When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ?I am the
light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in
darkness, but will have the light of life"- John 8:12

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The Biola Queer Underground 

We're Here, We're Queer, and We Aren't Going Anywhere. 

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A Reflection from Christian Ortega

Posted on November 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The past couple of months being away from school have proved to be a challenge. For one, I completely miss being in an academic environment. I’m only a year away from earning my bachelor’s in TESOL, a facet of the Intercultural Studies department of my school. Another is having a lot of free time with not a lot of people to spend it with because frankly, I don’t have a lot of friends— or rather not a lot of friends that I find myself 100% comfortable with. 


Yesterday, as everyone knows, was Halloween. I had a beautiful night being with some of the most beautiful people I know. I spent a huge majority of my day being with friends and co-workers, but there was also a chunk of time killed being on my own. In that time of solitude, I listened to music, sat in the dark alone, and just reflected on my life as of late:


I’m just over a month shy of my twenty-second birthday. Not that 22 has any significance, but I started to think: how can I make 22 a significant part of my life? I want so much out of life. I want to do so much.


I want to be in that relationship.


I want to drive the car that I have confidence will make it across the country.


I want to go on an adventure.


I want to have a place to call my own.


I want to graduate.


I want to make more friends.


Most of all, I want to be absolutely comfortable and not be so cautious about what I’m doing or who I’m with. I want to be completely open.


I want transparency.


I want my friends and family to know: I am gay. But even more, I am happy.


Being gay and happy hasn’t always been a thing for me, especially growing up in a conservative, devoutly Christian home and currently finishing out my time at a Christian University. There was a time, even, when my own mother completely denied my sexuality. But now, our relationship is stronger than ever. 


I’ve long accepted, however, that I’m content with my life, my sexuality, and everything else that God has put in my life. He has played a huge role in these last few months of change.


By no means do I believe my life is perfect, but I do know that after accepting who I am and loving those who will and won’t accept me, I can be on a road to a better, more fulfilling life. 


All this to say, I’m ready for whatever obstacles come my way from sharing this bit of information and reflection with you: my friends and family. My only hope is, as aforementioned, that you sincerely read this with an open heart and an open mind.

 

 

Don't Cry Because It's Over, Smile Because it Happened

Posted on November 1, 2013 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened- Dr.Seuss



Dear ___________, I write this letter on the night that you texted me: “ I no longer want to hear from you anymore”. Though this may be a long letter, my intentions are pure.


At the beginning of the year, I kept my distance and intended to keep it that way but slowly we grew close. At first, I thought you were the first guy that I could be friends with and show everyone that I am capable of being friends with straight men. As the year passed, I really enjoyed all of our talks. The long nights of you telling stories, rambling about your thoughts and listening while I shared mine, but I was always cautious of not sharing too much. I was scared to be true myself around you but slowly, you showed that you would not judge me, even if what I shared was deeply against your beliefs. You were the first man who did not reject me as a trans woman. I slowly allowed myself to be the friend that I would want to be for you, someone you could truly trust, and I know your quiet, inverted personality meant that you had put up a lot of walls to break through, so thank you for trusting me.


I honestly did not notice my feelings until my friend started to make jokes about how because you are kind, accepting and loving… I probably would marry you. Quite frankly, I thought that you were anything but Mr. Right because you were nothing like Matt Bomer. But as the seed of what my friend said grew, I started to think that God might have put a Mr. Right in the disguise of a Mr. Wrong. I always hoped for a romantic love story and two people, roommates, falling for each other in a conservative Christian school would be the ultimate romance. As a result of this fantasy, I started to allow myself to want you romantically and this changed the dynamics of our relationship. I'm sorry. As I started to become more flirtatious, I thought that you liked me, maybe a little bit. I was excited because I thought that after so many long and lonely years; I finally met someone who was not what I wanted but what I needed. You taught me what it means to be a woman with respect, a great sibling, friend, and a child of God; and most importantly you healed all of the wounds my parents had inflicted on me in the name of Christ through your unconditional love and acceptance. I truly believed then that you loved me back too, until she showed up.


