Letters to the Editor: LGBT feature
We received several letters to the editor on our LGBT feature: Listen First that we published on Nov. 14. You can find all of the letters that were published in the Nov. 23 print edition below.
Editor’s Note: Chimes publishes every letter to the editor it receives. We have received more letters to the editor since our last print edition and will publish those online and print after Thanksgiving break.
LGBT feature gave voices to those unheard
I want to express my deepest gratitude for the LGBT+ testimonies last week. I am grateful that our community is beginning to have discussions about what it is like to be LGBT+ at Calvin. Personal views should not matter when we think about how we can be more loving and more welcoming as a community. I believe that the testimonies of these students helped to open the eyes of our community, to say what is often left unspoken, to give a voice to so many members of our community who are living in fearful silence.
Jocelyn Brame, ‘14
LGBT feature takes helpful approach
The recent Chimes feature on LGBT student stories was well done. I am grateful for the courage of the LGBT student writers and the guts of Chimes staff facilitators. The student stories are beautiful, tragic and hopeful in the same breath. They highlight that Calvin has both pockets of safety and pockets of silence.
For the past few years I have worked with the Sexuality and Gender Awareness (SAGA) group on campus. I have learned from the students of this group that silence is a problem because it communicates compliance with the rejection of LGBT persons. LGBT students occasionally share frustration at learning only late in their Calvin career of a professor’s or friend’s support. Making even very small statements of support for LGBT students’ presence and safety can break that harmful silence and go a long way towards making Calvin a safe and welcoming place.
Chimes frames this conversation by starting with our students’ stories. This is the right place to start, because our broader theological, social and political conversations should account for lived reality. Regardless of theological, social and political persuasion, making sure this is a campus where all students are harassment-free and welcomed warmly is a goal to which we all should commit.
We have made good progress towards a safer campus in recent years. I pray this progress continues. Thank you, Chimes, for your thoughtful work on this piece, and thank you, students, for your impressive vulnerability that will help us move forward as a community.
Kyle Heys, Calvin staff
LGBT feature exemplifies positive change at Calvin
To the editor,
As a former Chimes staff member with roles ranging from typist (it was still the late ‘80s after all) on up to associate editor, I wanted to thank you for the terrific “Listen First” feature in the last issue. I “came out” during my final year at Calvin (directly upon my return from a semester in Munich) and can relate, in at least one or more specific instance, to the account of each person featured. I am so pleased and, frankly, surprised that the publication of these personal accounts was not only allowed but encouraged by the college and that they continue to be available at your website. In light of ongoing politicization of LGBT issues, especially during the 2012 election cycle, I had hoped to see a different approach from the college. With this series, the school has moved decisively in a more positive direction.
I believe that at its best, Chimes can and does serve to lead and guide the larger Calvin community — including alumni — in discussion by responsibly raising questions and exploring uncomfortable truths. Any feature or opinion writer can hide behind the words of others by relying on multiple secondary sources. With this first-person feature, you have given both face and humanity to those who are often denied both.
Please keep taking on “difficult” and uncomfortable issues and build from your excellent work on this. I’m a big fan out here on the Left Coast.
Dennis Holtrop, ’90
LGBT feature courageous
I want to offer my sincere thanks and congratulations for your sensational LGBT feature coverage. I was referred to the pieces by one of our previous editors in chief, and found myself rapt by the truly beautiful storytelling.
I know that embarking on such a journalistic venture must have been tremendously difficult, and I commend your courage and fortitude in pressing on despite any fears of backlash. As the editor in chief of a fairly liberal Catholic college, I’m aware of the difficulties of covering difficult topics, but not quite to this scale. It both puts our issues in perspective and inspires us to constantly be doing more with our own reporting.
Though I don’t know what kind of response you’re getting from administration or other students, I hope you all are receiving the praise you so richly deserve. Doing this takes king-size confidence — something that all other college journalists could take to heart. I know I’ll be doing so with my team.
