In order to continue the on-campus dialogue regarding human sexuality and LGBTQIA issues within our community, Refuge, Perspectives, and MAAC, along with various students and faculty, have organized events to enhance the conversation. Earlier in the semester, Dr. Cary held an event, “Chastity Does Not Discriminate,” offering his perspective on human sexuality, sponsored by the EU Philosophical Society (that event can be read about in detail on waltonian.com). In October, three other events were held to contribute to the conversation surrounding these issues.
On Oct. 22, Refuge and Perspectives hosted “A Conversation with President Duffett” in the McInnis auditorium. This event was an opportunity for Dr. Duffett to explain his reasoning behind signing the IRFA letter this summer, and was a forum for students to ask Eastern’s president questions. The president spoke for approximately 15 minutes about the separation of church and state and how the IRFA letter was meant to support the rights of religious places of learning to make choices regarding its hiring policies when it pertains to such sensitive topics as the LGBTQIA community. After his short presentation, attendees were invited to ask Dr. Duffett questions. The questions ranged from concerns with the faculty and student handbook to Eastern’s hiring policies to expressions of gratitude that this conversation was taking place. Cindy Douyon, a senior at Eastern, came away from the discussion with hope: “I think that this is the greatest thing that has happened to this campus! I feel as though this campus has been able to have a lot more of the uncomfortable conversations. Before [the IRFA] letter it was almost a taboo topic to bring up, in fear of hurting someone’s feelings, but now we can truly have these open and honest discussions and learn more about the LGBTQ community.”
On Oct. 23, Dr. Yolanda Turner, co-chair of Eastern’s Psychology Department and Refuge faculty advisor, and Ms. Jackie Irving, the director of the Multicultural Student Initiative and the Goode Scholars Program, led an event sponsored by Refuge, MAAC and the Psychology Department entitled “LGBTQIA: What does it all mean?” The purpose of this event was to provide the Eastern community with the terms and understanding necessary to use a common language to be a part of the conversation about human sexuality and the LGBTQIA community. Dr. Turner says, “Often people confuse gender and sex, are unaware of the difference between identity and orientation, believe that people are born either male or female, or don’t know what specific words mean. In order to talk together about human sexuality, we need to first have a common language and an idea of what ‘is’ before we begin to talk about what our response should be.” Dr. Turner hopes to hold this lecture again in the spring.
As part of UNITY week, Refuge and MAAC co-sponsored an LGBTQIA Couples Panel on Oct. 28. The panel was made up of seven LGBTQIA individuals all of whom were in long-term committed Christian relationships and are a part of the welcoming and affirming Central Baptist Church in Wayne. Approximately 120 students, faculty and staff attended the event in the Gough Great Room. Grace Geisler, vice president of Refuge and executive board member of MAAC, says that the panel was essential in helping Eastern’s community understand what it means to be LGBTQIA and a Christian. “I think when relating to the couples’ faith, the panel relayed how these couples are just normal people living out their faith,” says Geisler. She hopes that Eastern continues to be strong in their thoroughness of this particular discussion, and that in the end, everyone’s experience will be validated, regardless of personal opinion. Efram Harkins, a co-leader of Refuge, says, “As an out gay student on campus, it was incredible to see that many people show up on campus…and hear those personal stories in a vulnerable setting.”
Continue to look for updates around campus and in The Waltonian regarding on-campus events on the topics of human sexuality and the LGBTQIA community at Eastern.