Ever wonder what it's like for our LGBTQI family on Christian campuses across the country?

There are over 200 Christian colleges and universities that discriminate against LGBTQI students, faculty, and staff. 

That discrimination takes the shape of erasure, firing, loss of scholarship and campus jobs, harassment, and expulsion.

Approximately 100 of these schools get to play in the NCAA, and about 30 of those have actively sought

anti-Trans Title IX waivers in the last few years.

Action report from the 2017 Give Back IX season.

The first time I joined a gay club at my conservative christian university, it was held at a senior's apartment after dark, and we literally crept across campus housing in groups no bigger than 2 at a time, because we were so afraid some one would find out about us.

 

I can say from personal experience that there are trans folks and gender-nonconforming folks at conservative christian universities, about as often as there are red heads. We tried not to walk home at night alone, because sometimes trucks full of boys with giant confederate flags would drive around revving their engines and yelling slurs, and we all knew, if anything happened, the school would have their backs and not ours.

 

When I was going to my conservative christian university, there were LGBT students breaking down in tears about every week, and we tried so hard to get somebody on the outside to hear us because we knew our own administration would not.  There are young queer, gay, non-conforming students at religious schools going through that exact same thing today, and the NCAA can be that outsider that lets these kids know somebody cares, somebody will stand up for them.

We are living in times where hate has been emboldened, where we see legislators around the country trying to regulate who people love, how people should express themselves, and fit everyone in a box so they can be controlled. Religious colleges and universities are hiding their bigotry behind their faith, and when I was going to a college, facing discipline if I held hands with someone of the same sex was the least of my worries. But the policies justified every other act of discrimination and violence towards my community.  That's why it’s crucial that organizations like the NCAA stand up against policies of discrimination."

Elizabeth Cirelli, GSA founder at Azusa Pacific University

We at Biola Equal Ground obviously think the most recent executive order regarding the rollback of transgender protections under Title IX is a step backward for the country as a whole and a step backward in protecting equal rights for LGBTQ students at Christian Universities.

 

We expect every Christian campus to recognize this and to recognize who their true authority is. Failure to embrace the LGBTQ community and transgender community on their campuses is a failure within their Christian duty. And a failure of the Christian message altogether.

 

Until the Church and Christian universities grow to reflect the love of Christ and embrace everyone, we support organizations such as Soulforce responding in such a measure that holds them accountable for that which the federal administration won't. We also call on other organizations such as the NCAA to reinforce their values of diversity, inclusion, and safety by divesting from religious figures fighting for the deregulation of discriminatory laws.

Erin Green from Biola University

There are not sufficient words for how much of a stigma I have experienced being openly queer at my university. In spite of my school's commitment to Christian ethics of love and respect, I am frequently erased, undermined, and required to work twice as hard for half as much voice as my cisgender and heterosexual peers receive. My few LGBTQI friends and I are consistently singled out by administrators, professors, and fellow students. I have been forced into meetings, counseling sessions, and Bible studies under the implicit threat of loss of scholarship and respectable academic standing. I have never been treated as a "normal" student; it feels as if I have had a target on me since the moment I came out. I wish I could say this language was exaggerative, but short of my close friends and family who have kept me sane and motivated, I feel that it is a daily struggle to simply be acknowledged and affirmed for who I am, much less contribute as a valued member of my academic community.

 

To be affirmed by the NCAA would be a significant game changer in the campus climate regarding LGBTQI students. Especially at Christian universities, it feels that no one is willing to call out discrimination for what it is. I am often written off by peers for "choosing a school I should have known wouldn't agree with me," but the simplest reality is that this school was the most financially advantageous option for me. Furthermore,  I assert that disagreement is never a justification for discrimination and no one, regardless of who they are, should expect to be met with the kinds of demeaning rhetoric and systemic antagonism that myself and my LGBTQI peers have faced. We are reaching a point where it is imperative that someone be willing to stand up for us and demand that these schools be held accountable for their actions, whether or not their beliefs coincide with each individual student. Sports are a tremendous social force, both for my campus and the nation, and especially tragic is that the LGBTQI students I know who participate in athletic programs on campus are more targeted than those in almost any other department. In simplest terms: a protective endorsement from the NCAA would be the most direct restoration of humanity for LGBTQI students at my school in the history of this institution. This is not about forcing religious people to change their minds, it is about securing dignity and equity for all people, regardless of what they believe. Now more than ever, we need people who are willing to fight for us.

