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First, a big welcome to our new readers. We had quite a spike in traffic yesterday. If you’d like to learn more about Queer PHC, please check out the About, Contributor, and FAQ tabs at the top of the page.

We now have a Facebook page, and you can click “like” to be updated every time we share a new link. You can also follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

Bishop Gene Robinson Reaches Out to Closeted PHC Students

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, of the Diocese of New Hampshire, recently visited the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., where he spoke with former congressman Pat Murphy about Robinson’s new book, God Believes in Love.

Robinson spoke with Queer Patrick Henry College after the presentation, and offered some encouragement to closeted students at the college. He’s used to such appeals for encouragement, and said he receives several emails a week from “some kid in podunk Idaho who thinks they’re the only gay person besides me in the world.”

“What I usually say to them is there’s just a big, wide, wonderful world out here, and it can be wonderful for gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people,” he said. “And you may have to stay where you are, you may have to be quiet about who you are for awhile, but find a few people that you can be open with, that you can be yourself with, because it will feel like an oasis in an awfully dry desert. And then when it’s possible, get out into this big wide world and meet some of us who are having the time of our lives and are not held back by being openly gay.”

Robinson said LGBTQ people who grew up in conservative environments as he did, and as many PHC students did, can do a great deal of damage to themselves.

“The hardest person to come out to is yourself, right?” he said.  “We learned all the things that everybody else was learning, and we became alienated from ourselves, not to mention our parents and our families, and so on. I think it’s a really tough row to hoe, but find some oases to feed yourself along the way, and then join this community that’s waiting to embrace you.”

As a queer Christian, it’s hard to overstate the impact that Bishop Robinson has had on the lives of people like me. To see someone who is both openly gay and openly Christian take on a bold leadership role in the church is nothing short of inspiring. At Patrick Henry College, there’s quite a bit of talk about “leading the nation and shaping the culture,” and Bishop Robinson is doing exactly that, with his ongoing role in transforming the cultural conversation on queer people of faith.

Robinson is retiring on Jan. 5 and leaving New Hampshire to move to D.C., where he hopes to assist St. Thomas’ Parish in Dupont Circle in founding a new Center for Non-Violent Communication, with the goal of changing “the nature of the debate” in the highly political city. Color me excited.

The Rainbow Feelings Playlist

I survived Patrick Henry College with a pastel iPod shuffle and a pair of earbuds that I rescued from the lost and found bin, after waiting the requisite week to make sure no one else wanted them. Was that one of the more unhygienic choices of my life? Yes, but it was also transgressive in another way — it was the first time my music was both portable and private. For the first time, I could listen to whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to feel all the feels, without judgment from someone else.

Growing up in a fundamentalist family, I learned five emotions: joy, contentment, godly sorrow, righteous indignation, and fear. By the time I got to school, I was somewhat emotionally stunted. Just as I did not have the words to express my sexuality until I got to college, I also had not learned the proper emotions. Through music, I learned to feel and desire things beyond the narrow scope of my childhood limitations. I learned to feel romantic love, giddy happiness, heartbreak, anger, and attraction.

As a child, I thought of “diversity” as a bad word. As I left my segment of the fundamentalist movement, I learned that not only did they fear everyone who was different from themselves, but they also feared the diverse emotions of a nuanced human soul. I had learned to assign one note to those I feared. But now I’ve joined the ranks of those I was once taught to fear, and I allow myself my own range of emotions, in a quiet rebellion.

I do much of that through music. And when I began coming out to myself a couple of years ago, I did that with the help of a soundtrack of queer artists. They helped me put words to deep longings and old hurts. One of my favorite bands is Tegan and Sara (yes, I am aware that I am a walking queer cliche), and I was ecstatic when I heard they were releasing a new album in the next few weeks. I particularly love the single “Closer,” in all its flirtatious danceability.

I think sometimes in all our arguments back and forth about gay marriage and the “homosexual lifestyle,” people forget that LGBTQ people enjoy playful moonlit tumbles on trampolines and making out in magical fantasy tents festooned with streamers just as much as the next hetero. In other words, we don’t always fit neatly into the categories that others have created for us, such as “staid married couple grows oregano in their window container garden,” or “glittery slutty homo seeks same.”

Our emotions and our love lives can be messy and beautiful and heartbreaking and full of flirtation and frustration and longing and caught breaths and skipped hearts, and we really want you to listen to us, but maybe it would be better if we just made you a mix tape.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Observed annually on November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

From GLAAD: “The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost,” said Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith. “With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

This is a powerful (grievously so) listing of many of the people that have died because of anti-transgender violence: Memorializing 2012.

And from GLAAD a timeline of transgender visibility:

Born This Way?

I was perusing blogs again today and came across a most excellent quote from Dr. Marc Breedlove, Barnett Rosenberg Professor of Neuroscience at Michigan State University. He is currently sponsoring a lecture series called, Whom You Love: The Biology of Sexual Orientation, which is featuring the nation’s top researchers who have studied the science of sexual orientation. Anti-LGBTQ pundits like to talk about how there is “no gay gene,” but aside from us not even knowing how many genes there are or what they all do, it’s probably not as simple as “a” gay gene. According to Dr. Breedlove:

As to the question to whether there is a gay gene, it depends on what you mean by that. Have we found a gene, where when a person inherits it, they will for certain be gay? No, we haven’t found such a gene. There may or may not be one. But we do know there is a gene on the X chromosome that has been proven to have an influence on sexual orientation in men. What’s more, we know there are many genes that influence sexual orientation in people. Probably not just one, but a lot. And it will probably be the sort of situation where whether or not you are gay depends on whether which particular combination of genes you get.

The example I like to use is to talk about height. The estimates are there are 150 different genes that influence height. So, is there a gene for being tall?…No…but does that mean there is no genetic influence for height? Of course not, that would be silly. Of course there is a genetic influence on height. Of course there is a genetic influence on sexual orientation. The data are really completely firm.”

Along with the genetic influences there is strong evidence that prenatal testosterone and fraternal birth order play some role in influencing sexual orientation, most probably by the prenatal hormones activating or deactivating certain genes.

Of course, no discussion on this topic is complete without Lady Gaga’s Born This Way music video: (FYI if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s kind of insane, and graphic)