Harding University Students Speak Out

The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.

Yesterday, lesbian and gay students at Harding University, a Christian University in Arkansas, spoke out with a self-published zine. The zine was written anonymously by a number of students that identify as the H.U. Queer Press as they feared that revealing their identities could cause them to be “expelled or put into therapy” by their university.

As the group states that their main purpose is to share their personal stories with Harding students, faculty, and staff, the piece starts off with the following:

‘Hello to all students, faculty, administration, staff, alumni, and the beloved donors of Harding University. We are the H.U. Queer Press, and we are presenting our first ever publication. This zine is a self-published work intended to bring attention to the lives and issues of demoralized minorities.’

We at The Marin Foundation felt that it could be beneficial to share this zine as it provides an opportunity to simply listen to and learn from voices that are not always heard, that being lesbian and gay Christians while they are still enrolled at a Christian university. Their stories bring some light to the feeling of being silenced and the anger and hope that can go along with being in that state. Some snippets reveal bits of what it was like for some to discover that they were lesbian or gay, something that is often a foreign concept growing up in a Christian context:

I’d never thought I might be a lesbian. I heard people in church talk about the dangers of the GAY AGENDA and knew several people who were part of the boycott against Disney for their support of homosexuality, but I’d never known any gay people or seen them on TV or read about them in books. They were like those mythological creatures who ran amok in far lands causing all manner of sinful, AIDS-ridden chaos.’

Some stories are unabashedly intimate and raw and others speak to fears while calling for support.

‘If there’s anything I need right now, it’s to know that my fellow students don’t hate me. We need it. We need people who aren’t afraid to say that they’ll love us no matter what. We’re in a place that hides us behind lies (an action that we’re supposed to fight against as Christians, I think). We’re scared that our peers will abandon and shun us, scared that our college experience is going to be horrendous and miserable, scared, if for no other reason, that we’ll be forced to choose between being with someone we genuinely love and doomed to spend an eternity in hell, or choose to be with Christ, but alone and miserable for the rest of our life on earth.’

Along with the snippets of personal stories, they touch on some of their thoughts on scripture, the need for LGBT people to have supportive friends and safe spaces, and their thoughts on the ‘gay lifestyle.’

Readers of this blog that identify with a more conservative outlook on faith and homosexuality may very well disagree with some of the sentiments and ideas that are expressed in the zine, but as always we ask that you try to use it as an opportunity to listen and let it be another window into the lives of others that informs how you seek to move forward in what it looks like to live out your faith in a way that honors both God and the LGBT community.

You can read the zine in its entirety here.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Jack Harris

    I have read snippets from this and I intend to share with a GLBT group on campus that advise. I want them to see how fortunate they are to have a fairly supportive college setting to be themselves. More importantly, I want them to learn that there most likely are people on OUR campus who feel like the students at Harding. The group I advise developmentally tend to be in the “Activist” stage of their queer identity and are therefore not always as welcoming to folks who are not at the same place they are.

    I think hearing the stories of the students at Harding will be useful for them. Thanks for sharing. — Jack

    • Kevin Harris

      Jack, do you have a resource that comes to mind related to the stages of queer identity that you mentioned? I have read something in the past as it relates to general stages that many individuals go through (from self-denial to acceptance and developing an activist mentality and generally moving toward assimilation within the broader culture) but particular resources are not coming to mind right now.

    • 1974 HU Grad

      I am GAY, and a 1974 HU graduate. My story is way to long to discuss here, but I will say that it has taked me 30 years to undo the the SHAME, HURT, FEAR, and TORMENT that I endured at HU and in the Church of Christ. I developed a phobia towards my own self and sexual identity,(homophobia) thanks to the teaching of HU and the Church of Christ.

      I learned early on that there was a part of me that was unlovable at best. To live with the fear of losing love is pure torment.

      I was a charter member of King’s Men, and I actually wrote the clubs constitution.

      I hope to share much more about myself in the future.
      RWG

      • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

        Thanks for sharing RWG! Hope to hear more some time. Much love.