Thanks again for all your work, and good luck in closing out your semester.
All my best,
Kevin P. O’Keeffe, editor in chief at The Los Angeles Loyolan
LGBT feature should be the start of greater reform within the CRC
Having read the courageous writings of the recently published “Listen First” feature, I am convinced that now is the time for a concentrated and organized effort to liberate LGBT people on campus. Members would not form a special interest lobby, but rather commit to recruiting students into a grassroots protest movement, changing Calvin’s entire culture from the bottom up rather than trying to parley with administrators or their feudal lieges in the CRC.
First, a campus movement for LGBT liberation must be explicitly linked to the greater cause of LGBT people throughout the state, nation and world.
Second, such a group should be committed to eliminating Calvin’s restrictive policies on sexual activity on campus. This includes abolishing of open house hours, permitting sex between unmarried partners on campus and establishing co-ed dorms to disarm heteronormative prejudices.
Third, such an organization should enlist the help of communities, sympathetic faculty and administration, alumni and pastors from within and outside the CRC. Local affirming churches like Episcopalians, United Church of Christ and Fountain Street Church will be indispensable for this task.
Fourth, this group should not hesitate to stage protests and otherwise more confrontational and visible activities in addition to backstage organizing. Such actions will polarize the community, but this is not always undesirable from the perspective of a liberation group.
Finally, an organization dedicated to the emancipation of Calvin’s LGBT people should be fluent in Christian language and Scripture, whether as Christians or not. Now is the time to act.
Jonathan Hielkema, ’14
Racial, ethnic minorities missing from LGBT feature
As a former Chimes writer, I could not be prouder of the work that you’re doing after the feature that you ran last week. I feel pride in my school because, although the campus is far from perfect for the LGBT community, we are showing love as we honor the stories of these seven individuals and, vicariously, the hundreds of others through the years whose stories have often gone untold.
There is one story, however, that I noticed went untold amid those seven: there were no voices from racial or ethnic minorities on campus. Calvin is such a white institution, and we heard last week how many members of our community who are white and LGBT struggle figuring out where they are safe and where they belong. How much more frustrating it must be, then, to try and establish a place for yourself on campus as both a racial minority and LGBT. There are stories there that need to be told.
Thank you to the writers who generously and courageously shared their stories. Thank you to the staff of Chimes for your vision and for accepting, I hope, my loving critique. To those whose stories must still be told, I hope and pray that our ears will be open and that our hearts will be humble and welcoming.
Joel Meredith ‘10
LGBT feature encouraging to alums
While I think Calvin (and many Christian communities in general) still have a long way to go, I am encouraged by the Chimes feature and by so many loving, supporting and accepting comments and responses. I am a Calvin alum and a lesbian. My years at Calvin were wonderful in many ways, but also filled with loneliness, denial, confusion, self-doubt and hopelessness. I did not feel like Calvin was an environment where I could explore or even talk about my sexual identity. After college, I attended graduate school, found a great therapist, a supportive community of friends and an Episcopal church that affirmed me as a child of God just as I am. I finally found my way out of the closet, I’m now happily engaged to the love of my life and am living a truly authentic life. My journey has not been easy, but I am so encouraged by the students who were brave enough to share their own stories, hopefully paving the way for more people to step out of the shadows and into the beautiful light that awaits them. I’m 10 years post-Calvin and I can attest to the fact that it does, in fact, get better.
Kelly Hunt, ‘03
LGBT feature provides unique opportunity to listen
What remarkable courage. Thank you Drew, Ian, Richard, Eden, Ryan, C.V., Kristopher and others for being willing to share your stories, for taking the risk of being honest and for being patient with us as we learn to listen. Kudos to Abby, Nathan and the Chimes staff for providing a forum that is so remarkable precisely because it refuses the ideological poles that too often — and too quickly — co-opt these conversations. One of my old friends used to say that testimony was “the poetry of Pentecostal experience.” I listened to these stories in that best sense of testimony — as a spiritual discipline both for those who tell and those who hear.
