Patrick Henry College, Homeschool Bastion, Has LGBT Group

Now this is interesting. I have just recently learned that Patrick Henry College, founded by Home School Legal Defense Association founder Michael Farris as part of his plan to filter homeschool graduates into government and politics, has a group called Queer at Patrick Henry College.

We are Queer at Patrick Henry College. This is a collaborative blog produced by several Patrick Henry College (PHC) students, current and former. We have varying opinions and beliefs, but one thing we share in common is our desire to help and encourage other Patrick Henry College students, current and former, in any way that we can.

As of the start of this blog we are all anonymous contributors to this community, some for personal reasons, some for family/friend reasons, some for professional reasons, and some for a combination of the above.

Patrick Henry College maintains a requirement of non-advocacy for enrolled students in regards to LGBTQ issues, but those issues are near and dear to many of us. This blog has been created as a way for us to express our opinions and thoughts on LGBTQ related topics.

Patrick Henry College has blocked this Queer at PHC blog from their servers so as to keep students from viewing it. Exercising this sort of censorship over students it is simultaneously both praising as the nation’s only hope for the future and working to launch into government and politics through the gateway of prestigious internships seems bizarre. Of course, it’s important to remember that this is a university that originally required male students to get written permission from female students fathers’ before being allowed to date and still requires every couple to always have a chaperon. What you see here is the quintessential Christian homeschool problem. We grew up being told that we were members of the smartest, most mature, most intelligent, most promising group of young people in the country, but also being extremely sheltered from “the world” and existing in highly-controlled environments.

More than this, though, Patrick Henry College chancellor Michael Farris has already threatened to use legal means to shut down Queer at PHC’s facebook page. The group called his bluff and he backed down. The entire incident actually feels very typical of Farris. I spent a week at an educational camp at Patrick Henry College one summer while I was in high school, and at one point I approached Farris to talk to him. Mostly I just wanted to meet him, face to face, to say that I had. I had been raised to idolize him as the savior of homeschooling and a sort of visionary, and I held him in high respect. Much to my surprise, he brushed me off and acted like he was too important, too busy, to have anything to do with me. The entire experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. The way Farris comes off in the article about his threats of legal action against Queer at PHC is exactly how I remember him.

Anyway, I’m encouraged and a bit astounded that Patrick Henry College has an LGBT group. The reason I’m astounded is that I don’t know why anyone who is queer would choose voluntarily to go to Patrick Henry College. I mean, the entire point of the school is to train homeschool graduates in government so that they can go into politics and “take back the country for Christ.” At a talk during the educational camp I attended, Farris praised Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court decision that upheld bans on sodomy. He told us he very much feared that this decision would be overturned by the upcoming Lawrence v. Texas decision, which it was, but that he thought Bowers was good law. In other words, in Farris’s ideal world, homosexuality would be a crime.

Regardless of why the students of Queer at PHC are there – and it may be that some have little choice – I see this as a very good development. The LGBT groups that have been springing up in Christian schools from Grove City College to Bob Jones University in recent months are a sign of the forward march of equal rights in this country.

Edit: one of the co-founders of Queer at PHC emailed me to explain why she attended PHC, and what she says is the incredibly obvious point I was apparently too tired last night to see:

I would agree that it’s unlikely that someone who knows they are queer would voluntarily attend Patrick Henry College. But in my case, I didn’t begin to come to grips with my orientation until a few months before I graduated from PHC. I knew I liked girls, but I persuaded myself that it was just “this thing” that would go away after awhile. I didn’t even know the word “bisexual” until I was about 19. I was just that ignorant about the world and about myself. In addition, I didn’t have very many options for where I could attend college. As a female-bodied person raised in the Q/CP environment, my parents told me that it was important to get a college education so that I could raise well-educated children. But I had to go to a Christian school, and I had to find a college that would pay nearly full tuition in scholarships, because they would not cosign on a loan for me. In the end, Patrick Henry College was the school that fit the bill. I was unhappy with the school leadership within the first semester, but I stayed because I didn’t want to return to my life as a jobless stay-at-home child. I made some of my best friends at PHC, but I often wonder how my life would be different now had I gone to a school with a more affirming environment.

These are just my experiences, so other queer students and alumni at the school might have very different reasons for why they went to PHC and stayed there.

