GSA week brings conversations on sexuality

Events challenged Whitworth to consider the issues surrounding homosexuality during GSA week April 15-20. The week was kicked off with a showing of the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So,” which junior Nicholas Dennis, a member of Whitworth’s GSA, said examines biblical passages that are often seen as condemning homosexuality.

On Thursday night, GSA put on “Coming Out Stories.”

“It was freakin’ sweet, the turnout was awesome,” Dennis said. “It was really exciting to see that many people interested in it.”

That event invited people to come to the coffee shop to hear the stories of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) members of Whitworth’s community.

“Some people told their own stories, others read stories on behalf of their friends,” Dennis said.

Senior theatre major Michael Seidel, whose senior project was incorporated into GSA week, said he was excited about the event, too.

“I think it’s important for the LGBT members to get their stories out,” Seidel said. “Because I think members of the straight community can’t understand what the LGBT community members have to go through and their struggles without talking with them and dialoguing with them.”

Senior Amanda Blunt, GSA Club president, said she used to be conservative on the issue until she experienced what Seidel described, making friends with people for whom those issues are a part of daily life.

“Regardless of what your dogmatic stance is, we need to be intentional about the way we are treating our fellow students and our fellow human beings,” Blunt said.

On Tuesday, Seidel gave his senior project in conjunction with a faculty and staff panel.

Seidel’s project was an interactive theatre starting with a scene of heterosexism. The actors repeated the scene, allowing audience members to replace characters and attempt to catalyze an intervention to resolve the oppression.

“We saw a lot of possible interventions,” Seidel said. “Some were very effective and some not, some good in the short term but would have been very difficult in the long term, some difficult short term but would have been good in the long term.”

Seidel said the project seemed to successfully touch hearts. He said that was more important than sheer number of people in the audience, which topped 100.

“From the people I’ve talked to, they all almost unanimously said it was an important project,” Seidel said. “So yes, I think it was successful. We won’t know until we see how people treat each other, though.”

He said he was most impressed and excited when he saw people who were usually silent stand up and speak their opinions on topics that are not easy to address. He said his biggest hope was that people who saw the show would be more likely to act to end hatred in the future.

Another event during GSA week was Day of Silence on Friday.

Junior Courtney Bagdon, a member of GSA and participant in Day of Silence, said the day is spent silent by participants in support of those who are silent due to their sexual orientations.

“It gives a way for straight allies to stand with LGBT without getting carried away,” Seidel said.

On Wednesday night Whitworth President Beck Taylor put on a panel called “Courageous Conversations.”

That panel included two Whitworth professors: professor of theology James Edwards and professor of political science Julia Stronks. There were also two Whitworth trustees: Scott Dudley, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, and David Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College.

Each would give a view from his or her own field and the goal would be to expand the conversation, Taylor said at the beginning  of the panel. Rather than trying to change people’s minds so everyone left thinking in the same way, he said he hoped everyone would leave feeling heard.

Each panelist discussed a different viewpoint on the issue of sexual orientation. Edwards discussed the biblical view, saying feelings of homosexual desire are separate from acts of homosexuality and that the Bible clearly condemns the actions.

Dudley discussed the issue from a pastoral viewpoint. He went on to say that the important issue isn’t just whether the person is homosexual, but whether they are growing in Christ.

Myers spoke on the scientific research, showing genetic and biological correlations that indicate homosexuality as an inborn trait for some humans. He said he believed all people deserved to be in committed family relationships — homosexual or heterosexual, but discouraged the school from institutionally pushing a political stance.

Stronks discussed the issue of civil rights. She asserted that all people deserve governmental blessings regardless of our religious stance and that, as a Christian, she said she feels it’s her duty to stand up for the oppressed of society. Reflecting on the week as a whole, Seidel said he was happy with the way it has affected the campus.

“I’m glad that this topic has been talked about and been talked about so much,” Seidel said. “This is no longer an issue that a small part of the student body is talking about. The whole student body is engaging in important dialogue.”

 

Story by Brianna Wheeler Staff Writer

Photography by Linnea Goold

 

Contact Brianna Wheeler at briannawheeler13@my.whitworth.edu.