        • RWG

          Many Thanks Andrew….
          I have read your book “Love is an Orientation.” How can I thank you enought for your hearts desire to bring healing to people like me. I also have read the works of Jeremy Marks at courage.org.uk and the writings of Jack Rogers.

          Sadly, I was told at Harding that I needed electro shock treatment for my ‘Illness” which I rejected. I hope my story will start the healing process to the thousands that continue to struggle and wrestle with their faith and I have.

          As a member of GCN (gaychristian network) and EC (Evangelicals Concerned), I have found the support I never thought possible.
          RWG

          • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

            ECTs to treat homosexual sexual orientation? What a joke. Thank God you rejected that recommendation.

            • HUgrad1974

              Yes, it seems like a terrible joke now, but at that time it was consider standard “treatment” by the medical profession. I was strong enought to go on, make a life for myself and try to make sense of the terrible joke I thought nature had played on me.

              Amazingly, now I have to deal with the shame that is put on me by the current generation for not coming out at 18.

              RWG

              • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

                You can’t reverse the past. There are plenty of gay and lesbian folks who didn’t come out in their teens or their 20s. It is what it is. No need to feel shamed.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Sadly, unless something has changed recently, Harding University has blocked this group’s website from its campus.

    You can read about it here:
    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2011/03/arkansas-christian-college-kids-launch.html

    and http://www.bdkeller.com/2011/03/something-powerful/.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      Here is a statement from Harding University’s President justifying their decision to block the website from their campus server (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qKNze-C3uk&feature=player_embedded). He finds the H.U. Queer Press website “offensive and degrading”. He found it insulting towards the college and its corporate belief system. He foud the title of the website to be vulgar. He believe that many of the articles — though heartfelt — are “vulgar and profane by anyone’s standards and the rhetoric is extreme”.

      He then reaffirmed that homosexuality is sexually immoral and can be grounds for suspension from the university. He said that bullying is bad. But he also believes that homosexuality is sinful. He disagrees that there is any merit to any pro-gay or gay-neutral interpretation of the Bible.

      FWIW.

  • Jack Harris

    Hi Kevin,

    This is probably the most well known identity development model. This may be the one you have already seen, its been out there for awhile but still useful I think :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Identity_Model
    http://multicultural.usf.edu/pdf/safezone/support_identity.pdf

  • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

    I know it’s hard for me to sound genuine when I ask this, since I am married … but why must anyone feel he/she is “doomed” to be “alone and miserable for the rest of our life on earth” if they choose to be with Christ, single and celibate?

    I understand that we were created for relationship with each other, but that happens on other significant levels than marriage. I still believe the story of David and Jonathan from the Old Testament speaks to the importance of intimate same-sex friendship that is not sexual or romantic in nature. If one seeks to live a full life, surrounded by friends and enjoying a meaningful relationship with Christ — and focusing outward rather than navel-gazing — who is to say that is not actually better than marriage?

    Marriage and sex are not the end-all, be-all of life, folks. There are other planes to aspire to. You can still feel quite alone in a marriage. You can neglect other healthy friendships and be too clingy to a spouse.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      Not everyone wants to live a celibate life. I’ve written this before, I’ll write it again: celibacy works best as a gift, not a tax. The apostle Paul believed that celibacy was the best option for us all. But he recognized that celibacy is not for everyone. Marriage is the solution for that.

      As for why someone feels doomed to be alone and miserable for the rest of their life… Well, that’s how they feel. And I know many others who feel the same way. I know next to nobody who has dreamed of living a life of celibacy. Most people I know instead dream of finding that special someone and growing old with that person.

      Why did you marry instead of surrounding yourself with friends and a meaningful relationship with Christ? I hear lots of people who believe that gay and lesbian people should remain single and be happy with that gift. Most of those people are married heterosexuals.

    • Teresa Ginardi

      Debbie,

      I find it hard to listen to people who aren’t in the boat we’re in. No offense to you, please. But, it’s just too easy to tell someone else how to go about their life, when they’re coming from a position of privilege … married with children. It’s like me, a while woman, trying to tell an African American what they should feel like being black.

      All the social recognition, personal fulfillment, etc. that goes with marriage vis-a-vis the paucity of any social recognition for single, gay persons is patently clear. Single, str8 people have the option at any time to step out of their singleness and pursue a relationship.