The Gothard-Sized Skeleton in HSLDA's Closet
Why It Matters That Farris Strawmanned Patriarchy
Voddie Baucham, Daughters, and "Virgin Brides"
Michael Farris's Selective Interest in Protecting Children
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Daniel Fincke
  • Andrea

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the members of Queer at PHC are closeted homeschoolers whose parents insisted they go there. Or students who only realized they were queer after enrolling.

    • Rob F

      Enough studies and evidence has accumulated to be convincing (to me) that the number of older brothers a man has, the greater his chance of being gay. If PHC has lots of quiverfullers, then it is pretty likely that an appreciable number of men there have multiple older brothers. From this it follows that there are lots of gays there.

      • Noadi

        I’ve seen those studies too and I’m not quite sure they hold up, especially considering the number of conflicting studies showing little to no correlation. At least with some studies there appears to be a social component to it, though that could be the way sociological studies have in the past treated bisexuality in men with disbelief and assumed homosexuality (a bisexual man with older brothers may feel more comfortable with men than with women and identify as gay while one without older brothers may lean more to women or an even 50/50 split).

      • Ashton

        Actually, Noadi, more recent studies have addressed whether or not it is about social vs womb environment by studying adoptees. They found that there was no higher homosexuality in males in adoptees but a higher level in non-adoptees. This supports the idea that it is something in the womb.

  • Will the Vague

    Andrea is certainly correct in suggesting that students may only realize they are queer after progressing partway through a PHC education. It is also likely that at least some of those students viewed such a regimented, purpose-driven Christian college program as the best available preventative or corrective for queer tendencies about which they were already beginning, at least pre-consciously, to become aware and anxious. I don’t think it’s so uncommon to seize upon a “mission” such as that of PHC as a vehicle for “overcoming” crises of identity and shame one doesn’t yet have the wherewithal to believe can be indulged.

    I come from a similar background, though I didn’t attend an institution as conservative as PHC. Not only did I fail to come to terms with my own gender/sexuality prior to enrolling, but I came to know of scores of other students, both contemporaries and predecessors of my own, in a similar situation — we thought a Christian college with a rulebook full of behavioral and religious participation regulations would be good for us and would help make us into the people we were supposed to be. And some of us didn’t, but our options were limited enough to land us there. I had friends there who had been through Exodus International programs and reparative therapy who were attending in order to reform, another who was openly gay but as the son of minister received discounted tuition and so conceded to the school’s code of conduct so he could go to school, others whose parents would only pay for a religious school from an approved list. Some left because they couldn’t tolerate it (or, perhaps more accurately, they weren’t tolerated), others stayed out of inertia, and others still viewed leaving as irresponsible, ignoring the problem rather than working from within for visibility and change. There are multiple and quite understandable reasons that you will find queer people in inhospitable places.

    PHC is a different beast from my own institution, true, but not so dissimilar that none of the above is very feasibly applicable.

    See also

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Yes, some of them may join to try to supress those feelings with help from the “lord”, the conservative atmosphere, peer pressure, … the same way there’s a huge percentage of MtF trans* in the Army/Navy/…

  • Lana

    Have you visited home school alumni? The leaders are all in agreement with the homeschool leaders and founders of this country? Buuuut at least 50% of the active members are pro gay rights, I’d say.,while some homeschoolers are still under the spell, I’d say the majority are moving on

  • Christine

    There’s also a very real possibility that a lot of the queer students started at PHC with the knowledge of their orientation and an understanding of the policy, but were planning on being celibate their entire lives. The determination to live by the Christian rules doesn’t even necessarily have to have changed for them to want to be a part of the group – if they’ve been marginalized in other ways they may want to support other queer individuals, even if they don’t agree with everything that the group stands for.

  • Rod

    Tangential comment: Reading about PHC and its students, and their objectives about serving in government, I can’t help but feel that they are woefully unprepared for such a calling. Instead of “interning” with a Republican official or in the White House, send them to a women’s clinic, a shelter, an inner-city kindergarten, let them work a minimum wage job for a while. Put on an orange vest and pick up garbage along the highway. In other words, walk a few mies in someone else’s shoes, someone not like themselves.
    Maybe the scales will drop from their eyes.

