Students at Harding University, an evangelical university in Arkansas affiliated with Churches of Christ, have banded together to start an ambitious and courageous LGBT student publication.
The H.U. Queer Press, as it is called, has issued a “State of the Gay” zine. In their own words:
We are here to share with you our struggle. We are here to be a voice for the voiceless who are quietly dying inside the walls of our campus. We want you to know us. We are your friends, co-workers, students, family members, fellow worshipers, professors, athletes, and scholars.[…] We are queer. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. While the rest of you fall in love with the opposite sex, we share our lives and beds with those of our own gender.
All is not well for us at Harding. Our voices are muted, our stories go unheard, and we are forced into hiding. We are threatened with re-orientation therapy, social isolation, and expulsion. We are told stories and lies that we are disgusting sinners who are damned to hell, that we are broken individuals and child abusers….We have felt the pain of the deep, dark closet, and we are here to announce that we will not stand for it any longer.
You see, at Harding University you can be suspended or kicked out for drinking, being gay, looking at porn, staying with a member of the opposite sex in a hotel, even if nobody actually observes you having sex, and for many other violations. Take a look at their student handbook and you will get a good idea of the climate in which these brave students are speaking out:
Harding University holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to Godoutside the context of marriage. Sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the University. Visiting in the residence of a single member of the opposite gender, even though others are present, without permission is prohibited.
Staying overnight in a motel, hotel or any such arrangement with a member of the opposite gender will result in suspension, although explicit sexual immorality may not have been observed.
Students are prohibited from possessing or displaying pornographic materials of any type. This includes the use of vulgarity, profanity, and any offensive language or offensive symbols.
Students are not allowed to social dance or go to dance clubs, bars, or other inappropriate places of entertainment.
The illegal, unauthorized use or abuse of Harding University’s telephone, computer or network system is prohibited.
Men and women are discouraged from excessive public displays of affection.
Check out their incredible website. There are some touching personal stories:
So I don’t remember ever choosing to like girls. It’s just how things always were. It’s what felt natural. It wasn’t until I was told it was wrong that I felt I should be different.
This publication is partly introspective, partly angry, partly sad, often hopeful and completely personal. They simply want their colleagues at the University to know who they are and when I read their words I can’t help but think that they represent the queer experience of a lot of youth in unfriendly parts of the country.
Hopefully many people will read this wonderful venture and come away more compassionate, understanding, and with more empathy. This is how we change hearts and minds.
Harding University has responded with regards to its’ censoring of the anonymous students who published the H.U. Queer Press:
Harding University is a private Christian university whose mission and policies are rooted in biblical principles. All students are given a copy of the handbook and know about our mission and policies before their first day on campus. The student handbook states that the university holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage and that sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the university.
Based on that policy, university administrators felt that having this website available on campus goes against said mission and policies. In addition, the handbook states that any literature distributed on campus must be approved by the Office of Student Life and must state the name of the sponsoring organization. These pamphlets were both printed and distributed anonymously with no prior approval, and the website is an online version of that pamphlet.
Again, bravo to these brave young people for challenging archaic rules that can result in the long-term harm of their fellow students.