      Whether one feels alone in a marriage says nothing about the fact that that person can still feel acceptable in society, and wear their married state on their sleeve, be lauded for their anniversaries, have grief groups when widowed, etc.

      And, I don’t think bringing this to others’ attention is “navel-gazing”. That is being very dismissive of a real problem.

      Unless someone’s “been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt” … it’s really not the same, imo.

      • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

        Teresa, I really think you’ll get farther down the road toward some kind of peace or contentment if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. I can’t manufacture a perfect world for you. I can try to be understanding. I am not going to feel guilty because I am a married mother. I’ve been through my share of crap, too. Occasionally someone in my recovery group would play this card on me, and I would not let them sink into that pity party.

  • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

    “I know next to nobody who has dreamed of living a life of celibacy. Most people I know instead dream of finding that special someone and growing old with that person.”

    Of course, marriage is the ideal that is held out for us all from the time we are young. It is one ideal among ideals, however. No, people don’t likely long for a life of singleness and celibacy, but neither do all who live that life hate it. Paul said he had learned to be content in all circumstances, with both little and with much. That’s what “I can do all things through Christ” means. Contentment is the work of grace. If one does aspire to being “wed to Christ,” I think he will honor that in ways the rest of us can’t imagine.

  • nathalie a

    thank you sooo sooo much for sharing! this is why marin foundation is awesome! you bring the voices we often don’t hear about.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    I know it’s hard for me to sound genuine when I ask this, since I am married …

    To be honest, yes, it does sound hypocritical. But then that is a common problem with those who continually tell GLBTs how they should feel, live, be. You aren’t even living that ideal yourself. But if the person says they feel doomed by the thought of having no intimate mate in their lives, then that’s the way they feel. You denigrate them with your statements.

    Honestly, how many people in this world would answer the same way, that they would dread the idea of living without an intimate mate? The artificial ideal you set out for others to follow is absurd. Yes, if one is forced to live abandoned somewhere, in a prison camp or similar, one can count on Jesus to fill that void I think. But that is hardly the ideal, and one should not have to self-isolate oneself from an intimate relationship because of someone else’s interpretation of a moral code.

    Using close friends as a substitute for romantic intimacy often leads to overburdened friendships, distorted to meet the otherwise unmet needs of one or both parties. Don’t ex-gays constantly use the term “codependent” to describe such an arrangement? Is it any wonder why that happens among such individuals?

    Your constant jabs on these issues are like salt in the wounds of so many who have been beaten down by the Church and who are trying to heal — many in a way that allows them to hold onto their faith. You are a stumbling block, Debbie, and I really wish you would stop.

    • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

      What is it exactly that you want me to stop doing, David? You perceive what I am saying as a jab. It’s not. I am pointing out something that frequently gets overlooked. Am I being a “rock of offense” for you?

      Celibacy is not artificial. It is very real for a lot of people. I am not telling you or anybody how they should “feel, live or be.” Be yourself. Be happy. Cut your anger loose.

      • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

        Not a “rock of offense,” just offensive — especially when combined with what you say in other venues. You vacillate between thinking bridge-building is the greatest thing since sliced bread to a Falwellian position that is at odds with most everything Marin espouses.

        To someone who feels as the one who made the original comment, celibacy is most certainly an artificial existence. As for anger, perhaps some righteous anger, but mostly it’s the reaction I have to someone who tends to hurt others, demanding of them things which you don’t even demand of yourself. I hope I never lose that.

        At least I am the same wherever I post, Debbie. And I’ve never tried to make the case that one should exist with depression because it might be from God, or that one should take infertility as God’s message that one should not have a family. And I don’t shut down websites to escape responsibility for the things I have written.

        I’m going to leave it there, as I feel this is taking away from an otherwise good thread. I’m sorry to others for the rant.

        • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

          David, I think you are pointing out that maintaining a balance between truth and grace is like doing a high wire act. It looks like vacillation sometimes. It’s hard. But then Jesus knew that, didn’t he?

