Levi Franklin has been my friend for some time now. We attended the same school, kindergarten through high school, though he was two grades below me. We were both heavily involved in the theater department of our school, Frontier Charter Academy, which gave us both a lot of time and common interest to bond over. But our passion for plays wasn’t where our similarities stopped. In a small, conservative school, he and I both identifying on the queer spectrum was certainly something that brought us closer together as friends. A lot of the challenges he faces being who he is in that environment are challenges that I myself once faced when still in high school.

But I chose Levi for this project based on more than our pre-established familiarity and his charming personality. I knew Levi would make a wonderful person to talk to for this project. He is very self-assured of his identity. Something I learned from our interviews was that this position of confidence did not come easily to him. His identity was more complex than just identifying as a cis gay man. He is also very sure in his Christian faith, despite coming from a conservative home where being Christian and gay do not mix at all.

This is something I have had personal difficulties within my own life, as well as something that I know a lot of my queer peers have struggled with at some point. More and more churches are taking on a pro-gay atmosphere, including visible rainbows on their exterior or sermons that are more inclusive. There are even organizations and projects that exist to promote harmony between the two communities. The Reformation project is just one of many I found with a simple google search of ‘Gay and Christian’. However, despite this progression, there still is a deep rift between the communities. Christianity has been sighted as the reason for people being cruel to queer communities more often than not, as is Levi’s case in his home life. Christian organizations that outwardly and extremely advocate against the LGBTQ community tend to get more publicity. Nearly everyone knows about the Westboro Baptist church, or hear what Focus on the Family advocates, sometimes partaking in political collaboration with more conservative candidates. Stories of Christian businesses trying to deny service or rights to gay couples will always gain attention from the media. Since the more aggressive and negative acts tend to gain more attention than the progressive ones, it makes the rift between queer and Christian communities a common one.

For these reasons, I knew he would be able to talk to me about an experience very different from my own that I could use to learn and grow as a person. Levi’s agency is in his confidence in himself and his love towards others. His agency is in his own acceptance and bravery to be who he is and to be it spectacularly.

R.G.: How has your environment impacted your identity?

L.F.: I grew up in a conservative Christian household, with my oldest sibling being more left-leaning, more liberal. I have four older siblings which definitely impacts me on... being more of an individual. I value individuality a lot. My family always goes to church every week which definitely influences how I view myself, as well as the world. The school I attend is very conservative. I didn’t really get exposed to media, and media is a big deal, outside of Television. I didn't get a smartphone until high school. I guess I got a tablet in late middle school. That influenced how I saw queer a lot more and a lot differently because suddenly I was getting a lot more than just, “Oh, queer people, have aids and go to hell.” view. Thanks, internet, for debunking that.

This caused me to figure out my sexuality a little later in life. Due to the fact that my family is very conservative and have a lot of Christian ideals, my close family is a lot more leaning towards my sexuality being not okay, because they’re Christian. However, that changed a lot for me. Their opinions didn’t change, my opinions on sexuality changed a lot after I was exposed to the internet as well as influenced by friend groups.

R.G.: When did you first get inclinations about your identity?

L.F.: Denial was my worst friend in middle school. How I first realized or started getting inclinations of my sexuality was probably not fitting in with my heterosexual friend group, especially when we were at sleepovers and guys would ask “Oh, who are you into?” Or “Oh, do you like boobs or butts?” and I was like, “Ummm...” it would be an awkward pause. I don’t know what I’m into; I’m not into boobs. So that was interesting. I guess I figured out how to pretend really well and eventually when I broke away from that friend group because they were doing, not great things with their lives.

I started figuring out more of who I was, along the terms of googling some stuff and asking myself, “What do I like.” There were interesting google searches...Yeah, it led to some interesting things. I definitely searched ‘shirtless men’ and then ‘shirtless women’ at one point in my life, just to compare the two and ask, “Which one am I into?” I knew I was supposed to be into this, but I’m definitely not into boobs... or vaginas. I'm definitely into men. Yeah... thank god for incognito mode. Also figuring out how to delete browser history is really nice... and delete cookies... Thank God I was born in the twenty-first century.

