An LGBT/Religion/Higher Ed Issue? I Can’t Not Weigh In

This matter is already getting a lot of coverage. It’s been in the Advocate, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. John thought it was worth mentioning on AMERICAblog, but was not very critical in challenging the premise. Meanwhile, Alex was rightly quick to criticize on Bilerico, drawing parallels with the previous case involving the Boy Scouts of America and pointing out that it’s about money, not rights. Probably the best background information can be found in the articles on Inside HigherEd and The Chronicle.

The question: Can a university deny recognition to a student organization that refuses to abide by the university’s nondiscrimination policy for religious reasons? The U.S. Supreme Court is going to decide whether the Christian Legal Society can be recognized at UC’s Hastings College of Law and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale while discriminating based on sexual orientation.

I find this question insulting.

Ignore what I just typed and consider this question: Can a university deny recognition to a student organization that refuses to abide by the university’s nondiscrimination policy? Yes. That is the point of having a nondiscrimination policy. If the university is committed to nondiscrimination, then the university gets to decide not to fund (endorse) groups who don’t follow suit. It doesn’t mean those students can’t go there, or gather, or meet, or do whatever. It just means that until their policies match the open and fair policies of the university, they don’t get funding or resources (like space). Any student who pays in should have access; if you don’t allow all students, then you don’t get all students’ money. I don’t know why that’s not the end of the conversation. I don’t know how it’s gotten this far.

Why is the answer any different “because of religious reasons”? It shouldn’t be. It’s really that simple. But this is the USA, isn’t it?

This case is going to be long and ugly. Here are some of the ridiculous claims that will come up:

The policy interferes with our free practice of religion. It’s a violation of our rights.

No. It’s not. See above. Like Alex pointed out, this isn’t about rights. It’s about money. Access to student funds = access for students. Gay and nonbelieving students help pay into that pool of money, so they should have full access to how it is spent. It’s the group’s right to believe what they want. It’s even their right to discriminate. But they don’t have a right to discriminate and get money from the university.

Here’s an actual quote from the Chronicle article from Kim Colby, senior counsel for the Christian Legal Society’s advocacy division:

Public universities shouldn’t single out Christian student groups for discrimination.

Ha! Guess what! They’re not. Every single group gets to abide by the same nondiscrimination policies. The only reason the Christian groups feel targeted is because they’re the only ones trying to openly discriminate.

Gays wanting to marry is “special rights”, but Christian groups wanting to not have to abide by the same policies as everybody else is freedom? Nice try.

Here’s a third ridiculous argument that will be heard:

If we let in gays and atheists, they’ll “destroy the integrity of the society.” We could end up with officers who don’t share our beliefs!

Two questions. Why would students join a group that completely conflicts with what they believe? (Honestly, there probably are some self-hating gays that might actually want to join the group, and I bet the group would be happy to have them!) Why would the group elect officers that they don’t think will lead them?

It’s a strawman if I ever saw. It’d be like if I said I’m going to go join the Republican party so I can infiltrate them and dismantle everything they stand for. It’d be nice if I could do that, but who do I look like, Stephen Colbert?

What this really comes down to is using. These groups want money and access from the university without abiding by university policies. Religion should have nothing to do with it, and the fact that we’ve let it shows what a huge problem we have with religion in society.

As I said before, people are free to believe whatever they want and discriminate against whoever they want… but not on my dime.

Academic Standards and Religious Doctrine Don’t Mix

I recognize that my opinion on religiously-affiliated universities is “controversial.” I have been admonished and challenged by my peers and colleagues for suggesting that any religious doctrine is an obstacle to rigorous academic study. You can’t expand human thinking if you are being told how to think. You can’t explore different opinions (academic freedom) and different forms of diversity if you are surrounded by people who believe (by mandate) the same as you. My argument is not that you can’t have a positive learning experience attending a religiously-affiliated school, but that we shouldn’t treat them as if they are “on par” with other institutions whose environment is not so limited.