          Since I am not single and only would have the opportunity to live that life if I became a widow, I will cease trying to bring any points about living thus into my comments. I think the most useful perspective on the matter recently came from Richard in his interview here. I look for nuggets of truth or usefulness in others’ comments, even if they are not married “ex-gay” women. They don’t have to have walked in my shoes to have valid things to say.

          And since you persisted in the passive-aggressive personal attack on me that others find amusing (no, that is not righteous anger), I’ll call your bluff. When gay bloggers who fancy themselves some kind of gate keepers for truth or journalists on steroids decide to partake in near-libelous assaults on one’s character for no purpose other than a feeding frenzy, the victim of such attacks would be a fool to hope for engaging them in a legitimate dialogue. We’ve tried that at your house, remember? When it goes to actual threats and the sanctity of your home is violated, there is only one option.

          • Jack Harris

            Passive Aggressive? Oh Debbie. You are the Queen of passive aggressive. Often your remarks are excellent examples of micro aggressions. I realize you probably don’t realize what you are saying is offensive but they are.

            • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

              Oh, I realize some of it is considered offensive. The truth always offends. I guess I’ll have to take my lumps since I am in good company, then. Jesus gave us the last Beatitude for a reason. Elsewhere he said “Blessed is he who does not take offense at me.”

              • Jack Harris

                What truth is that Debbie?

              • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

                The truth that Jesus spoke, Jack. It’s in a great big book.

              • Jack Harris

                Thanks I have ready many times. I already believe in it. Thanks.

          • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

            We’ve tried that at your house, remember? When it goes to actual threats and the sanctity of your home is violated, there is only one option.

            Ok, this is a necessary reply because what you said requires clarification from Debbie. First, the “tried that at your house” refers to a post at XGW (my “house”) where one of our writers posted on a new venture by Debbie called “The Formers” (formerly gay). She was invited to comment and unfortunately went almost immediately into bits like:

            God’s truth is perceived as offensive to those who do not understand it. Remember Paul writing about the “natural man” for whom the truth is “foolishness.” I sometimes just forget when I am writing how biblically illiterate many people are, Christians included.

            It went downhill from there as you can imagine. Debbie confuses the offense described by Paul from simply being offensive by acting badly. And she uses that line as a response whenever she finds herself challenged.

            The part that concerns me here is the bit about “When it goes to actual threats and the sanctity of your home is violated, there is only one option.” I have no idea what that means and I expect Debbie to clarify that it has nothing to do with me.

            • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

              No, you made no threats or assaults on my character, David. Other than what you typically do, including here. You allowed others to do worse. But I am referring more to the beginning of last year. I wasn’t in your house then.

              I stand by what you quoted above. The “offense” Paul, Jesus and I refer to is not behaving badly. Call it what you will.

  • JJJonij

    It takes courage to do what the Harding gay students are doing. Good for them. As Troy Perry always said, “You have more gays in YOUR churches than we do in ours,” meaning evangelical and conservative churches.

    I tend to see this irony, that gays and lesbians are drawn to spirituality and faith, and that this powerful draw is a part of gay or lesbian identity. The early followers of Christ were told to leave traditions, to leave “biological” families and follow Christ. His ministry was among the outcasts, his male apostles followed him, again outside the hetero family unit. This pick up your shoes and follow me has a very powerful gay cultural resonance.

    So you feel this call to Christ, you head out to Harding, but surprise, you discover you are gay or lesbian! Now what?

  • JJJonij

    Part II: Then as a freshman at Harding, you do realize you are gay. This is a pretty common occurance, and happens a lot more than most heteros would believe. I always knew I was different even at a very early age, but I didn’t fall in love with a woman until I was a freshman in college. In high school, I wasn’t interested in boys at all, found them bores and sexist oppressors, had a powerful connection to feminism and the excitement of women’s liberation. So luckily for me, I didn’t come from a fundamentalist christian home, I went to a big 10 university with a very strong liberal network. Back in the day, we didn’t have a bunch of right wingers attacking gays night and day in the malestream the way they do now. So it was a different time.
    Yet, even in this rather mild environment, it was very difficult to come out, and I didn’t until I was a million miles away from home, fully self-supporting with a lot of bucks in the bank… only then did I come out.
    But those Harding students, what courage, what innocense. You just have to be touched by young gays and lesbians finding themselves no matter how conservative the atmosphere, no matter how bible thumping the bibles :-) No matter what, our people emerge from the coccoon, and their powerful attraction to Christ and their gay and lesbian spiritual selves go together. It’s only the straight people who don’t get this, but Jesus always got us, and he seems happy that we are shaking up the church once again.
    As for celibate, hey, let the straight people who go on and on about this walk the talk… it is hypocritical for any straight married person to tell gays to be celibate, although I’ve known hundreds of lesbian nuns over the years who led very powerful celibate lives, and then they came out as lesbians… hey shouldn’t they get points for when they did that ? :-)