That's how I got the inclination of my sexuality, along the terms of exploring and figuring out what I like. I started reading a lot of novels, or non-published books on different websites about sexuality and love and figuring out “Oh that sounds nice.” or “Oh that doesn't sound nice.” That process was during middle school as I transferred into high school, and then in tenth grade, I was like “You know what? You're kinda gay, and you should admit that to yourself and start coming out to people.”

R.G.: How long have you been out/coming out?

L.F.: The summer after my freshman year I started coming out to my friends like it was July, or June when I came out to my best friend Megan. She was the first person I came out to. Then I started coming out to my other friends throughout the next school year. My sophomore year, I started coming out to people in general at school. And that spring of my sophomore year I came out to my parents and that was... a whole ordeal that I'm not sure if you want to get into.

Okay so, yeah... I came out to my parents the spring of my sophomore year over an entire ordeal where I went out with some friends on a planned night of going to a gay bar, and that was fun. It wasn’t like, illegal stuff, it was all safe and it was a good time. It was a bar and lounge and we had a good time.

Then my parents were asking, “Hey where are you?” And I had to say, “Uh... I’m not where I said I was.” So then, I kind of got in trouble, it was a big process. I didn't come out to them until the next day. I said, “Hey, so I’m not going to tell you who I was with, but I was at a gay restaurant, and that’s why I didn't tell you, and I’m gay... yaaaay.” And then there was some screaming and some mean words said, and then there was a lot of crying, and then, I thought “I need to get out of this toxic house.” I got in my car and drove to my friend’s house, my other best friend, Autumn, and she’s a lovely human being, and then I stayed with them. My mom got really upset that I left, and then called their mom wondering where I was. I chilled there for the night just to get some space and let both of us process without saying harmful things to each other. My mom didn't like that idea and I didn't really care... I did care, but I knew that wasn’t healthy and I knew I needed to make the mature decision for both of us because that’s my life. And then after that, I came back, and I got in loads of trouble because I was lying and all that jazz.

Over a year later, after asking them for therapy for a year I got some therapy, and they got some therapy. So, I got therapy along the terms of coming to terms with who I am and coming to terms with who my parents are and... not wanting to kill myself because of that ordeal. But it wasn’t that bad, but it was... semi-bad... When your parents hate who you are, it kinda screws you up a little bit even if you’re a really great kid and do really great things, and volunteer and have a 4.0 GPA, and all that stuff. So, I came to terms with all of that, the spring, summer, fall of my junior year. It was a lot of processing and being okay with who I was in their eyes. So, after the therapy for both of us, it was now the fall of my senior year, we finished up our therapy, had a group therapy session, which had a lot of emotions but we’re on better terms now. Yeah... we’re good. They still don’t approve, but we live in not an awkward, awful setting but it's still rough because... family ideals.

So that was my coming out experience, and now it is the fall of senior year and I’m living my best life. It all worked out for the better because it’s better that I came out when I’m still in their house cause then they had to process it and still be semi-good about it verse being super distant in my adulthood. It made us work through the relationship rather than me just distancing myself from them.

R.G.: How does your identity affect your life?

L.F.: I would like to say it doesn’t, but it definitely does. As a queer man, I’m not going to go into the military or like a physical trainer. Valid, that’s not my interest, but it definitely contributes to me being less into masculine things. But I think that’s more of my personality than my sexuality because I was never into sports from like, three. I didn’t fit in with the masculine people, so I guess I had to fit in the group with the feminine people. I started doing theater in the fifth grade, but it wasn’t about being masculine or feminine. It wasn’t hanging out with the girls or hanging out with the guys. It was one of the only afterschool activities allowed in our elementary school and the reason I started doing theater was because of my friend Kelly.

I don’t want to say my sexuality doesn't influence everything I do because it does because it’s a part of who I am, but it’s never been, “Oh, I can’t wear that, because I’m gay.” It’s mostly like, “I don't want to wear that, because I don’t want to wear that.”