I want to specify that I’m not talking about schools with loose affiliations to certain religious organizations, but schools like Wheaton College, Liberty University, Bringham Young University, and Oral Roberts University where religious belief dictates campus policy. These include rules for what students can and cannot do on campus (or even what information they can or cannot access), rules for what professors can teach, oaths that all students and staff are expected to take regarding what they believe and do not believe. By letting beliefs dictate knowledge instead of the other way around, these schools inherently lack the open critical exploration that the highest standards of academia demand. They have a right to exist, they have a right to do what they please, but I don’t think they should be immune to critique from academics for the learning environments they create (or rather, don’t create).

News this week from Calvin College in Michigan demonstrates just how limiting this set-up can be not only in the professional lives of the school’s community members, but in their personal lives as well. Here’s what happened:

College employees received a memo last week saying the Board of Trustees has revisited issues surrounding the college’s position on homosexuality, concluding it is “unacceptable” for faculty and staff to teach, write or advocate on behalf of the issue.

Where to begin? How about the fact that homosexuality isn’t an issue; it’s a phenomenon. I don’t know how you properly study or teach communications, education, biology, psychology, sociology, social work, art, music, English, writing or any kind of history without including homosexuality, yet those are all majors at Calvin College. The American Psychological Association just published an important review of scientific studies about the dangers of trying to suppress homosexuality, but I guess understanding human nature according to scientific research is not acceptable at Calvin College.

Of course not:

The college in 2008 affirmed its commitment to the Christian Reformed Church’s position on homosexuality: that the practice is sinful, but a person’s orientation is not. The board formed the Homosexuality and Community Life Working Group to discuss the implications of the college and church position and how it relates to the day-to-day life in the college.

See, it doesn’t matter what knowledge tells us about these issues, because the school will continue to follow what the Church says. The Church can say whatever it wants, but such untruths are even more dangerous in the hands of an institution of higher education. The Church just says what to believe, but then the college actually prevents the dispensation of any information that might counter subscribing to that belief. How can such a school have any dignity or claims to academic discipline? We only study that which doesn’t run counter to what we believe. Then how do you ever grow or learn anything new?

And just belonging to such a community is toxic:

The trustees in May revisited the topic and stated expectations for the faculty, including that advocacy by faculty and staff both in and out of the classroom is unacceptable.

So now, a place of work is dictating what its employees can do (or in this case, possibly even what they can be) in any part of their lives. In fact, it would be the school’s right (because of its religious designation) to fire any employees, regardless of their esteem and possibly even tenure, if they do not comply with the policies. (Many such schools include some kind of oath or pledge to the school’s belief system in job contracts employees are required to sign.) Duty to the Church comes before any sense of duty to knowledge or academia:

The board says there are cases where academic integrity will “require acquainting students with alternate views. However, the position of the church and the college should be clearly and sympathetically presented, and advocacy of homosexual practice and same-sex marriage is not permitted.”

I read that as saying that any teachers who even suggest the position is not totally merited (in other words, who don’t present the position “sympathetically”), are in violation of the policy.

These kind of policies might be the exception, but they still set a precedent! If I had studied music education at Calvin College, I might have gotten the same course of instruction regarding how to be an effective teacher (minus all that appreciation of teaching to diversity I got in my sociology classes). However, knowing that there are some facts that the college refuses to acknowledge tarnishes academic standards across the board.

Institutions either have academic integrity and academic freedom or they don’t. There should be no room for exceptions. Schools that try to make such exceptions should never develop competitive academic reputations. I would go so far as to suggest that by accrediting these institutions the same as others, the value of all schools’ accreditation is compromised. If they teach beliefs, they’re houses of religion; if they teach knowledge and critical thinking, they’re schools. There isn’t room to have it both ways.

I’m just one young professional with one unpopular opinion, but I will say it here and without hesitation: by humoring these schools that have questionable approaches to academics, we are doing a huge disservice to education in our nation. It’s not working and it has to change.