I couldn't help but feel angry, cheated and lost because I could never measure up to her. I would never be a blonde haired girl no matter how hard I tried and that made me feel so inadequate and powerless, knowing that she can get you in her sweatpants but you would never want me. I knew I had to slowly let you go and on our movie nights, I would visualize you and another girl together. I wanted to be fine with the fact that you were not the man I would walk towards the altar but the friend cheering on from the side. I kept praying and praying and asking God to take away this bitter cup because I wanted to be in a space where I could thank God for putting you in my life. The next few weeks of my life were a roller coaster of emotions. I let you go, I can't let you go. I'm in love with you I love you. There was so much of me that tried to set you free but couldn't. Maybe that was why I offered our prayers and devotions, I wanted to be the girl of your dreams. But God had a different plan because now, I have opened my heart to learn about Him and engage with Christians in a healthy respectful way. This was the blessing hidden in disguise.


___________, I think that even you know that the depth of our relationship extends beyond a simple friendship, and maybe that was why I could not give up. I thought with time you would see me as a potential lover. I prayed for patience but for the wrong cause. The week of finals was very definitive as I thought that my life is turning into a rom-com with a happy ending. I waited until 2 am every night, wrote notes, left chocolates, but everything changed when I saw how happy you were just texting her. I prayed for your happiness but never thought that I would not be that person to bring it to you. But I realized that God has answered my prayers through putting her in your life. At that moment, I had really released you to God and I remembered how lightweight I felt.


During our last few weeks together, I tried to distance myself by staying out of the room the whole day; I guess a detox from you. But every time I came back, I missed you even more. I missed the wrinkles when you lift your forehead in concentration; your slightly crooked nose and the way you would hug me, making time stop for a moment. I wanted to spend even more time with you after not seeing you because I missed you and I wanted and desperately clung to any signs you would give. ___________, I'm sorry I could not be the friend you wanted.


That night, Sunday, when we talked and you finally revealed your intentions. I felt free and I could finally, FINALLY, unload everything to God. I started to be able to see the friend in you and not the lover. I just want to say thank you so much for acknowledging me as my female identity in your last note…that meant a lot.


In the week that you were gone, I truly wanted God to be in control and let go of all my expectations and hopes. But there are waves of attack, feelings that I had let the best one go and that I would never find anyone better. I texted you tonight because the attack was so strong, I just needed to hear your John-Kennedy esque voice one last time. I prayed to God to use the Holy Spirit to guide you and me so we would make the right decision, whatever God intended it to be. I now see that God told you through your prayers to reject me because my feelings of unworthiness were poisoning me and you and God was protecting the both of us.


___________, when you rejected me, the picture seemed slightly clearer. I came to Biola, truly hating this school and not thinking that any good can come out of it. But God put you in my life to change me, to open me up. Although I think He over planned it because there was a time where I thought that you were “the one”. But…you loved me too, as a sister in Christ and because you loved me, you wanted to give me time to heal my wounds of unmet expectations. God showed me how painful it must be for you to not only reject me but to stand firm and not allow yourself to indulge in this relationship. That is why I said, “Thank you” as a response to you rejecting me. Your courage and strength is admirable and you inspired me to move on, forgive you and myself and release our relationship to the God.


___________, I love you and I love you a lot. I want to be near you, have your voice in my ears, have your arms around me but I understand that it is not possible. And because I love you, I understand that love liberates, it does not bind or hold on to people. You are such an important, life-changing figure to me because you changed


me for the better. So thank you for this journey, and reigniting my faith in the unseen. I still cannot see God's plan but I know that with the faith of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible. One day, I will look back and laugh, seeing how beautiful and truly special our relationship is. I hope you will too.


Your forever-irreplaceable friend,


Summer

 

Open Letter to Dr. Erik Thoennes

Posted on May 19, 2013 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (30)

What follows is an open letter to Dr. Erik Thoennes, President Dr. Barry Corey, and Biola Administration. I, Jos Charles, am writing to you as a queer graduate of Biola, affiliate of the Biola Queer Underground, and continued supporter of our University.


Dear Dr. Thoennes, Dr. Barry Corey, and Biola Administration,


I recently started a petition asking Dr. Erik Thoennes to apologize for his homophobic, transphobic, and racist remarks at last fall’s Sexuality Matters discussion. During the discussion, Dr. Thoennes repeatedly compared queer sexuality to racism. Reading from the Biola Queer Underground’s mission statement, he publicly ridiculed the group’s experiences by substituting the word “racist” for “queer.” Thoennes went on to describe his perspective as “kind” and “loving.”