    • ScottInOH

      Sadly, getting the scales to fall from their eyes is not the point. The point is to train effective debaters, marketers, and political operators who are firm in their beliefs and able to change US policy to match those beliefs. For that, you need to continue to inculcate the beliefs, and you need to get people hooked into political networking. Bush II was (in)famous for appointing grads from the law school at Regent University, not for their policy expertise but for their ideological commitment and willingness to decide on that basis.

  • smrnda

    I seriously doubt that any graduate of PHC is fit for government. Most of these kids have been raised in bubbles, with little contact with people outside of their own families, with no knowledge of people outside of their own subculture and (it seems to me) no interest in learning to understand people who are different from them except to just point out that everybody else is wrong.

    All said, when queer students decide to simply make their existence known, the first thing this Farris guy does is threaten them and then censor them. He’s sure totally open to different viewpoints and letting people think for themselves :-) To me, this represents the problem with the Christian home school deal – you can only successfully indoctrinate kids if you ban them from thinking or expressing themselves, and you also can’t demand that kids think and then also demand they always reach the same conclusions as you.

  • Jaimie

    I’ve been wondering how many children from these massive homeschool families are gay. I’m glad they found each other, even in such a hostile setting as PHC. It will probably take a few years to really get the numbers straight.

  • perfectnumber628

    Good to hear that groups like this exist, despite facing a lot of opposition. :)

  • Amethyst

    For anyone who might be interested, there’s a new forum for LGBTQ people who were homeschooled. It’s called Rainbow Hub, and you can read its guidelines/mission statement here:

  • Carys Birch

    I just checked to see if my alma mater has a LGBT group. It doesn’t. :( Which isn’t surprising because they quietly expelled all the “moral undesirables” with great effectiveness. I remember being disturbed by it even then, which is saying something.

  • Jo

    While I realize that admitting I attend PHC will automatically relegate me to the “quiverful homeschooler” stereotype, I’m going to take that risk in order to point out that this article is inaccurate. Students at PHC were never required to file paperwork to get into a relationship. PHC is not exclusively for homeschoolers, and I can only think of a small segment of the student population whose families I imagine might fall in the “quiverful” category.

    If you will let me say something–as someone who has lived here for some time, I think I can give a pretty even-handed perspective on what PHC is like. Sure, students generally test really well and our LSAT scores often reach the 170′s. But as far as campus attitudes go, PHC is a very accepting school. Some students have come here overly sheltered, socially and hygienically challenged. At a state school (previously) and community college, I’ve seen kids just like this, and they’re on the fringe. But at PHC, these kids aren’t ostracized. They’re not considered “normal,” but I’ve seen other students come alongside them and graciously help them grow and adjust. I’ve never been in an environment where students are so accepting.
    Sure, PHC is a small school, so it’s campus culture changes every four years as students cycle through. I can’t say what the student body was like ten years ago when the school began. Students may have been more abrasive then. I have no idea. But it seems to me that caricaturing a school (in the manner of the articles and blogs I’ve read) is dishonest.

    As for QueerPHC–how is it at all surprising (or offensive) for a Christian school to maintain Biblical standards in its honor code? It seems like the point of contention is actually with the traditional, Biblical view of homosexuality…in which case, criticizing a fallible institution led by fallible men seems like a cheap shot.

    • Libby Anne

      The information about Patrick Henry College originally requiring a girl’s father’s permission before allowing a couple to start a relationship comes from Hanna Rosin’s book, God’s Harvard. Here is an article with excerpts from the book. You say students at PHC were never required to do this, but you also say you were at the school more recently and don’t know what it was like when it first began. Perhaps Rosin is wrong about that, but given that she is a journalist and spent a good amount of time researching the school and interviewing students there before writing her book, I’m going to guess that she’s probably correct.

      Also, I find it interesting that you call PHC a very “accepting” school and then defend it’s negative stance on gay rights. There’s a contradiction there.

  • Nikki

    As someone else who attended PHC, I disagree that it’s very accepting. Students are quick to judge, it is very gossipy (it’s small, so everyone knows everyone), and mean jokes are typical. Students are going through high school, basically. Some cliques do not speak to each other for years. Imagine youth group and add a ton of finals-induced stress.
    Obtaining a father’s permission before courtship was only required during the very beginning of the school.

  • Nikki

    Oh, chaperons aren’t needed tho.