Faculty Responsible for Campus Climate, Too! (NYU School of Law)

[2/28/10 – This post has been selected as a semifinalist for being one of the Best of the 2009 Just Posts! Please check out the other nominees!]

Earlier this month, I wrote about Thio Li-ann, a law professor from the University of Singapore who had been invited to a visiting professorship at the NYU School of Law.  She has openly expressed her anti-gay views, advocating that same-sex behavior should not be decriminalized, and mocking the LGBT community with comments like anal sex is “like shoving a straw up your nose to drink.”

Well, it seems she has declined to come.

Last week, the Dean of the NYU School of Law published an open letter to the NY Times.  In it, he explains how the situation went down.

I am writing to let you know that Professor Li-ann Thio informed me today that she is canceling her Fall visit to NYU Law School as a Global Visiting Professor as a result of the controversy surrounding her views regarding homosexuality and gay rights. She explained that she was disappointed by what she called the atmosphere of hostility by some members of our community towards her views and by the low enrollments in her classes. The Law School will therefore cancel the course on Human Rights in Asia and the seminar on Constitutionalism in Asia, which she had been scheduled to teach.

At Inside Higher Ed, they obtained a copy of Thio’s resignation letter:

As an Asian woman whose legal training has spanned the finest institutions in both East and West, I believe I would have something of value to offer your students. However, the conditions no longer exist to proceed with the visit, given the animus fueled by irresponsible misrepresentation/distortions and/or concerted invective from certain parties. Friends and colleagues have also expressed serious concerns about my safety and well-being.

I think this situation illuminates two important points about life on college campuses:

  1. Faculty are just as responsible for the campus climate as anyone else on campus.  They can contribute to it and detract from it.
  2. Faculty have a responsibility directly to their students.  Being a knowledgeable expert in a field is not enough; how a professor treats students and how a professor applies that expertise publicly counts too.

I think there is this myth in higher education that the faculty are just there to teach and do research while the student affairs staff “takes care” of everything else affecting the students.  Student affairs staff are there to provide all the cushy, comfortable stuff while the faculty are there to dispense the hard knowledge.  Why student affairs staff deserve more respect as educators is a post for a different day.  Faculty need to better understand that their presence has a bigger impact than publishing papers and handing out grades.

I’m quite proud of the students at NYU’s School of Law.  They made a bold statement.  They didn’t just say Thio’s beliefs offend us and we don’t want her here.  They went a step farther and said We choose not to learn from her.  They recognized that her words are hurtful and do not abide with the standards of inclusion at the foundation of their educational experience.  If I were to ever need a lawyer, I would now feel more comfortable hiring an NYU graduate because those students have demonstrated that they don’t just want to be lawyers; they care about justice.

I think this episode also speaks to the importance of lifelong learning.  Thio seemed to assert that the breadth of her knowledge was good enough, but the students said that it was not.  Even though this situation is not about religion (though we aren’t sure what exactly informs Thio’s beliefs about homosexuality), it relates to the point at the very core of this blog.  It’s not just enough to have views; a person needs to be able to defend those views.

Much like the conservative religious right in the United States, Thio tried to play the Victim card.  She claims that she’s the one hurt because people did not respect her belief.  Again, this confuses respecting the right to believe and respecting actual beliefs.  Her viewpoints and the way she expresses those viewpoints is not worthy of respect from the students at NYU.  That’s her problem, not theirs.  If she is not even willing to show up because she can’t be in a place and hold an unpopular (and disrespectful) point of view without crying foul, then I really wonder what she would even have to teach about human rights.  I’m no expert and certainly no scholar of law, but it would seem to me that she can’t even stand up for her own rights, or she cannot tell the difference between rights and privilege.

I hope other faculty in other fields really take some time to consider this situation.  Look at the effect that a faculty viewpoint had on the campus community before she even set foot on it.  How should faculty regard themselves in terms of how their students see them?  Are there some ways in which students should not see them (as in Thio’s case)?  Are there some ways in which students should see their professors more?  What can faculty do to enhance the learning environment in their classrooms?  In what ways can faculty support an inclusive campus climate beyond the classroom walls?

