GayTaylor

LGBT Alumni & Allies of Taylor University

Month: December, 2013

Speak Out: we LGBTIQ Taylor U alumni and allies can make our voices heard

Image

Gradually, queer voices are making themselves heard across the Christian college landscape. Taylor University is not the only evangelical educational institution to find itself promoting messages and policies harmful to the psyche and spirit of students. I was on the OneWheaton site recently and am inspired by what other college alumni are doing to reach out to current students. I’ve long felt a need for this with regards to Taylor, and have been involved in past efforts to connect. I’m willing to step forward and see where the path might lead in 2014.

My immediate thoughts: explore the interest, network and connect with Taylor Uinversity alumni, lgbtiq-identified and allies. Now that we’ve found ourselves, let’s find each other. Then let’s collaboratively reach out to current students, offering a message of hope and acceptance different than that espoused on Taylor’s campus. All this not in a combative spirit, but in sincere concern, genuine regard and the perspective that lived experience gives.

We might include an open letter to current students, along the lines of the one posted at One Wheaton, that one signed by over 600 alumni, both lgbt persons and allies.

We might include our own stories as testimony to what we’ve learned about ourselves and integrating our varying sexualities into our lives as whole persons.

If you’re interested in being a part of this project, please email me a note to that effect: lgbtu2@gmail.com

United, our voice will be better heard.

Disclaimers:

This effort is not endorsed by Taylor University. But you knew that.

This photo has been modified. the original is by Rick von Glahn, Rickvg at flikr.com, 2006. No endorsement made or intended by the photographer or subjects.

How does a coward speak truth to power? Softly.

By temperament, I am a shy and retiring wallflower. Confrontation is not my forte. Very probably I am an ideal candidate for assertiveness training. So far I’ve chosen to muddle through on my own recognizance.

Not that I haven’t or can’t stand up for myself, mind. Rather that I often choose not to. I prefer to pick my battles, and to limit their number.

Is this wisdom? Cowardice? A bit of both?

grizzly2a

Among my acquaintances is a fearsome battle-axe of a woman. She thrives on drama and drives her way through life over the bodies of those who stand in her path. She regales her listeners with tales of her fortitude: the time someone didn’t do what she ordered and she took a sledgehammer to their house, punching a hole in their defenses. Another time, in order to make a point, she cut a living room couch in half with a chainsaw.

Anytime she buys an inferior product she’s the bane of customer service. She gets a lot of energy from confrontation and from getting her own way.

Part of me is attracted to her. I stand in awe of her talent and abilities. I admire her strength of will, her cussed determinedness. Her willingness to be her own advocate. I could learn a thing or two from her.

In fact, I already have, and it hasn’t been pretty.

I acted foolishly, though in good faith. I placed my trust in her and made myself vulnerable to her. She used this to her advantage, and how. The details still shock me. Suffice to say she wiped her feet all over me, with consequences that are still making themselves felt in many areas of my life.

In the aftermath, I did have the sense to distance myself from her. I cannot avoid her altogether as we both serve a specialized target population via an organization that regularly brings us into face-to-face contact.

Enter fate. In recent weeks her choke-hold on life has begun to loosen; her stance of being in control begun to fall apart in serious and irremediable ways. She faces medical issues far beyond her scope, way out of her control. When I first learned of this I thought, “serves you right.” Then I felt pity that anybody should have to go through what she is. Later I felt compassion to learn she has a limited support system, no one to talk to about her feelings or what she’s going through. This came out in a discussion we were having. I took it as a sign of her being at wits end that she should say anything about it to me. At the same time she suddenly became much more human. Seeing her vulnerable side, seeing the mighty brought low, made her approachable.

I’ve opted for kindness and genuine regard. I’ve asked her questions, listened to her voice her fears, tried to create a space where she could be herself without the bluster. She has surprised me in responding in what I take to be an authentic way. I feel for what she is going through, am willing to bear witness to her suffering. I have no answers for her. I think they are all inside of her, such as they are, waiting to be discovered.

