Inoke Tonga took to Instagram on Sunday to share with the world how he was forced to resign from Valor Christian High School in Denver, Colorado because he is gay.
Read Inoke’s story below:
To the little Tongan boy who grew up being undermined and advised to be silent about who he was, this one is for you!
Growing up, I have always been taught that meekness, and a pure heart is what will win battles. The expectation of being meek in my endeavors has been instilled in me by the amazing women and men in my life. With recent events that have occurred, I felt that through my meekness I will triumph over those who chose to bring me down and belittle me. But as leader and role model for the many kids I’ve taken under my wing, as a teacher, coach, mentor, preacher, and brother I have chosen to go against my nature of meekness and speak out and stand up for something that is beyond me, with humility, integrity, and truth.
After finishing a successful and amazing season with my high school boys at Valor High School in volleyball last year (2021-2022). I was approached by the coaching staff for the girls’ volleyball program. The impression of love, encouragement, and development (both athletically and spiritually) that I left with my boys were shared by them with the directors of the athletic department and head coach over the girls’ volleyball team. This eventually led to being offered a position to assist in coaching the girls’ team this upcoming season (2021-2022).
Conditioning came soon, and shortly after I finally got to meet the amazing young women of Valor who were trying out for my team. With much prayer and tears, I formed an amazing team with a group of girls who showed me that they were willing to put in effort, learn from what I had to teach them, but more importantly showed me that together, we would grow in our lord God and become better individuals for our community. I had the blessing of continuing my growth as a coach, mentor, and individual at Valor Christian, and I was ecstatic! Little did I know, this success and excitement would be short lived.
Thursday, August 19, 2021 was the day that ended my journey in growing together with my girls and boys at Valor Christian. I met with the campus pastor and athletic director who invited me to come by before my girls’ practice. The same men who hired me, after a lengthy, amazing interview process last year as a coach for the boys’ volleyball program. Unaware of what conversation was awaiting me, I was bright eyed and happy to be there because our interactions prior to that day were always so refreshing. Not to mention, walking through the halls that day, I had my boys and girls shouting my name in excitement to see me. As I sat down in what they called a “spiritual connection” I was asked if I had any changes in lifestyle that were life changing. In my mind, I had not.
Everything in life was falling into place – work was going well, club volleyball was starting soon, and high school volleyball seemed so promising. As I was asked repeatedly that question, they finally asked if I had posted something inappropriate on my social media that would go against Valor’s culture and beliefs. And of course, I said no – I am not one to post anything on my social media that would be inappropriate. Eventually they asked if I did an interview, or posted anything about being gay. My answer was yes. Of course I advocate for LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, especially those struggling with finding a relationship with God.
The culture document of Valor Christian that was given to me during the interview process didn’t mention anything about their stance on LGBTQ+. I will add that the pastor purposely and ignorantly would say “LGBTQ” incorrectly. “LGGTBG or whatever” is what he said at one point. The gates were opened and the questions came flooding.
I sat in the room being grilled about how being Gay is a “danger” to the school and to the kids. That with me “identifying as a gay man, they can’t put the kids at risk by having me in front of them.” I wished I would have advocated for myself and stood my ground instead of falling victim to feeling bad about myself and hating myself all over again, due to the conversations and words they were spitting at me. I testify that God sent his angels down to comfort me and make sure that these men did not see me break and cry because of the way they were subtly attacking me, in a very passive manner.
These angels helped me to remain calm, and not show any offense to what was being said. God did not abandon me at all that day. They even went as far as telling me “parents pay too much money to have their kids be coached and taught by someone like you who identifies as a gay man.” also ” in fact! Hearing how much love you have for these kids, I don’t think you are even gay! You just need some direction to reach the goal of becoming a child of God.” As if being Gay disqualifies me of being a child of God. Many things were shared and stated during this “spiritual connection.” In closing they asked me where we go from here. They proceeded by telling me that they weren’t trying to “convert me into being a straight man” and that ultimately I had two choices. One choice was to “denounce being gay. I want you to cut off that part of who you think your are. Go home and delete any posts on social media that speak about being gay. We want you to realize you aren’t gay. You need to become a child of God.” No more goals of getting married to the love of my life, who is a man. By doing this, they’d allow me to continue my journey as a coach at Valor Christian.
