Tonight was the first part of our two-part visit to Hardin Simmons University (HSU) in Abilene, TX. Our visit to HSU was prompted by a faculty termination policy that equates “homosexuality” to incest and sexual abuse of children in a list of “acts and lifestyles deemed sexually immoral.” The policy also has wording that makes acceptable the firing of faculty members due to disability. Additionally, HSU has an anti-bullying policy that leaves gender identity and sexual orientation out—implying that queer students are not protected from harassment based on their identities.
I was grateful tonight for the boldness and persistence of our group of 25, extemporaneously driving home the urgency of the need to shift this policy and to be proactive allies for LGBTQ students. I was also grateful for the frankness returned by the faculty with whom we met and broke bread, and with their willingness to listen and engage. The administration made promises to revisit their anti-harassment policy, and consider ways to better protect their LGBTQ students. We talked about concrete ways to end silence and make Hardin Simmons an environment where students feel safe and loved.
While we spent much of our time talking about ways that LGBTQ students are silenced, and how this silence is dangerous and harmful to them, we often forget to make the other side of the coin known–how wonderful it is to include queer people, to get to know queer people, and to welcome queer people into communities. Tonight, Caitlin MacIntyre spoke up about grace and love in the midst of a conversation about hurt and fear.
I think we forget sometimes in during the course of this difficult work the importance of celebration. Of celebrating our identities, our unique abilities as folks who have overcome being told that we should hide our gender identities or that our love is wrong. Caitlin let the room know just how much transgender and queer people have enriched her life, have fed her spirit, have helped her become more brave and beautiful. In doing so, she let them know what they were missing out on by silencing their community, and suppressing the full expression of who people are and how fully they love. LGBTQ people know what being whole and true is well, because they have experienced being asked to be less than whole. LGBTQ people have much to teach about love, grace, and bravery.
In Waco Tuesday, after a long day of conversation with students—many of whom were apathetic, some of whom thought that LGBTQ people needed to be prayed for but not accepted on campus—we celebrated. LGBTQ and allied Baylor students came to a nearby park and celebrated with us. We danced, we sang, we read poetry, we spoke out about the ways multiple oppressions—not just homophobia and transphobia, but racism, classism, ableism, ageism—have intersected and hurt our lives, and we talked about how good it feels when we affirm each other as who we are. I’m energized for another month of awareness-raising, and another month of celebrating.