I think this situation ended the best way it could.  The school maintained its dignity by not rescinding the invitation, the students reacted in a positive way, and Thio was shown for who she really is.

I highly recommend you read the article on Inside Higher Ed.  It describes the situation quite well.

Academic Freedom: Anti-gay Opinions vs. Anti-gay Untruths

[2/28/10 – This post has been selected as a semifinalist for being one of the Best of the 2009 Just Posts! Please check out the other nominees!]

From an article at Inside Higher Ed:

Should someone who teaches human rights back human rights for all people?

That’s the question being raised by some students at New York University’s law school, who are upset that a visiting professor in the fall semester, slated to teach human rights law, is Thio Li-ann of the National University of Singapore, an outspoken opponent of gay rights. Thio has argued repeatedly and graphically that her country should continue to criminalize gay sexual acts.

In a speech to lawmakers in Singapore, Thio said that gay sex is “contrary to biological design and immoral,” argued that gay people can change their sexual orientation, said that anal sex is “like shoving a straw up your nose to drink,” and rejected arguments based on a diversity of sexual orientations by saying that “diversity is not license for perversity.” (The text of her talk is here, and YouTube video is available in three parts — here and here and here.)

I would always defend the idea of academic freedom. Truly, only by having opposing views do we challenge ourselves to investigate and expand the breadth of human understanding.  I would never expect any kind of censorship in the college classroom.

However, I do see a difference between different points of view and misinformation.  I think that all professors teaching in any field should be held to the same accountability for the claims they make and the lessons they teach.  I would argue that not everything that Thio professes measures up to that intellectual standard, so my claim against her would not be that she shouldn’t be teaching law, but that she should refrain from attempting to teach psychology, sociology, or biology.

For example, Thio would probably struggle to find research that supports her claim that gay sex is contrary to biological design.  If anything, she is dreadfully close to Ray Comfort territory.  I would counter such a claim with an article published last month demonstrating plenty of evidence that homosexual behavior is evolved and furthers the survival of a species.

Her claim that gay sex is immoral is totally an opinion, but not a very reasonable one given how much evidence there is demonstrating the psychological damage incurred when trying to change a person’s orientation.  All of the top psychological and psychiatric organizations (such as the APA, among others) condemn such reparative therapy and hold that sexual orientation cannot be changed (here is the NGLTF’s Challenging the Ex-Gay Movement information packet).  By suggesting otherwise, she is essentially espousing lies to further her agenda.

That is the problem that I see with “Academic Freedom.”  We humor claims and are afraid to challenge them.  We confuse views with facts.  We favor public opinion over scientific opinion.  In many ways, the same folks who use “Academic Freedom” to protect their bias also depend on religious privilege (the undeserved respect of beliefs) to do the same.  When challenge arises, they are quick to call themselves victims of  intolerance (see Victim Meme) with little regard to the intolerance they promote.

Another great example of such abuse of academic freedom is Robert P. George, a law professor at Princeton University who also happens to be Chairman of the Board for the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM).  In a recent “interview,” (I use quotes because it is in a publication whose President is on the board of NOM, so not a whole lot of cutting-edge journalism taking place here), George tells us what the fight for marriage equality is really all about:

It is about sex. The idea that is antithetical to those who are seeking to redefine marriage is that there is something uniquely good and morally upright about the chaste sexual union of husband and wife—something that is absent in sodomitical acts and in other forms sexual behavior that have been traditionally—and in my view correctly—regarded as intrinsically non-marital and, as such, immoral.

Later in the interview, George talks about how he challenges the assumptions his students make.  My question is: who challenges the assumptions George makes?  Who is holding him accountable for claims like “there is something uniquely good and morally upright” about heterosexual marriage?  How does he defend that claim?  And similarly, how does he defend his claim that same goodness is not apparent in same-sex relations (or “sodomitical” acts, as he calls them, without prejudice, I’m sure)?  Truthfully, his words (and support of NOM) are detrimental to the LGBT community, so where are the all the social scientists that could refute these “correct” views of his?