The other option of course was to do the opposite – be true to who God made me to be… A GAY CHILD OF THE ALMIGHTY. One of them even said ” I don’t want to seem like I’m hanging a coaching position over your head to ‘convert’ you, but we just can’t have you in front of the kids if you identify that way.” The other followed by saying “and we will make an email for you to send out and make sure that it states that you are away for personal matters, so that way when you make your decision to accept God and our help, you can come back and they don’t have to know of your spiritual battle. This is to ultimately protect you and our kids. We also don’t want this to effect your other places of work.”
I sat in that room for an hour and a half being belittled by men who knew nothing about who I am, what I’ve done in life, what obstacles I’ve overcome, the understanding I have of the living scriptures, and more importantly the love I have for my savior and lord, God. With my head held high, and with tears ready to be shed for hours, even days, I walked away knowing that my journey as a coach at Valor Christian had come to an end – I was not going to ” denounce identifying as a gay man.” Which according to them, would lead to me being released as a coach.
They have told my girls, and the volleyball community that it was my choice to leave, which in a sense, yes, I chose to not denounce my sexuality. But they left out the part where they pushed me out. My credentials, experience, interviews, and references, all went down the drain because of the lack of love these men have towards the 1 sheep that Christ Himself searched for, me. There is not ” their truth vs my truth.” There is simply just, THE TRUTH. And as God is my witness, this is the truth.
I speak out with my experience with no intention of wanting sympathy. I speak out because I have taught my kids (yes these kids are MY KIDS) to embrace who they are, and learn to love themselves. To stick up for one another and to stand up against those who harm any of their own. I speak out for once in my life, to show MY KIDS that I too, have to live up to the expectations I have set forth for them.
To Valor Christian, I pray that the students and faculty who are silently battling accepting who they are, realize that the morals of the school and the beliefs of certain individuals do not get to decide if they are worthy of God’s love. I pray that I can be a beacon of light for those who you so openly shun. I also thank you for allowing me the opportunity to take your students under my wings and provide them with a safe haven on and off the court.
I express my love and gratitude for the parents of these kids, who have stuck by me and have spoken out against a School that hides behind hate, fear, and fake, ungodly love. My prayers and love for you are infinite, along with my gratitude. You are my family. Your love and support is humbling. That also goes to my family and friends who have helped me realize that I am worthy of God’s love. And that I am worthy to share that love with the world. To MY KIDS – I truly love you with all my being and continue to be on your sideline cheering for your success as an athlete, student, human, and a child of a loving God. No man on earth is worthy to take away or discredit my unconditional love that I have for you. Thank you for helping me realize that being a coach is a sacred calling from God – I am forever grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given to learn and grow with and from you. Thrive in your faith by leaving the 99, and finding the 1. “Be thou an example of the believers.”
To the little Tongan boy who was always silenced by ignorant counsel from earthly men, I am becoming the leader, coach, mentor, and brother that you needed. I am becoming who God wanted you to have. And I am helping those who are suffering just as you did. My identity will not be defined by a few men in a room full of self-righteous egos, who will never be worthy enough to tell me my worth. The lack of love these men and others have for me is fulfilled by the eternal love that my God has for me. With that love God shares with me, I will continue to share it with them, and all those who need it, regardless of what they believe.
See the original IG post below:
Watch the video below of Inoka speaking on his experience:
Shout out to Inoke Tonga for standing firm in his truth and his faith.
His story is powerful, and I’m sure it will encourage and inspire many to be honest with themselves and stand up for what they believe in.