As she walks alone into the unknown, faces an especially difficult stage in her journey, I wanted to speak my truth to her. I gave her a homemade card with a threatening bear on the cover of it.

I took a chance and spoke frankly about how she comes across to me.

grizzly2a2 copy

Inside the card I describe the little girl I suspect she carried around with her, her inner child. Surely all that outward gruffness masks a softer core.

grizzly2a3

I conclude with a sincere wish that makes no promises about a happy resolution to her situation, envisions no Disney ending to her story. It feels real to me. It feels honest. It rings true for me. And it feels like in some small way I am speaking truth to power.

grizzly2a4

Really, I suppose, I am voicing a truth I need to hear, as well. Inside me–inside each of us–is a vulnerable childlike spirit that needs tending, want attention, benefits from self-care. No matter who we are, no matter how strong we appear.

 

Who’s afraid of the big bad _____________?

Image

It catches my eye, Time magazine’s photo spread accompanying a story on the uptick in wildlife populations across the United States. A whitetail deer is caught in the glare of the camera’s flash while standing in a Wisconsin motel room; a moose wanders through the greensward of an Anchorage, Alaska apartment complex; a wild turkey perches on a patio table in a Twin Cities suburb; an 11-foot alligator curls up in the doorway of a home in Florida.

Of these, the photograph that most unnerves me is the gator guardian. This is in part because I have had little exposure to large-toothed scaly reptiles. Of deer there are aplenty in Indiana (though I’ve yet to meet one face-to-grill); I’ve spent enough time in moose country to have been warned off them, know to let them alone and not get between a cow and her calf; I’ve chased a wild turkey on foot down a state highway north of Kokomo; but I’ve never met an alligator in the flesh, much less given thought to stepping out of my front door and onto one.

It’s the old story: we fear what we do not know. We in the Midwest are famously afraid of living in California because an earthquake will some day deposit the entire state with a mighty splash in the Pacific Ocean. When the subject comes up we comfort ourselves with apocryphal tales of Californians who are deathly afraid of Midwestern tornadoes, icy roads or snow. All to say we’re better off than those poor schmucks. For pity’s sake, they even go so far as to think we’re the schmucks. We know better, of course. Our fears are justified. Theirs are misplaced.

Instead of wildlife, what if Time magazine had run four pictures of human beings? Whose portraits might the editors have chosen to unnerve the reader? I imagine a good many of my neighbors, former friends and colleagues might be spooked by photographs of LGBT persons. Sure, we’ve come a ways in acceptance and tolerance, but not so very far. Last week our local paper carried a news item about a man who attacked two male college students because he believed they were gay.

Image

What is it to be a self-identified LGBT or Queer student at Taylor University today? Via the grapevine I hear mixed messages. According to some reports there’s a certain level of acceptance, at least among some students. Other accounts say the intolerance is widespread, not so very different than when I was declared persona non grata by what passed for the Taylor community. As one who has come to terms with his gender variance, I sometimes smile to think how very frightening I am to the uninformed, the willfully ignorant, the hidebound religious. (I am scary, of course. I challenge their beliefs, their stereotypes, their neat little ordered views of the world.) Ooo-woo. Big scary me. Better to push me out, put me down, to assault me or anyone else who threatens the received wisdom that puts heterosexism at the center of the known universe.

Are you following me? There’s some truth to what I’m saying—but do you hear it? There’s also a strong whiff of “For pity’s sake, at least I’m better off than those poor schmucks who are crazy enough to be afraid of me.” Damn. There are days I wish my world were as cut-and-dried, as us-and-them as I once made it out to be. It’s not. It never was. Never will be.

The fact remains, I’ll never be altogether free of the fear of the unknown. Until after I die, if then. What about you? Whom could the photo editors choose to feature if they were looking for people who would come across as scary to you?

Image

Something to think about.