Faith, Hope & Radical Love

How would you feel if your whole identity was condensed to who you are attracted to and who you love? When the mere mention of your name is not associated with anything other than your sexual preference? This is the general and common feeling for those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual, among others.

There are also those who identify as “pansexual,” which means “loving the person and not the gender.”

We often focus so much on sexuality that people equate a person’s identity to who they are attracted to.

However, there is a group on campus that strives to see people beyond their sexuality. They are called Haven, an underground Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) that is not currently advertised by the university.

Since we’re currently discussing the topic of “diversity” on campus, are we as a student body aware that this isn’t just about race? Having a diverse environment means including those with different genders and sexualities. As a Christian school, this is exactly part of what makes APU diverse.

At the very core of diversity, it is not just about your skin color or native language, it’s about identity as a whole. It’s about different backgrounds and cultures, but also distinct personal experiences that make you, YOU.

I know it comes as a shock to many that a gay community could possibly exist in a Christian university. I know this because I asked the same question myself, ‘How can somebody be Christian and identify as queer?’

A faculty ally who wishes to remain anonymous, explained it this way: “A lot of these students are struggling with their faith based on how the Church has treated them but they don’t want to reject Christianity. That’s why they are at Azusa Pacific.”

While APU is accommodating, unlike other Christian schools where you could get expelled for “coming out” gay, there are still some setbacks for queer students who wish to keep their faith despite the known fact that it might be exclusive of their identity.

One senior psychology student who identifies as pansexual said that APU helped him transition into connecting theology with his sexuality.

“Having safe spaces on campus, not five minutes away from campus is something that will aid students understand [more about the community],” he said.

This year, senior biblical studies major Susan Van Bemden is the president of Haven.

“Our primary goal is not advocacy,” Van Bemden said. “We do advocacy but it’s not all that we do. We believe advocacy is important and is part of how change is gonna happen. The reason that Haven exists is because there are absolutely no resources on this campus for queer people.”

Van Bemden, who identifies as pansexual, has been with Haven since she was a freshman. It’s not just about changing policies, “At the end the day, my goal is to keep my Haveners alive.”

Many students aren’t aware of Haven’s existence. Though they may be accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community, some are still divided.

“People are starting to become more open about the LGBT group on campus but at the same time the school will be quick to go against it if any of it is shown,” junior English major Kara Higa said. “I believe we need to stay true to what we believe and what the Bible says, but at the same time, show people the same love Jesus would show them.”

Kiana Guzman, a junior Applied Exercise Science major, urges students to follow God’s commandment to love.

Guzman said, “I believe how APU reacts to this community is very normal, since APU stands on the Bible [truth where] God created marriage to be between man and woman. Nevertheless, we are demanded by God to love our neighbors, no matter what the circumstance is.”

This is not a call to be an ally, or a supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is about visibility and awareness. This is about starting a dialogue and understanding people in our community.

How would diversity actually affect our campus when we come to know people for more than just each of their distinct characteristics? You never know what you might have in common with anyone outside your bubble unless you step out and see “the other” as just another human being. Loving those who are different from us, now, that’s radical love.