  • http://themindfulminute.blogspot.com John Dao

    “or choose to be with Christ, but alone and miserable for the rest of our life on earth.”

    Ouch. There’s that lie again everyone tells themselves, “I need someone to be with me.” I don’t understand why in Christian Culture to be married is better than single when the opposite is preached in the Bible.

    Being a single man with a same-sex attraction, I find it such a blessing and a joy to be able to live solely for Christ. I am far from miserable and alone; I have mothers and brothers and sons and daughters far more than I could ever have married. I have mentors and teachers and disciples, but with them persecutions because people don’t understand me, my sexuality, or my desire not to date. I absolutely cannot relate to other men who ask me to pray about their lusts for women. I don’t know what that’s like.

    But learning this was the most liberating thing for me: I don’t have to be anyone or anything. I don’t have to be gay or straight or married or single. I just need to be who I am and who God made me to be. I’m content with that.

    Yes, I know not everyone was made to be single and I understand we are hardwired to not be alone but in community, but God sets the lonely in families and when we stop seeking him and instead a spouse to take care of our need for company, we commit idolatry. All I ask is people to be considerate of those who have chosen this path of singleness. I am tired of being pitied and looked down upon as incomplete, miserable, and alone and also tired of people trying to find me dates. My focus is on the Kingdom. Being single never bothered me before, so what’s maybe 50 more years?

    • http://www.debbiethurman.com Debbie Thurman

      Thank you, John. Maybe they will listen to you.

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

      John: I’m glad that celibacy is a good choice for you.

      However, it isn’t something desired by that particular H.U. Queer Press writer.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective and your story. :)

    • Jack Harris

      John,

      I am so glad you are happy with your direction in life. I think being comfortable in your own skin with regards to celibacy is wonderful. I am sure its very frustrating to hear when people judge you for it. I am in relationship with my same sex partner and I would NEVER judge anyone for their choice. Hope you are doing well and hopefully we will see you post on here more often.

      • http://themindfulminute.blogspot.com John Dao

        Thanks for your encouragement. Sorry I kinda went off on a rant, but I was wanted to say that being single/celibate isn’t as bad as people make it out to be! In a sense it takes about as much work to be happy single as it does in a relationship. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but both take work and both need to be rooted in Christ in order to flourish.

        • Jack Harris

          No worries. I am often go on rants here. It’s par for the course on this blog. :)

        • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

          John, I think the point is that there are people in this world — from all walks — who do not feel the same need for a mate that most of the population probably does. There is certainly no reason to denigrate anyone for such a life, it’s as valid as the next and some people do chose it for various personal reasons. But essentially “quilting” someone into it is just not right.

          I would also like to challenge you on your last statement, “both need to be rooted in Christ in order to flourish.” I suppose this would depend on your definition of “flourish” but are there really no good marriages (or lives) on the planet for those who do not believe in Christ?

          As a Believer, I understand your statement, but I find myself wondering if we don’t lose some credibility with others when we make statements like that which their own lives may disprove. I’m thinking out loud, nothing meant towards you.

        • Cheryl

          Thank you, John Dao.
          I’m in a similar situation and agree with you wholeheartedly. I just wish people – gays and straights alike – would stop assuming I’m miserable because I’m not in a relationship. I’m not miserable…
          (I started a long rant about this, but deleted it. Thanks for taking up the cause.)

  • jjJoniJ

    It never ceases to amaze me how conservative christians continue to lecture gay people on “the word of god.”


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