As this is my last Pilot article of my college career, I feel the need to express my gratitude for the opportunity to have been a columnist these past few years. I extend warm thanks to my first upperclassman house roommate, Abby Becker. She was the co-editor in chief of this fine publication in 2007, and without her coaxing I never would have realized how much I enjoy journalism. Thank you to all who have read and appreciated my column. I cannot tell you how my heart swells when people tell me how they have laughed, thought, or considered vegetarianism because of my column. Writing for the Pilot is one of many, many blessings I will have to count as I look back on college. Principia is an excellent institution academically, artistically, and socially. However, for all that is grand about Principia, I would like to spend my last article reflecting on one thing I wish might have looked different by the time I graduated: the homosexuality policy.
In the fall of 2005 I sat at my family’s computer, staring at a blinking cursor. I was filling out my Principia application and was stuck at the part that was asking if I had any issue upholding Principia’s standards. For the most part, the question was easy, but I struggled knowing that I was about to apply to an institution that categorized homosexuality as wrong. On my application, I ended up solving the conundrum temporarily by writing something like “I have difficulty supporting the anti-homosexuality policy, although I am not gay, so it should not be a direct problem for me should I attend Principia.” I doubted I was the first applicant to have such an issue. It has always been supremely clear to me, as a Christian Scientist, that homosexuality has nothing to do with one’s morality.
Briefly, here’s what I figure. All of God’s children are whole — male or female. In fact, Mary Baker Eddy goes to great lengths to explain that we are not actually males and females but male and female qualities. To me, this has always been comforting. I am a woman, but I do not have to accept anything about myself that society says is true about women. I do not have to be overly sensitive. I can be strong. I can be a good driver and an astronaut, for Susan B. Anthony’s sake! So, my sex should never dictate who I am as a spiritual expression. Cool.
Now, here is my understanding of romantic relationships: two people who love one another enough to accept each other as family — a committed relationship not just to one another, but to the ideals that the couple would want to support in their lives. I do recognize that marriage is an option for romantic relationships, and marriage is meant for the generation of mankind. But, call me crazy, seeing the giant problem of overpopulation in today’s world makes me think childrearing might not be the most needed progression for mankind. Couldn’t marriage and romantic relationships generate good in the world through other media? Or, couldn’t the couple adopt a child — thus helping with overpopulation and generating good, whole-souled people into the world through parenthood? If a couple is committed to the generation of good, maybe even in the form of a child they did not conceive, does it matter if they can physically reproduce? This concept applies to more than homosexual relationships. What about a woman who has been told she is unable to conceive? Would Principia, or any Christian Science institution, really see it as best if we told her she must have a healing about her ovaries before she could even consider having a romantic relationship with a man? After all, her relationships, like a homosexual’s, would not be able to lead to a physical generation of mankind.
Basically, what I am saying is that I don’t see any possible argument against homosexuality that doesn’t offend me as a woman. If having a romantic relationship is good, but only if it is with a man, we are either admitting that there are certain qualities a man can have that will help me grow that a woman couldn’t have, or we are admitting that the physical ability to have sex for a couple is necessary. If the latter is the case, why are we trying to rid ourselves of sexual desires when it is clearly important within relationships?
That’s my piece. That is how I feel. I want my romantic relationships to be barely focused on sexuality and physical attraction and most focused on love, commitment, work, and Truth. Since those are my standards, I get a bit offended when a policy inadvertently slams them as insufficient. So, what do you do when you feel something isn’t right?
My freshman year, I did little. I joined a Facebook group called “Principians for Queer Equality.” It made me realize there were interested students, past and present, who were unhappy with the policy. However, I should note that, at the time, this was actually against the homosexuality policy, which included a clause stating that attempting to change the anti-homosexuality policy was considered homosexual activity. The issue could not be truly discussed until this clause was amended.
