We all come from certain backgrounds. Some of them are far far from where we are now, and some make every moment leading up to the present make complete sense. No matter who you are or how you identify, your story matters. It’s not up to incredibly powerful institutions to edit our stories, even when they acknowledge they exist, even when they claim them for their own purposes.
I went to Trinity Western University, an Evangelical Christian school with a policy against homosexual behavior (and pretty strict gender stereotypes and segregation). Daily chapels, theology classes, on campus bible studies, off campus ministry (aka evangelism) were all part of that too. This was normal to me. I went to all Christian schools before then too.
This is where I was when I first came out and Vancouver became my introduction to the secular (aka diverse world). It’s funny how some people think that in such a religious environment, there couldn’t possibly be queer kids. There were and there are. Some know themselves when they go, some find out there, and some find out years down the line. Some people say there isn’t any discrimination at a school committed to “God’s love” (that’s mostly the school crying out for religious freedom so they can stay-the-course culturally, and not grow or change.) I have a pretty limited impact on that perspective.
What I can do, beyond telling my own story, is invite LGBTQI, etc and allies who are alumni, current students, administrators, professors, and even parents to tell their stories. Telling my story has been healing for me. It’s helped develop empathy, connection, and community. Since that time I’ve worked hard to consolidate my religious upbringing with both my current spirituality, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It hasn’t been easy, but bringing my story out in the open has helped me own and embrace another huge part of what makes my identity: my past. I invite you to do the same.
Renowned qualitative psychologist Brene Brown says “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives; secrecy, silence, and judgment.”
We can’t prevent people’s judgment, but we can end the silence and secrecy about people’s negative, ambiguous, and even positive experiences of Trinity Western University’s polices and culture. We can create belonging where it hasn’t been created for us. We deserve to live wholehearted lives without shame.
If you have a story about your experience with TWU in this context, I invite you to send it to me. I have attached a list of questions to help get you started, but it shouldn’t limit you.
My intention is to post snippets of these with your name or anonymously (as you prefer) on this page or in other creative/instrumental projects, so there’s that caveat. But I will email you directly back to let you know where, when, and what. Your privacy is guaranteed.
I’m doing this because I want people to know they are not alone in their experiences, and can share stories without fear of retaliation or punishment. I want there to be a more honest, complete picture of people’s experiences at Trinity Western University, particularly the pieces of the mosaic that are told what part of the picture they must occupy to be acceptable.