How do LGBT students thrive at conservative Christian colleges?
Will conservative Christian universities have to accept there are LGBT students in their classrooms?
More and more LGBT students at conservative Christian colleges and universities are trying to find ways to reconcile their sexual and religious identities.
The New York Times profiled Kate Kane, the pseudonym of a blogger in her 20s. The recent graduate of Patrick Henry College, a Virginia school known for its traditionalist pedigree, is a lesbian and runs QueerPHC. The blog is for gay, lesbian and ‘otherwise unstraight students and alumni’ of the school.
‘It was very isolating,’ Kane described her experience at Patrick Henry. ‘And it was also very confusing, because growing up in a very conservative, fundamentalist environment, and going to a school with a similar environment, my sexuality was very repressed. I didn’t even know I was queer until a few years into my college experience.’
When Kane’s site started to get noticed by the media, Michael P. Farris, the school’s founder and chancellor, threatened to sue claiming copyright infringement. That warning was walked back and he focused on Kane’s alleged honor code violations.
‘I am taking a reporter’s word for it that one alumna has self-identified as a lesbian,’ Farris said to the paper. ‘Does that surprise me? No. Disappoint me? Yes. She violated the honor code for four years. She does not believe what we believe, and she said she did.’
Kane denies the charge, noting when she was a student she and the scbool were on the same page about LGBT sexuality: no one is created gay by God.
This story highlighted something evangelical universities are going to have to handle. More and more of their students are coming out, either on campus or after graduation. Earlier this month Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Fleck, an alumnus of Liberty University, made news by saying he’s gay. Rev. Jerry Falwell is Liberty’s founder, and the deceased minister was infamous for his anti-gay politics.
The New York Times article named a number of alumni groups from conservative Christian colleges offering support to LGBT students. There was even a hint that these schools are not what they were 30 years ago. Paul W. Wiens, a retired music teacher from Wheaton College, noted to the paper that three decades ago it would have been impossible for a student to come out. Now he thinks a majority of the faculty of the Illinois college would stand behind civil unions, and gay students talk to the chaplain about their sexuality concerns.