Academic institutions are the places where such controversy are supposed to unfold.  Tradition is not proof of anything, and I think we all have a duty to hold fellow scholars accountable.  Academic freedom, I would argue, is not a freedom from being challenged as Thio and George might like to claim; academic freedom is the freedom to challenge notions.

Thio and George should be free to teach, but when they teach untruths based on their personal agendas, I think we have a responsibility to call them out on it instead of turning the other way.

Unraveling tradition: simple respect with complicated solutions

Something I always find amazing is how challenging it can be to “undo.”  Simplicity is easier said than done.  I think this is why paradigm change is often slow: it’s not just about changing people’s minds but changing process and precedent.

Here is some simplicity:

Respect people for their sexual orientation.

Respect people for their gender identity.

We haven’t achieved either as societal norms.  We’ve managed to get respect for people in spite of their sexual orientation (“love the sinner, hate the sin,” “don’t ask, don’t tell”).  We are further behind with gender identity.  We presume to know better how to identify people than they know how to identify themselves.  When I decided to begin identifying with gender-neutral pronouns, many resisted this idea.  I don’t push it, but I still prefer it.  For me, it’s as simple as, “I don’t want to be identified by the gender binary,” but for others, it might be a complete mindfuck (thinking of a synonym for “mindfuck” is also a mindfuck).

That’s why I think practical education is so important.  It’s very easy to know a lot of facts about sexual orientation and gender identity (or any aspect of social justice), but it’s the ability to apply that learning.  What does it look like to understand, respect, and accommodate?  It’s a lot more challenging in practice.

The University of Vermont just took a big step to accommodate a simple aspect of respect.  UVM has implemented new software that allows students to identify a preferred name and pronouns for internal matters without affecting external records.  In other words, faculty and staff can see how a person prefers to be referred to around campus without endangering the legal protection or financial aid of that student.  It is really quite brilliant, but it was a rigorous process to redesign the software to allow for such an accommodation.  For as challenging as the solution might have been, the outcome is a more welcoming environment for trans students.  Respect isn’t easy to achieve in practice, but it is always worth pursuing.

Here’s a quick roundup of some other LGBT-advancement efforts from other college campuses in just the past month:

Harvard has endowed a visiting professorship in LGBT studies, the first of its kind.

The San Jose State LGBT Center, which just opened last year, has been bequeathed $1 million dollars.

UC Berkeley has launched the Philip Brett LGBT Fund, an endowed fellowship for graduate LGBT-related research.

North Dakota’s Board of Education banned sexual orientation discrimination at all 11 of ND’s public schools.

Progress is happening all around us, but I think we all need to be proactive about holding people accountable regarding how we treat each other.  Respecting and embracing diversity only serves the human experience in a positive way.  It might be challenging at times, but who could really object to learning how to better appreciate other people?

U-Michigan working towards a post-gender society

There was a great article in last week’s Michigan Daily about gender and the way it plays out on the college campus:genderneutral1

Seeking a post-gender society (The Michigan Daily)

The article focuses on two trans students, and discusses their experiences quite well.  I was slightly dismayed by the implication that all trans people must or will undergo sexual reassignment surgery, but that aside, I thought it portrayed them in a very fair light.

A lot of my friends have been struggling with my decision to identify with gender-neutral pronouns, and I hope this article might offer a bit more insight into that decision.  Gender is totally socially-constructed, and not all of us fit perfectly into the definitions of “man” and “woman”; in fact, most of us don’t.  In fact, 1 in every 2000 births does not even fit into the sexual dichotomy of “male” and “female.”  Even though I relate the most with a masculine presentation, there are many times when my behavior might be perceived as effeminate or unmanly or simply ungendered.  For this reason, I don’t think I completely fit into the gender-binary, and I prefer that the way people refer to me not force my identification as “he.”

