Hello! It’s me again.
It’s been a little over three years since I published the last post on QueerPHC, and to be honest, I thought this blog might have seen the last of me too. But today marks the relaunch of QueerPHC, thanks to some other folks who are picking up the baton and carrying the blog forward. More on that in a moment.
In those three years, quite a bit has happened in my life, at PHC, and beyond. A completely comprehensive list would be impossible, and the attempt would be exhausting. So instead, here’s a brief overview of some of the things that have happened. Where necessary, I’ve tried to link to articles and posts that give more information on some of the things that I mention.
In early 2014, I came out semi-publicly on my Facebook as bisexual and nonbinary. I say semi-publicly because I still am somewhat judicious about who I come out to beyond my own circle of friends and acquaintances, since it is still legal in Virginia to fire a queer or trans person for their sexuality or gender. I’ve been using a new name for a couple years, and this summer, I made that name change legal. I’ve also been using they/them/their pronouns. I’m still in the process of switching everything over to my new name, but I have my new driver’s license, and it’s hard to fully express how nice that was, to hold that piece of identification in my hand for the first time and see my new name on it. I’d gotten so used to being misgendered and deadnamed all the time that I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to not have a feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach every time someone says my legal name. I’m also unemployed, and one of the reasons that made it harder to “get back out there,” as people always put it, was that same feeling of nausea every time I submitted an application that had my dead name included. But now I’ve put my legal name on my resume and I feel that much readier to try to rejoin the workforce. (P.S. If anyone has room for a queer trans person on their staff…. let me know.)
I no longer have the energy to run a blog like this. I haven’t had that energy for some time. (It’s one of the primary reasons I stopped blogging.) But neither I nor the blog are going away anytime soon. I’ve just decided it would be best to hand it off to some new people, who I think can revitalize the blog with their fresh perspectives. We have a rapidly growing contingent of queer people who have studied at PHC and are actively networking with each other. Nothing could make me happier than to see this solidarity and community at work, especially since the isolation of queer people is such a common problem in conservative Christian circles. And I’m thrilled to see where this new crop of bloggers takes QueerPHC. I’ll still be around, and I’ll probably still write sometimes, but my main role will be to assist these new bloggers with this transition.
This next item won’t be news to most PHC students, but I’ll include it anyway for context: in June 2015, in a landmark decision that was long overdue, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in the United States. While the subsequent “Love Wins” rhetoric might lead one to believe that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights has been won, the truth is that fight is far from over. Queer and trans people still face high rates of homelessness and sexual assault, for example. Many states still provide no legal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or the protections are limited. In addition, the mainstream gay rights movement, headed up by white cis gay people, has frequently left queer people of color and trans people (especially trans people of color) behind, and gay marriage doesn’t fix the ways in which racism and transphobia shape the experiences of the most marginalized in our communities.
On June 12, 2016, shooter Omar Mateen entered a gay club in Orlando, Florida, and fatally wounded 50 people, while injuring 53 others. Most of the victims were Latinx people of color. Trans people, particularly trans women of color, still face alarming rates of homicide and suicide. (See more info for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016.) The question of where trans people ought to be allowed to pee remains controversial, as transphobic “bathroom bills” have been considered in multiple states this year.
But queer and trans people are still making waves, and I don’t want to move on to the rest of this post without acknowledging their ongoing positive impacts on politics and culture, so: here are some people who came out in 2015. (It’s still too early for 2016 roundup posts.) Here are some other people. Here are some people who came out in 2014. Here are 100 trans people you should know about. Here are some queer people of color you should know about. Here are some queer musicians you should know about. Get to know the queer Black women who have shaped the Black Lives Matter movement.
I promised to make this a “brief” overview, so I’ll move on.
At PHC, we saw the publication of a New Republic article on the multiple sexual assaults that have been covered up at PHC. Later that year, PHC president Graham Walker resigned. The college has also improved slightly when it comes to the student body’s collective views on gender and sexuality. When I attended the school, it was still somewhat common to discuss whether queer people ought to be executed by stoning. (Trans people were largely not acknowledged at all.) Queer people were frequently painted as predatory, and feminine men and amab people were the butt of much mockery, including from Walker himself, who was known to mock feminine queer men through the use of stereotyped feminine mannerisms, including what the students referred to as “gay hands.” And even as recently as Fall of 2013, in a lecture delivered to the entire student body, PHC Professor Stephen Baskerville claimed that “homosexual activists” played a role in the rise of Nazism.
Currently, as one recent graduate put it, the general PHC culture surrounding issues of gender and sexuality is “better, but not good.” Marriage is still defined in the Student Handbook as “a sacred God-made union between a man and a woman.” Queer and trans people are not protected under the college’s non-discrimination policy.
“PHC is committed to a non-discriminatory policy in so far as it is consistent with our statement of faith,” the handbook reads. “The practice of homosexual conduct or other extra-marital sexual relations is inconsistent with our faith position.” The handbook also goes on to state that: “Since any sexual conduct outside the parameters of the faithful marriage of a man and a woman is sin, any government which creates legal structures to encourage or condone inappropriate sexual activity or lust, heterosexual or homosexual, or which creates special legal rights and protections based on sexual conduct, is acting immorally and without authority.”
Such passages conflate sex acts with sexual orientations, and position queer sexuality as being inherently “inappropriate” unless the queer person in question is celibate or in a monogamous heterosexual marriage. The inclusion of the phrase “heterosexual or homosexual,” perhaps meant to establish some sort of “sin is sin” equivalency between the two, does not mitigate the fact that PHC still advocates that the only appropriate sexual activity is in a heterosexual marriage, which means that any gay marriages that involve any sexual activity would be considered inappropriate.
This also ties into the ongoing oversexualization of queer people, who are portrayed as being very sexual just by having an orientation that is not heterosexual. There is nothing wrong with being a very sexual person, but to treat all queer people as hypersexual beings is to erase the fact that not all queer people are the same and even people who love sex should not be reduced to their sex lives. That’s dehumanizing. And then, to make matters worse, after sexualizing queer people’s very existence, PHC then condemns queer sexuality as immoral. This is the opposite of affirming.
Of course, the PHC student body does not necessarily, at an individual level, espouse the official positions of the admin. And I’ve been heartened to hear that some PHC students are becoming more affirming, and that others, while maybe not affirming, at least acknowledge that gay marriage should not be banned. It’s a very small step, but it is something.
But while we at QueerPHC are happy that PHC’s student body has made a few strides towards greater open-mindedness, we are not yet satisfied with the current state of affairs. PHC still has a long way to go. We will not be satisfied until these subjects are no longer taboo. We will not be satisfied until openly self-affirming queer and trans people are allowed to present affirming messages about gender and sexuality on campus. We will not be satisfied until students do not have to worry about being expelled or shamed or otherwise punished (either by the admin, or by their peers) for their gender and sexuality. We will not be satisfied until the nondiscrimination clause explicitly protects LGBTQ+ students and staff and faculty. We will not be satisfied until PHC is a safe place for students and staff and faculty to be openly queer or transgender.
It’s my hope that by passing the baton to a new generation of QueerPHC bloggers, I can help to ensure that this vital conversation continues.