One of the reasons we know we’re winning the “culture wars” that the Religious Right imposed on us is that arguments about homosexuality are now predominantly happening within conservative religious congregations and institutions. The mainstream population pretty much gets it these days. A couple of months back, students and alumni at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, launched the Harding University Queer Press, to give a voice to LGBT people forced to suffer in the intellectual Chernobyl of that Church of Christ clown college. Then last month, a New York Times piece explored the state of affairs at Christian colleges like Baylor and Abilene Christian, where, despite administrations that encourage a repressive regime against dignity of any sort for LGBT students, we are nonetheless coming out and changing those institutions from within. Of course, many of the straight students at these institutions are supportive because, well, times have changed, and even within the Evangelical world, people under forty just don’t buy into the anti-gay spew like their parents do/did.
Now an alumni group from conservative Wheaton College, in the Chicago suburbs, has formed to support LGBT students at that institution:
[Gay Wheaton student Zack LaButta’s] perspective is shared by many members of OneWheaton, a self-described grass-roots organization of lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and questioning Wheaton College alumni and their supporters. Group members say they felt isolated when they were at the school and now they are trying to support current students who may feel that same isolation.
Labutta said he learned of the group last week, two days before it came on campus to hand out a letter after a chapel service.
“OneWheaton is doing an excellent job trying to promote a voice on Wheaton’s campus that has been left out of the debate, and noticeably so,” Labutta said.
“Our position is that the college is not intentionally trying to be malicious,” [2007 graduate Kristin Winn] said. “They believe this is a way of loving homosexual students. I applaud them for talking about it.” But she said the speaker series left out the possibility that their sexuality is not a sin and that they can still lead vibrant lives while “remaining true to who they are.”
It’s good to see this happening, and it will happen more and more. Belmont University in Nashville, a Baptist institution, was so overwhelmed by student and alumni support for an open, inclusive environment for gays and lesbians that they changed their nondiscrimination policies to include gays, and indeed has allowed the school’s first club for gay and lesbian students. [That’s a wingnut link, by the way, but it has the pertinent information.]
As this happens, radical Christian clerics and their followers will scream louder and louder about the “gay agenda infiltrating their world” or whatever, but the truth is that gay people have never been the “other” that wingnuts wish we were. Indeed, many of us were raised by Evangelical wingnuts! Or, in my case, I was raised “wingnut-adjacent,” in that my parents were never really that extreme, but church and school environments sometimes were. So there is no “infiltration” going on. The simple fact is that things have Gotten Better to the point that gay kids and college students who are still trapped within the walls of anti-gay wingnuttia are, more and more, choosing to stay and fight, and have their voices heard. This is a very good thing.