My petition has drawn some attention from GLAAD and other media outlets. However, it has yet to be acknowledged by Dr. Thoennes or the administration. I have since grown convinced that an apology is not enough to address the reality LGBTQ Biola students face. An apology might help alumni like me feel better about our alma mater, but would not stop the daily abuse of LGBTQ Biola students. Rather than change Thoennes’ beliefs, I want the conditions that allow Dr. Thonnes to bully students to be eliminated. I am writing to call for something much more than an apology: concerted structural change. We cannot have a safe Biola until we have a Biola that is open to dialogue with its students, queer or otherwise. That’s why I am asking Dr. Thoennes to meet openly with Biola Queer Underground members, other queer alumni, and me in an open panel on campus to discuss LGBTQ identities and their relation to Christianity. I want to make clear I am not asking to “debate” Dr. Thonnes on his positions. A debate would imply we, as LBGTQ Biolans, are external to Biola, coming to provide a contrasting perspective. Rather, we are Biola, and as Biola we demand that you listen and give our voices representation.


As it stands, Biola’s queer students are ostracized. Professors shame queer students with slurs and tolerate bullying in the classroom. Campus security polices whether same-gender couples can hold hands or publicly express their gender identities. The Biola Queer Underground frequently has their event posters removed by administration. At Biola, queer oppression is institutionalized.


Perhaps I take this for granted, but I assume faith communities agree LGBTQ people should not live under fear of violence. Dr. Thoennes’ comments however contribute to, enable, and even encourage these sorts of violence. In the sexuality forum, queer students heard their desires and struggles publically likened to racism and mocked as a joke. Because of such bullying, LGBTQ Christians face some of the highest rates of suicide and homelessness in the country. Dr. Thoennes’ comments institutionally encourage attacks—whether it’s through a half-joking slur or physical assault. Dr. Thoennes cheered on our oppression. He took the bully’s side.


Furthermore, by using the terms “LGBT” and “homosexuality” interchangeably, Dr. Thoennes also silenced the voices of Biola’s trans* students. His comments betray an ignorance and fear of even talking about trans* issues. The only “T” in the discussion was Thoennes’ response to a question about “transvestites” [sic]. He quickly dismissed it as “dysfunction” and “perversion.” Treating any student’s identity as an unworthy topic for discussion serves to shame and silence that student. If Biola is going to talk about LGBTQ identity and its relation to Christianity, it must include trans* issues.


When Thoennes compared struggles against racism with his struggle against queer students, he erased the identities of queer students of color. Thoennes implied that cisgender, heterosexual students and faculty are “victims” of the BQU. His attempt to shift himself to “victim-status” is clear in phrases such as “feel[ing] far less freedom” to call queerness sinful than racism and his considering LGBTQ people “a tidal wave of opposition.” The analogy drew on a racist trope of queer people as white and people of color as straight. Queer students of color were doubly ostracized by the comparison.


That such statements were made just as Biola opened the Mosaic Cultural Center is telling. The new Center is supposed to represent Biola’s commitment to “engaging in critical thought and dialogue” in issues of diversity. In practice, however, we have seen students stripped of representation in public discussion. The panelists didn’t even trust Biola students’ “critical thought” enough to include one LGBTQ-affirming perspective. Thoennes laughed at the thought of letting a queer ally speak on campus. Yet even among evangelical Christians, 30% of churchgoers identify as LGBTQ-inclusive. Biola is simply not working towards making campus a safe space for queer students.


Dr. Thoennes’ comments are not unique, but part of a larger, structural problem. Biola needs to discuss LGBTQ issues, yes, but also race. Dr. Thonnes’ comments betrayed a disturbing misunderstanding of racism. He spoke of homosexuality and racism as both active, conscious choices; however, not only is homosexuality not a conscious choice, neither is racism. To treat racism without discussing privilege, material exploitation, and power, is a distortion. It removes racism from its historical context, a context that has largely benefitted white Christians like Dr. Thoennes. By painting a picture of racism that denies his privileged position as a Christian white man, Dr. Thoennes presents a revisionist view of Christianity’s problematic relationship to race.


If Christians are going to discuss topics like race and sexuality we have to start from acknowledging Christianity’s historically held center of power, which has been key in the spreading of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and patriarchy. A more fitting analogy between racism and queerness is that white people still benefit from past and continued race oppression; cisgender, heterosexual people still benefit from past and continued sexuality and gender oppression.


Until Dr. Thoennes and the Biola administration are willing to face, discuss, and listen to students, Biola will continue to propagate abuse, particularly for students of color and queer students. If administration continues to not address this issue, they continue to erase the voices of the student body.


