Why the #GiveBackIX Campaign is Vital to the Safety of LGBTQI Students at Christian Colleges
Organizers Protest Title IX Exemptions at Biola University February 9, 2016. Photo Credit: Joseph Olvera.
College was never something I thought a lot about growing up. I came from a background with an ingrained understanding that school was where you went to memorize facts, learn from experts, and never question their authority. But I do remember feeling strongly about going Christian college because I wanted my faith to be my own and not something simply inherited from my family or church community. So when I entered the world of higher academia, I realized for the first time that I could ask questions and I could trust myself.
I was a proud first generation college student whose family sacrificed their life savings to send me to my dream Christian school, but when I came out everything changed. I couldn’t stand sitting quietly as a professor made homophobic comments in the classroom, I couldn’t stand constantly being in fear of losing my leadership position or on campus job, and I couldn’t stand lying to myself every day anymore.
When I was a student at Azusa Pacific University I didn’t know anything about capital “O” Organizing. The queer group I was a part of met in a garage and protested with t-shirts and sharpies. We didn’t have a strategic plan or a budget or a political analysis. All we knew was that our friends were hurting and someone had to do something about it. And I think at the root of it, activism is really as simple as that. But Title IX isn’t just about someone’s feelings getting hurt; it’s about systemic discrimination and marginalization.
Title IX isn’t just about LGBTQI students in faith-based institutions. It’s about our families, it’s about the greater Christian community, and it’s about the world. It’s about dismantling a legacy of Christian fundamentalism that has historically excluded and stripped resources from vulnerable communities. It’s about parents and grandparents who left everything they had and knew behind so future generations could have a better education. It’s about creating safe spaces for people to dialogue, think critically, and grow spiritually. It’s about debunking the myth that you have to choose between being a Christian and all the other identities God gave you. It’s about educators not having to pick between investing in and building trust with students and making a living. It’s about holding our universities accountable to be the community we’ve dreamed of and are working hard to create.
When I think about who Title IX exemptions affect, I think about the student athletes, resident advisors, and hospitality workers who are invested in the campus community while also working hard to afford next semester’s tuition. I think about all the people who care enough about their schools to want to make them better. I think about faculty and staff who go beyond the call of their job descriptions and display the most courageous acts of love and conviction I’ve ever witnessed by speaking out for their students.
But also I think about students whose parents work at the institution and can’t afford to send their children anywhere else. I think about prospective students who don’t realize how harmful unaffirming policies are until it’s too late. I think about transgender students in extremely gendered freshmen halls. I think about bodily health and safety. I think about mental health. I think about survival.
That’s why we’re asking students at these schools to come together and build bridges between movements. We’re asking faculty and staff to stand in solidarity with their students. We’re asking local faith communities to reach out to the Queer and Transgender students at these universities. And we’re asking Christian colleges to #GiveBackIX and affirm our right to be our authentic selves without endangering our lives or our education.
If you are a current student and would like to help organize a response to Title IX exemptions at your school, sign up to be a campus advocate and join us on our next National Campus Strategy Call on February 21st. If you are a faculty or staff member, faith leader, or simply a concerned community member, sign our statement of solidarity to let our students know you support them and stay updated on our campaign. Or click here to learn more about Title IX and ways to be involved.