I think being queer influences how other people treat me, along the terms of “Oh, Levi, he’s just my GBF, my Gay Best Friend.” And “He knows about fashion because he’s gay.” I don’t think it correlated with me being gay that I know about fashion, it definitely more that I understand how colors go together because I have an eye for it.

I feel like it influences choices like that, but also, not really.... There’s never been a time where I’ve been like, “I need to do this thing so that I can look queer.” Well, I do wear queer pins every once in a while. It’s not that I want people to know I’m gay, it’s more of a me thing. Yes, I’m proud of my sexuality and I don’t want people to put me back in the closet. So, I guess it can influence what I wear a little bit. But I only have one queer pin... getting more is on the to-do list of life, I guess.

I would say that it also definitely does influence big decisions, like where I’m going to live in the future. That’s also because I’m into theater so I can’t live in a rural farming community because if I’m going to succeed in my career I’m going to need to be in a city or an arts hub of the world. Which happens to be where other queer people are, which is exciting for dating and life. I would say it definitely influences where I’m going to go to college along the terms of it being arts-centered, and how I’m not going to go to a Christian school that has theater because if I go there, people are going to be like, “Oh, you’re gay, so read the bible.” I’d have to be like, “Fam, have read the bible. Still gay.”

It also influences, not necessarily where I go to youth group, but how people interact with me because they’re either unsure of my sexuality of uncomfortable with it because they haven't been exposed to it. But I think that’s one of the best things about being queer cause then you get to represent a demographic that people aren’t always exposed to and be like, “Yes, I am successful. Yes, I am doing great. Yes, I am excelling in life. Yes, I haven’t had sex- my aunt who is very conservative- not all queer people always have sex before marriage.” Not saying that I won’t, but it’s good to expose people to being different because I feel like it makes them more okay with that.

My sexuality definitely influences what T.V. shows I watch. Because I mean, representation, and to get an idea of how other queer people exist in the world. Valid, there’s not a lot of good queer shows out there that are a good representation of how people live their lives because it’s still drama. It’s media, so they do things for views not because they think, “Hey, we need to represent this demographic because they’re unrepresented.” If they’re gonna represent a demographic, it’s going to be to get those people to view their T.V. shows. Tragically. Sexuality influences what decisions I make, but it’s not the only factor. Personality, past experiences, etc. Influence things, but it’s not like, “I’m going to buy a pink water bottle, so people realize I’m feminine. So people think that I’m gay.” No. None of those things. I will buy the cheapest water bottle because it’s the most practical.

R.G.: How do you balance your Christian faith and your queer identity?

L.F.: It’s been interesting along the terms of my mom pressing for the conservative ideals of being Christian. Her view is that it’s okay that you have homosexual tendencies, but you just need to be celibate for your whole life. I don’t think that’s what God intends. But also, I can’t speak for him, because I’m a mortal... neither should she. So, my mom’s viewpoint is very... I don’t want to say aggressive but, black and white. Part of the reason why I started to understand my sexuality and my religiosity was but a Tumblr post. And I put this in all of my college essays because it’s great. It was a Tumblr post about different ideologies, specifically like, Yin and Yang, and stuff like that. And the one that made it all click for me was Dualism, which is the belief that two things that appear to be opposite have overlapping features. It’s a Venn diagram type thing that like, even though they’re different they're still the same. So, I realized, I can be gay, and I can be Christian. I’m the overlay. Living by loving others, being kind and still living my best life. That’s how I see those things overlaying.

They can still be opposing, but there are so many things that are the same about them. Part of the reason I’m content with being Christian and gay is from the perspective of Jesus who is the Messiah in the Christian religion and is God. And how God is wrathful and also loving and full of grace and always forgives. I feel like those things are the things I believe in a God. Who wants to believe in a God that is like, “You’re all going to hell because I hate you all. And that’s why I created you, so you can go burn in a lake of fire.” No. It’s finding the balance between things that are contradictory, and people are contradictory. In the Bible, God based humans off his own image. It’s like God is two opposing forces, being super wrathful and super loving and forgiving. I guess I can also be Christian and gay, great!