Thanks to the dedication of a committee of students in 2008-2009, the Free Speech policy was passed. Thus, the homosexuality clause could be amended. By the end of my junior year, it was no longer against the rules to publicly argue the policy with others. Here, gratitude is once again part of the story. During the time when it was still against the rules to work for a change in the policy, I wrote a Pilot article about it. The article was well-received by the community. (I received no hate mail, but many thanks.) I also wrote a letter to the Trustees of Principia. They responded politely, but forwarded the issue to OSL. I understood. I took the necessary steps and talked with both my RC and Dean of Students Dorsie Glen. They were both loving, helpful, and encouraging, but did not have certain answers as to why the policy itself existed — just talking points.
This fall I asked the Principia community to join in a writing campaign. Via another Pilot article, I asked anyone in the community either solidly opposed or in support of the homosexuality policy to step forward and make this an issue worth reconsidering or casting aside with excellent reasoning. I managed the e-mail account and received a whopping fifteen letters on the issue. Some from staff, some from family, and most from students. Every letter was well considered and offered new ideas to the debate. There were fourteen letters from folks displeased with the policy and one letter from someone who thought it was well founded.
I combined bits from all the letters (including the naysayer) into one super letter to the Trustees once again. This time I mentioned how grateful I was that the Free Speech policy was finally in place so a letter-writing campaign could happen at all. Secondly, I mentioned the importance of actually having a public rationale for such an unwelcoming policy. The Trustees once again wrote back politely telling me to go to OSL. I was privileged to talk again with Dorsie Glen, the dean of students, but as it was once again without any institution-sanctioned reasoning for the policy, the conversation did not help me realize why homosexuality directly affects spiritual growth. We could only muse over ideas and more questions — which is fruitful in itself — but does not help me support Principia’s practices.
Now, according to Glen, “The All-Campus [Student Body] President has asked each house to have a discussion within their house on homosexuality before the end of the quarter to hear the underpinnings we think are behind the policy. Unless there are some major objections to the points presented, I expect that we would put a link in the Blue Pages on the web for next year that would give those underpinnings.”
To me, offering reasoning for a controversial policy is crucial. Without reasoning, the policy cannot help students. Students who are satisfied with the policy do not have to consider or defend their views. Students who are not satisfied with the policy do not take it seriously because it has no argument for itself. The fact that this policy may finally have some underpinning — whether or not we agree with it — is a huge step in the history of this policy. Again, sound the gratitude gong.
When talking with students who are somewhat or extremely opposed to the position Principia has taken on homosexuality, sometimes it has been all too easy to sink into a steaming heap of frustration. But, this experience has taught me (and others) the power of patience. Certainly, when something is wrong (as I believe this policy to be), we feel that change should be immediate. However, the beautiful and terrible truth about multifaceted institutions is that many voices must call for and make change. In line with last week’s article, I want to express just how much can happen or at least how much peace you can learn to make with a situation by continuing to prod at things that bite at you — especially within the institutions we support.
My gratitude for the communication system of Principia is great. The Trustees are accessible. They didn’t offer answers or support to me, but they did read what I had to say — which is actually a pretty big deal. At Principia you can be heard even by the Trustees. Jonathan Palmer makes himself accessible to students all the time in the dining room, at campus events, and, heck, I just spent a weekend seeing him backstage in the spring play. Dorsie Glen was never hesitant to discuss this issue with me. I thank her for considerately listening to the opposing side of the policy several times in the past year in order to find answers, peace, and harmony. Principia! We do not have to go farther than our own homes to talk with our RCs about anything (shout out to Connie Crandell — one of the most wonderful women I know)!
Super. It’s my last article in college, and I have managed to seem like a scatterbrain. Basically, out of everything at Principia, what I most hope I can come back to as an alum is a reformed way of thinking about homosexuality and gender equality on this campus. What I most hope for the next couple years is that this issue will not fall to the side just as these small changes are being made. And, finally, I encourage everyone to be grateful that while sometimes we complain about Prin and how immovable it is, the steps along the way to change can be fruitful and full of love. Thank you for reading.