Joss Yarbrough at Lipscomb University

As a queer student athlete that attended Biola for my 4 consecutive seasons, my senior year I dealt with deep depression which manifested as anger. One of the things that caused my depression/anger issues was the fact that I felt no one on my team really knew me, when I was spending multiple hours a day with these girls. They knew every part of my life, except my small secret; I was queer. My attractions didn't fit the Biola mold, which made me feel like I had to keep a part of me hidden. I hid for 3 out of the 4 years while attending Biola (I realized I was queer the summer going into my sophomore year). I hid because I was fearful I would ruin/hinder the team chemistry, and or because I was concerned my coaches would not let me play because I wasn't abiding by "contract". Once I finished my last soccer season, I have never felt more relief and baggage lifted from my body. Although I was not finished with school yet, but with soccer career over I felt free to be away from a mold I did not fit.

 

I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to be trans and to play on a sports team while at Biola. Being LGBTQI in general is extremely difficult while attending Biola. Although Biola presented an uninviting environment at times, I would not give up my time at Biola for anything. I met my best friends (who identify as LGBTQI) who helped me survive some of the craziest and toughest times of my life. The Lord brings together those who need each other.

Anonymous Student at Biola University

Your Story Counts.

 

What is it like being LGBTQI on your religious campus?

 

Build connections, educate others, and inform our strategies.

 

Your identity will be protected and your story will shape our work together.

I want my school to be a place of constant learning. Students should be able to focus on their academics and grow into the adults they want to be without having politics constantly looming above their heads. Liberty should value God and its students over anything else--valuing people is far

more important than valuing politics.

Anonymous Student at

Liberty University

Participate in the 2018 Give Back IX Initiative

"Solidarity Love Letters"

Being queer on my conservative Christian campus robbed me of developmental and social experiences my peers enjoyed. Not only did my sexuality affect my dating life, it also affected my friendships. The discrimination against queer students is not contained to administrators, professors, or staff; it extends to other students, who are emboldened to continue in homophobic attitudes and actions by a university that does not protect queer students and never challenges that homophobia and bigotry. In addition to the harassment, erasure, and hostility I faced from professors and staff, I also dealt with the ignorance and fear of my fellow students, and the resultant loss of social life and friendships.

 

My time at Lipscomb stole an important part of my life from me, one I will never get back. While I do not regret the time I spent advocating for better treatment for queer students, I remain deeply saddened that homophobic policies and actions were prioritized over my health, well-being, and dignity as a human being.

Should an institution such as the NCAA choose to call member schools to account for their treatment of queer students, it would send a powerful message not only to faculty and staff at those schools, but also students—straight and queer alike—who are isolated within their institutions. It sends a message to students who have never had to examine their homophobia: that discriminatory behaviors and actions are intolerable violations of the rights and dignity of others. Some of these students have never critically questioned whether or not it is morally right to treat other human beings with less respect because of the person they happen to love, and a firm message of nondiscrimination from a nationally recognized (and loved) organization would go propel these discussions forward. At the same time, it would also provide queer students with a powerful protection, as sports teams are often a prized possession of these universities, something they are loath to lose. If administrators realized that their discriminatory actions would be held to account by powers outside of the university, they would be much less likely to treat queer students with the same level of impunity.

Anissa Plattner from

Lipscomb University

Soulforce works to end the political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people through relentless nonviolent resistance.

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