I also understand that my Mom’s ideals aren’t all Christians ideals. There’s a lot of Christians out there who also think it’s okay to be queer. Finding those people is always really cool for me. To know that, yes, I’m not alone in this. That’s a huge thing, that’s super important, especially with being queer. You always grow up thinking that you’re alone and that you’re different from other people and that literally what fuels things like depression during things like that. The feeling of being alone, and the feeling of being isolated and not being able to connect with other people. Finding those people that support my sexuality and my religious views were really important for me. Valid, it's few and far between but I believe that people are mostly loving so, it’s good. Being comfortable with sexuality and religion is something that is ever growing, and I think is intertwining a lot in my life. It’s cool to see it unfold.

R.G.: What is one of your favorite aspects of your identity?

L.F.: Realizing that I’m always going to be a hot mess. Because I’m all these other things but, I’m a mess. And I feel like that’s one of the most beautiful parts about being a human being. Yeah, there are sometimes where it looks like I have myself together, and I’m doing great, and I have my college applications finished or something, but I also haven’t done my math homework that was due last week. It’s just a constant, being a mess and I think that’s beautiful because nobody ever has it all together and I feel like it’s one of the biggest misconceptions.

It just relieves pressure. I’m okay with not always being okay and I’m okay being okay. I’m okay with the ups and downs of life and sometimes going through emotions and just the ever-changing ever-growing mess that I am. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’m okay with. Yes, I’m super smart and can get 100% on a test and think, “Wow I have myself together.” and then there are times when I can’t form a sentence with correct grammar.

Along the terms of being a mess, I find myself realizing that I’m... I don’t want to say wise, because I feel like that’s hierarchical and kind of tooting my own horn, even though I hate that phrase, I think you can be proud. But just saying I’m a wise person seems egotistical. I try really hard to give good advice and guide people in the right way. That’s another part of myself I really enjoy. Always being there for people as well as being a hot mess.

Collaborating with Levi was a pleasure, and as a student of anthropology, being able to sit down with someone and ask about their life and ideology and just get an overall understanding of how they live and who they are was a fun and exciting experience. It was also a wonderful and insightful experience into how his life differs from mine and how his views of the world differ from mine. Though there are a lot of things in life that he and I can comfortably agree on, there is also a lot that he experiences that I do not.

As I’ve learned, there are also some ideologies he has that, thanks to this interviewing process, I understand more fully. Specifically when it comes to his views on religious and how that overlaps with his sexuality, like a Venn diagram, as he put it. When I was still trying to find out how my sexuality and my Lutheran upbringing intermingled, I ended up just dropping the religion all together. Seeing and hearing how he views the overlapping of the two and how he found the harmony between his identity was a wonderful experience.

Even before this interview I often wondered how he balanced that, especially knowing the way his parents would use religion as a deterrent to his other queer identity. Being able to listen to what inspires him to live the way he does, as well as his agency in moving forward for self-acceptance, first for his own identity, then to how the world sees him, was incredibly moving for me.

Levi’s struggles and accomplishments in accepting who he is and how the world around him is has undoubtedly made him stronger as a person. This has allowed him to inspire people around him, myself included.


“Advancing LGBTQ Inclusion in the Church.” The Reformation Project, www.reformationproject.org/

“10 Things Everyone Should Know About a Christian View of Homosexuality.” Focus on the Family, 1 Dec. 2014, www.focusonthefamily.com/about/focus-findings/sexuality/10-things-everyone-should-know-ab out-a-christian-view-of-homosexuality

“Westboro Baptist Church Home Page.” Westboro Baptist Church God H8S Videos, www.godhatesfags.com/

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in each article is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the PUGS editors, Gender Studies program, or UNC. Therefore, PUGS e-zine carries no responsibility for the opinion expressed thereon.