We have perhaps all heard, “It was ‘Adam and Eve,’ not ‘Adam and Steve!’” Now that I have your attention, let’s talk. Where have you heard this? At home? At the newspaper stand? On a blog? On campus?
Whitworth University is known for being a Presbyterian college where “an education of mind and heart” is pursued by its diverse student body. Programs such as chapel, Hosanna and small groups are easily accessible, prayer is a common sight in Sodexo and in class, and professors are eager to reveal how applicable their concentration of studies is to the Bible and Christian life. So where does the homosexual community fit into this equation?
Let me tell you — they fit right here, at Whitworth. Like everyone else at this college, they are paying the exact same tuition and hoping to graduate within their first four years of college. Many may question the logic of gays and lesbians attending a Christian university, due to foreseeable conflicts of opinions on the matter of homosexuality. However, Whitworth maintains a neutral stance on the subject. This being said, where are the proverbial Adam and Steve?
I had the pleasure of speaking with junior Caitlyn Davis, one of the co-presidents of Open Conversation: Gay-Straight Association, an ASWU-recognized club on campus, started by students for the students. Davis said the most significant issue identified by the gay members of her club (which she can estimate to be about five of the 30 members; the rest are straight “allies” or supporters) is that they lack a sense of safety to be able to share with the public that they are homosexual, without fear of judgment or negative reaction. I asked her if she, being one of the few students who is open about her homosexuality on campus, had ever experienced the judgment or negative responses that others are worried about. For the most part, her experience being “out” at Whitworth has been positive. “A lot of people I’ve talked to are really open about it,” she said. “They may not agree with it, but they do support me. They love me for me. Not a lot of Christian universities have that neutral stance on [homosexuality].”
However, the co-president did mention that the student body is certainly missing out, due to the lack of open conversation about the matter. She recounted an instance in a biology class when a male student claimed that one could identify gays by looking at them.
“He said that [gays] wear flannel, women don’t shave...And then he said that all lesbians are ugly,” she said, frowning. “That’s the part that really upset me. I asked him, ‘What if a really hot girl walks up to you and tells you she’s gay?’ He just replied that there was no way she could be gay, because she’d be too hot.”
Why am I bringing up such a touchy subject? I want to lay this out there: We, as a student body, are missing out on a wonderful opportunity “to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity,” as the Whitworth mission statement calls us to do. In light of this, we should respond in two ways as a community.
First, we must work to encourage and expand the safe environment that some, such as the co-president of GSA, see at Whitworth. Second, we must seek to benefit from the courageous conversation that will result from inviting another diverse community to be comfortable to proudly have an influential voice on campus.
How do we achieve these goals?
1) Promote the Gay-Straight Association. This club is ASWU-recognized and is open to anyone — gay, straight, or otherwise. At about 30 members now, they hope more students will come to know they exist and will feel comfortable coming to their meetings or talking to anyone in the club, if they are interested. The club provides a safe and non-judgmental environment, as well as an option to maintain anonymity if desired. “There’s a safe place for [gays and lesbians] to come. We can talk about whatever,” Davis said. “We want you to feel open here — no judgment.” Expect to see them around campus, hosting events and getting their name out there. For more information, visit their Facebook page: Open Conversation: Gay-Straight Association.
2) Continue the culture of love. When I asked Davis what Whitworth is doing right, she answered, “The Whitworth atmosphere is very supportive and that’s really great for us, because a lot of times in GSA, people ask, ‘Who’s going to judge us? How will people react?’” She added, “Whitworth helped a lot with helping me figure things out, being gay with my faith.” By continuing to show Christ-like love and support to the gay community on campus, we not only allow members of our student body to feel safe and equal at this school, but permit ourselves to grow as well.
By no means am I begging you to put down your opinions about the religious, political or social propriety of homosexuality. Rather, I am encouraging you to promote the Christian message that is key to Whitworth’s mission. We are given this command: to love one another in the same fashion that we desire to be loved; to love as God loves every one of us.
By Rosie Brown