Jamie Smith, philosophy professor
LGBT feature encouraging and challenging
I just wanted to express my appreciation for your LGBT feature. Though I’m straight, I know some LGBT and I can’t imagine the struggles they go through on a daily basis. It was great to see the courage that so many were willing to have. It’s great to see the ways that we as a campus are being welcoming and loving, but it is also important for us to see the ways we can improve. Hopefully your feature will spur us on to become a loving community that accepts all people, regardless of what gender they identify as or what sex they are attracted to. All people need love and support, and your series, I hope, helped remind us all of that.
Thank you, and God bless you. Thanks also to the writers, and let them know that I pray they continue to receive encouragement and support rather than hatred and animosity.
Jackson Van Haitsma, ‘17
Chimes takes the lead in important conversation in LGBT feature
Thirty years ago a dear friend of mine struggled at Calvin, partly because he could not bear to reveal to anyone that he was gay. That was a dark time in his life. He loved the Lord, but knew he could not be both honest and a full member of the Christian community. He eventually left Calvin. Later he came out to his family and friends and things got better for a while. Sadly, he died in 1996 of AIDS. He was always a faithful Christian, even when the church was not very welcoming to him.
I think of my friend this week as I rejoice in the courage and leadership of the Chimes staff in publishing the feature “Listen First.” Thank you to the editors and to those who told their stories. Thank you for paying the costs, whatever those might be, for taking this important step on our campus. Your respect, compassion and wisdom have clearly impressed and influenced many people beyond Calvin’s orbit.
I realize that one feature does not solve all problems or settle anything with regard to “the issue.” But this is still an important moment in making Calvin more and more a place where LGBTQ+ students do not have to keep secrets. What a difference it might have made to my friend if he felt that his college community was saying, “We hear you, and we’re in this together.”
What Calvin students will contribute to the church’s ongoing reflection on LGBTQ+ matters is bound to be significant. The Chimes feature reaffirms my great confidence in your ability to take the lead.
Debra Rienstra, English professor
LGBT feature thoughtful and courageous
Last week’s LGBT feature was incredibly courageous, thoughtful and kind. Thank you for helping us identify, for helping us understand.
In a discussion that so often polarizes, these articles reminded us that when we talk about the “issue of homosexuality,” we are talking about our neighbors, our classmates, our colleagues and our friends. In the midst of the confusion, seeing one another first and foremost as people and treating each other with a deep-rooted, passionate love must always remain paramount.
Thank you for setting the tone for us to have loving, helpful and understanding conversations that center first and foremost on relationships with real people who have hurts, joys, fears, failures, strengths and vulnerabilities just like every single one of us.
This feature opened doors for us to talk, to be honest about who we are, to join together in supporting one another in the midst of the questions and fears, and to celebrate together in the beauty of God’s love shown through one another.
Staying silent can be the most harmful thing we can do. Thank you for breaking the silence and leading the way on one of the most vital conversations that we as a Christian community can have. You absolutely nailed it.
Meredith Fennema, ’12
LGBT feature idea could be expanded
The feature on LGBT students at Calvin was one of the best pieces I’ve seen from Chimes this year. Thanks for writing it. As a former Chimes editor, I know the staff always works hard to illuminate issues at the college that fly under the radar, and this feature did that in an interesting way. LGBT issues in general are a hot topic at Calvin, but I think your piece brought to light a side of the discussion that isn’t often covered. I particularly appreciated the thoughtful editorial comments you made in the introduction: that the writers had left out any political opinions because those just tend to add static noise to the discussion.
I wonder if the idea of this feature could be extended to cover different subsections of students on campus. Shouldn’t we also listen to the stories of straight students on campus? What about students with disabilities? What about students from non-CRC or non-Christian backgrounds? I don’t think it’s a reach to say that LGBT issues are now high-profile at Calvin, so why don’t you put your editorial power to work for other groups that need a “Listen First” feature?
Abby Zwart, ’13