I’m Representative Vicky Hartzler’s niece. I Speak Out Against His Homophobic Speech in Congress.

  • Andrew Hartzler spent years in conversion therapy and attended a religious institution.
  • After opposing the Respect for Marriage Act, she addressed her aunt, Representative Vicky Hartzler.
  • Hartzler told Insider that she wanted to respond with love to his hate message.

This is an article as described, based on a conversation with Andrew Hartzler, nephew of an LGBTQ advocate and Missouri Representative. Marriage Bill Essay Edited for length and clarity.

From a young age, I’ve heard, read, and seen what my aunt, GOP Representative Vicky Hartzler, has done to target my community.

But I always felt like there was a limit that I should respect. I grew up very close to my aunt and she was family after all.

However, in my sophomore year of college, my perspective changed when I stumbled upon a HuffPost article revealing that my aunt hosted a conversion therapy group at the US Capitol in 2019.

When I looked at a photo from the event, I was surprised: A conversion therapist I saw after opening up to my family in high school was there. This is a person I would attribute most of my trauma to.

Later, I realized that I couldn’t ignore or justify the real-world consequences of their actions.

I was frightened when I saw the video on Thursday of my aunt crying on the floor of Parliament as she encouraged her colleagues to vote against the Respect for Marriage Act in the name of religious freedom – which will help protect same-sex marriage.

I decided to pick up my phone and answer it.

In a TikTok video, I talked about how freedom of religion is not threatened in this country. Instead, faith institutions like the college I went to before were empowered to discriminate against LGBTQ students because of religious exemptions despite receiving federal funding.

“More, you want the power to impose your religious beliefs on everyone, and you feel like you’re being silenced because you don’t have that power.” I said it in my video when I was talking to my aunt. “You’ll just have to learn to live with all of us, and I’m sure it’s not that hard.”

While making this TikTok, I thought about the trauma LGBTQs might experience when they see one of their political leaders talk about two people marrying each other with such hatred. It’s frustrating when people in positions of power neglect to see how effective their words are.

LGBTQs are demonized in this country because there is a class of politicians, including my aunt, who weaponize their beliefs and frame the queer community as a threat to Christianity. And sadly, it adds to real-life violence, such as the tragic shooting in Colorado Springs in November.

It’s frustrating when people in positions of power neglect to see how effective their words are. So with my video, I felt I had to respond to the hate message with the love message.

Going to a religious college and experiencing conversion therapy led me to a life of advocate for LGBTQ people.

The first time I went to conversion therapy, I was going 14 to 15.

It was the summer before freshman year of high school when I told my parents I was gay. This started the process of trying to suppress who I am.

I saw a conversion therapist several times a week in an office in Kansas City, Missouri, where I grew up. But after a month of meetings, I gave up trying to change myself. Conversion therapy feels like you’re using 50% of your mind to hide a core part of who you are, and you’re told to hate that part of you. It is self-taught hatred.

However, I did not tell this to my family. I played the part and told them what they wanted to hear. I continued to see conversion therapists until my senior year of high school.

When it came time to choose a university to go to in 2017, my parents sent me to Oral Roberts University – to protect me in a small bubble of safe believers in Christians. Being gay in this religious institution, named after the famous television personality, was against the rules of honor.

Being in this completely Christian environment at the beginning of college, I decided to give him one last chance to change and be straight and get my family to accept me.

This venture lasted one semester.

As a sophomore in college, I opened up to my family for the second time, which they had really struggled with in the beginning. They’ve come a long way since then. They may get there one day or they may never be there, but I cannot live my life hoping they will be.

As a gay I continued to make my way through my religious university, and being in an environment where I felt I had to conform to the university’s standards was very harmful.

I’ve noticed other people who are just like me. Other parents, like mine, had the same idea of ​​sending their LGBTQ children to a religious institution. There were a lot of secret gay and queer people, but there was no community for us.

We didn’t really know each other, but we knew each other. It’s all a bit hidden because you don’t know if someone is praying against your sexuality. And if you talk to someone about your experiences as an LGBTQ student, who can say they won’t report you to management?

This is what happened to me in the end.

When I was in my third year in college, I was called into the dean’s office for “gay activity” when it was revealed that I had a boyfriend who went to a different school.

As a result, I was subjected to conversion therapy-type “responsibility meetings.” These meetings consisted of lectures on “sacred sex” and what constitutes a divine relationship.

The COVID-19 pandemic has come and allowed me to leave campus and avoid the rest of my responsibility meetings. After that, I bowed my head and graduated in psychology in May of 2021.

The summer after graduation, I became involved with the Religious Exemption Liability Project, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ students at religious universities. I am now part of a class action lawsuit with more than 40 plaintiffs from taxpayer-funded religious universities nationwide.

We advocate that all students at religious universities receive the equal protection afforded by Title IX.

The positive reactions to my video have been overwhelming

My video, now viral, has resulted in overwhelming support online, especially on TikTok, for which I am grateful.

Someone texted me from Austria to let me know they support me. Someone else humorously told me that politicians always forget that they have families too.

I hope my actions show people that they don’t have to succumb to hate speech and that they should stand up for what they believe in.

As for what’s next for me, I spend a lot of time doing things I enjoy, like reading, writing, and learning French. Next fall, I will be starting graduate school for my master’s in clinical psychology. I will not go to a religious institution again; I choose to attend Oklahoma State University instead.

And when I finish my education, I think I want to do research. At Oral Roberts University, I did my dissertation on the relationship between suicidal ideation and risky sexual behavior in gay and bisexual men.

My advisor said this was one of the best articles they’ve ever read.

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