I love the way Mak describes himself in the article:

“The way I look at my own gender is that I am post-gender,” Mak said. “I think of myself as sort of a synthesis of various gender stereotypes and roles.”

These are complicated issues, and I don’t expect it to make perfect sense to everyone.  Still, I think we are a happier, healthier society when we work to better appreciate difference instead of forcing conformity.  There are a ton of beautiful identities that exist beyond the gender binary, and I feel like we are selling ourselves short by disregarding them.  We need to recognize our own gender and the effect we let it have on our lives so that we can work towards existing beyond it.  Life is too short to worry about conforming just for the sake of conforming.

My esteemed colleague Gabe Javier made a great observation in the piece:

“Gender is like the air we breathe,” said Gabriel Javier, senior assistant director at the Spectrum Center. “We do not notice it in our everyday lives until someone points it out.” But in the everyday lives of students, it is constantly being pointed out in the way we choose to dress, the bathrooms we use, the dorm hall we live in and the way our peers treat us.

Gender can be such a burden, and many of us do not even realize all the many ways we force ourselves to fit into these norms.  I hope those of you who have questions regarding my choice to use gender-neutral pronouns please feel comfortable asking them, but also be respectful of identities that are different from your own.  Tolerance is better than hate; acceptance is better than tolerance; respect is what we all deserve.

“Moral” Judgment vs. Academic Freedom

So, I guess I would say I kind of saw this kind of nonsense coming.

I have always been concerned about institutions of higher education who have affiliations so strong with religious organizations that the doctrine dictates the academics.  In my mind, some of them border more on education-affiliated churches than religiously affiliated universities.  Are they teaching knowledge or beliefs?  There is a difference.

At any rate, what I think makes most universities strongholds of academia is academic freedom–a dedicated pursuit of knowledge.  That pursuit cannot always be unbiased, but I hold the most respect for scholars who work to be objective.  (Intelligent design is “cart before the horse” pseudo-science and therefore has a motive and cannot be objective, so I have no pity for all those professors who were “expelled” in Expelled.)

So, today, I saw this video (hat tip: Towleroad):

Here is a woman who is trying to advocate against academic freedom on the basis of her religious values.  State Rep. Byrd thinks that “controversial behaviors” should not be studied at the university, and if they are, that the state should have some sort of subjective input as to what it will finance and what it won’t.  It shouldn’t be surprising that she’ll be partnering up with the Christian Coalition in her crusade against the gays and perverts.

While there is obvious heterosexism motivating her point of view (since queer theory is important to the understanding of everybody‘s sexuality and gender identity), this is more of a case of values trying to trump knowledge.  Her understanding of why anyone might study things such as male prostitution (which could have important sociological and healthcare impacts) or oral sex (which is perhaps more widely practiced than Rep. Byrd would like to admit) suggests she does not even appreciate the importance of university research.  She is more concerned with dictating “morals” than pursuing knowledge.

This is disturbing, and we cannot stand for it.

The university needs to pursue all kinds of research and should not be held to scrutiny by uninformed (and untenured) lawmakers.  If lawmakers intercede at all, it instantly destroys the university’s reputation for providing objective, unbiased research.  What’s next?

“We don’t need women’s studies; women and men now have equal rights.”
“We don’t need any of the ethnic studies, because we already know everything we’re going to know about each culture.”
“In fact, let’s not have any support resources for any of those groups.  Women, ethnics, the disabled, and gays deserve no special rights or accommodations on college campuses.”

We know that’s where this could go.  As someone who works with a variety of underrepresented populations on a college campus, I know the importance of making sure they have the support they need to be successful students.  Women, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of the queer community face many unique challenges specifically because of their identities in our society, and everybody needs to learn how to better support them and include them equitably in society.  There are tomes of research that support these efforts.

Let’s not open the Pandora’s Box of letting values subjectively dictate what a university can and cannot do.

