Organization provides hope, help for abused students at conservative religious schools

Seattle, WA - "It's amazing how much power is in just a few words of hope." Marc Adams is talking about his work with HeartStrong, Inc., a non-profit organization he founded with his partner of twelve years, Todd Tuttle.

"When I was coming to terms with my homosexuality, I was 19 and a senior at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University," Adams continues. "I attended conservative religious schools my entire life. I found nothing there but disdain and pain for myself and those who were like me. I watched dozens of my friends and fellow students fall victim to administrative-driven witch hunts and endure horrendous outings."

It was these incidents and the knowledge of the millions of other students at religious schools that prodded Adams and Tuttle to found HeartStrong, Inc., in 1998. It is an outreach which has grown to provide hope and guidance to hundreds of students at conservative religious schools and colleges throughout the United States.

"I attended these types of schools from 5th grade through high school graduation and I attended Jerry Falwell's Liberty University for 3 years," Adams reflects. "The harsh disciplinary and anti-homosexual environments in the schools I attended were not even close to representing the horrors that others have undergone at many of these schools, colleges and universities."

"We feel strongly that we were meant to begin this work of reaching out to struggling and suffering GLBT students at these schools," says Tuttle. "How could we turn our backs on the thousands of young people trapped emotionally and physically in these environments?"

It is those experiences and Adams and Tuttle's discovery two years ago that no one was even attempting to focus on reaching gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students at conservative religious schools, that led them to form HeartStrong, Inc. It is now a non-profit, tax-exempt 501( c)(3) organization governed by a board of others who have attended similar institutions.

Referred to as 'two of the most important men in America,' Adams and Tuttle have driven over 129,000 miles in the past two years, sharing their personal stories, raising awareness about HeartStrong, Inc., and doing outreach work to students who are or have attended conservative religious schools. It is the most extensive and durable grassroots outreach in the history of the gay rights movement.

"Our message is simple," Tuttle states, "We want everyone who is or has gone through these schools to know that they are not alone. And that there are people reaching for them who can speak their language. There is hope, love and happiness in life."

"Our responsibility," Adams adds, "Is to make that message and HeartStrong, Inc., as accessible as possible to those who need to hear the message. We have made the commitment to make sure we reach as many folks as possible."

Adams and Tuttle continue their road trip in 2000. Since January, 2000, the duo has traveled almost 5,500 miles continuing their efforts of outreach and education. Their journey in 2000 will take them through almost every state in the country.

Adams, a fundamentalist Baptist preacher's son, is the author of the Lambda Literary Award finalist and Silver Pen Award winning autobiography, The Preacher's Son. He has also published three poetry books, Light, Still Water, and These Days. Tuttle, a former fundamentalist Baptist minister, has authored the personal workshop, Fundamentally Speaking: Fundamentalism's Segregation of America. The couple has co-authored a new book entitled, Not Invited; An Out Gay Couple's Exclusion from Heterosexual Privilege.

Adams and Tuttle met and fell in love while students at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. For more information about HeartStrong, Inc., visit their website at www.heartstrong.org For more information about Adams and Tuttle's books and resources please visit www.windowbooks.com Tax deductible donations may be made to HeartStrong, Inc., online at www.windowbooks.com/hsdonations.html To subscribe to the quarterly newsletter for HeartStrong, Inc., please visit www.windowbooks.com/together.html

HeartStrong, Inc., Mission Statement

HeartStrong, Inc., exists to provide truthful information and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and allied persons who have attended, are attending, employed by, or associated with conservative religious educational institutions through support, education, and advocacy. HeartStrong, Inc., is a non-sectarian outreach established to provide educational resources, compassion and understanding to GLBT and allied persons adversely affected by the influence of conservative religious educational institutions.

©1995-2000 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.