The Way Justice and NonDiscrimination Are Supposed to Work

Just a quick little post about a news story a colleague forwarded to me:

Judge Says Colleges’ Bias Policy Does Not Impede Rights of Christian Student Groups” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Here’s the gist.  The college said they were going to protect gays.  The Christian student group said they were going to discriminate against gays.  The college said, “No.”  The Christian student group said, “How dare you!  We’re suing!”  The judge said, “Tough.”

Pure, simple.  Fairness and justice.

The comments below the article are interesting.  The world of higher education tends to be more liberal-minded, but there are still folks accusing the judge of using “bigotry against Christians.”  My favorite comment was #9:

I may be wrong, but in order for Southworth to apply, all students would have to have access to participate in the group (the definition of public forum). The group chose to exclude a portion of the campus population. The college isn’t disputing the student group’s right to hold their viewpoint, but rather their decision to exclude other students based on viewpoint. Of course, this may be one of those situations where the decision rests on whether there are any supreme court retirements in the next couple of years.

I also encourage you to read #18:

As a defender of diversity and a director of a Black student center, it is my hope that every student on my campus walks through the doors of my office. Get over your conservative fear and visit one of these centers that you seem to know so much about some day and expose yourself to the truth.

Carson in #20 explains the rules and processes quite well, and I particularly enjoyed this line:

The argument that religious groups can turn-away folks based on the first amendment (or any other constitutional amendments) would also mean that racial and gender discrimination would also be permitted….wouldn’t it?

One last excerpted comment: Kirk, #35:

Furthermore, there are many, many gay people who would love to be part of Christian groups.

How sad that Christians today cannot even live up to the low standards of our legal system.

My own comment is #47.

It’s engaging discussion if you have the chance to read through it!

Speaking of being gay in college, it just got a little easier in Texas…

Normally, the formation of a new fraternity chapter at a school is exciting, but not revolutionary.

When you’re trying to form a chapter of a gay fraternity at a huge state university in the heart of Texas, that is a little more groundbreaking.

Here’s the article: “Students working to grow UT’s first gay fraternity.”

Delta Lambda Phi is a fine organization, and I am proud to currently serve as a community advisor for one of its chapters.  Considering there is only one other chapter in all of Texas, what these young gentlemen are doing at UT Austin is both courageous and commendable.  If you know of a DLP chapter at a university near you, do your best to cheer them on!  They are a wonderful support structure for young gay and bisexual men on college campuses.

» Learn more about UT Austin’s LGBT Campus Climate through the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index.

» Learn more about Delta Lambda Phi.

I get a lot of news about LGBT issues in higher education, so expect a lot of little tidbits like these.

College makes you gay! Is anyone surprised?

I came out when I was in college so it must be true!

Here’s the article, err, the article about the article: “Woman Claims College ‘Turned’ Her Gay

Basically, this young woman at McGill University (which is in Montreal, so that automatically gives it like 20 bonus gay points) claims that the culture of college makes it hard to “keep your rigid heterosexuality intact.”

It goes on with all the same old nonsense about “how people behave sexually…is largely determined by society and not by nature.”

To that I say post hoc, ergo propter hoc! It is a ridiculous conclusion that completely belies a valid understanding of sexual orientation.  Just because a person, such as a sheltered young woman going to college for the first time, is all of a sudden encouraged to explore her sexuality further does not mean her sexuality changed.

The entire idea is judgmental, because it suggests that one set of behaviors is somehow wrong or misguided or unhealthy.  If poor little Anna Montrose hadn’t been in that scary liberal environment of wild abandon, she might still be perfectly straight!  This should be a lesson to all young women not to watch so much of The L Word!

Could it be that Montrose was never perfectly straight, but she was just never in an environment where she felt she could safely explore her non-straight tendencies?  Is it possible that fully understanding one’s own sexual identity despite the expectations of society is actually… a good thing?  Is it outside the realm of possibility that this whole article takes advantage of a young woman’s naïveté simply to promote artificial scare tactics (aka ignorance through fear) about people who are not heterosexual?

In hindsight, I knew I was gay when I was like 13.  College was just the first time I realized “it’s okay to be me.”  How horrid.