Dr. Thoennes, Dr. Barry Corey, and Biola Administration: you do not solely represent the Biola community. The student body, in all its diversity, is Biola. It is administration and faculty’s responsibility to listen to and benefit our experience—and we will not be silenced.


Thank you for your time,


Jos Charles

 

Why We Can't Include Everyone in the Biola Queer Underground

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (7)

Hello fellow Biola Students!


We at the Biola Queer Underground want to explain our side of a complaint that we have heard among Biola students about our group. When we were first launched, a number of people who identified as homosexual strugglers contacted us and asked for the possibility of joining to discuss different views on homosexuality. When these people contacted us, we usually responded with something along the lines of “while we understand where you are at, we do not believe that our group will help you at this time”, and left it at that. That may not have been our best move, but we are all learning and growing in this process. We would like to address those people now more in depth and explain our responses further.


The first thing that we want to say is that we are very sorry if it seemed like we were blowing you off, or excluding you further from conversation. That is the last thing that we intended to do and we would never want to do that, as we know how painful being excluded can be. Hopefully this letter will explain a little more why we chose to respond the way we did, instead of being open to you joining us and meeting the group as a whole.


The main thing that steered our choice is that many of those who contact us seem to want to talk things out and figure out where they stand on the topic of LGBTQ identity.  While we want to do that and believe that is very important, our exclusive group does not tend to debate biblical principles. The students who are involved in Underground tend to have very similar beliefs on biblical principles regarding homosexuality and transgender identity, so we when do get together to talk, we do not spend much time exploring those biblical passages and talking about them in depth. This is similar to how in upper division bible classes, there is not a lot of delving into the Biblical principles that were established in introductory classes. It is more of an underlying understanding. While this may change in the upcoming semesters, the students in BQU come to our group wanting affirmation, friendship and relationships with people who will not judge them, and simply love them where ever they are at.


Which brings me to our next point: BQU is not simply a place for those with same-sex attractions. Everyone in the group also believes that openly LGBTQ students should be allowed to attend Biola. If someone attended the group who believed we rightfully should be expelled, we would feel uncomfortable and the group would no longer be a safe and anonymous space for students to join. We do not want to make our group one of discomfort where either side feels like they have to hide their true feelings and beliefs.


I can promise you very strongly once again that none of our messages were sent out of malice or anger, and we in no way intended to alienate anyone, although we acknowledge that it might have happened. For that, we apologize and although we still stand by our decision to keep our group a safe place for our members. We are thinking through a few ideas about how to include a safe place for questioning, and will hopefully be enacting something in the next year. Best wishes to every Biola student, and we hope you all have an amazing semester.


Love,


The Biola Queer Underground

To LGBTQ Students

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear LGBTQ Biola students,

Hello from Biola’s underground LGBTQ-Straight alliance! We hope you have found a way to thrive at this university and have found comfort in friends, family, and Christ.  Inside you will find stories that are probably similar to yours, and resources for you on your journey.  We’ve been praying about this project for a while and we hope you find peace and healing because of it. Please hear that you are not alone. There are many of us here at Biola who are on the same journey and surviving. We are a very diverse group, made up of every color of the LGBTQ rainbow, coming from several perspectives and backgrounds. We understand the daily inner-turmoil that results from trying to reconcile your sexual orientation or gender identity with your faith, but these parts of our identities are not in conflict. Please note that we are not a group of people who understands themselves as struggling with gender identity or same-sex attraction. We desperately want you to know that your desire for intimacy and human connection is beautiful, and nothing about you is a mistake. To those of you in the closet, we may not know you yet, but we are fighting on your behalf and constantly praying for you.

 

Love,

The Biola Queer Underground

To Faculty

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Faculty,

 

We are aware that though some of you may support LGBTQ equality, you cannot do so openly as it brings risk to your employment. Whether or not you are sympathetic to the cause of human rights and treatment, you can help your LGBTQ students feel more comfortable and create a better learning environment in the classroom by doing the following:

 

Please be sensitive, knowing that chances are you have at least one LGBTQ student in your class.

 

Please include and enforce a LGBTQ inclusive non-discriminatory policy in your classrooms.

 

Please neutralize disrespectful and demeaning language concerning LGBTQ topics as they arise in class.

 

Please do not single out or call on a particular student to provide opinions on LGBTQ topics.

 

Acknowledge that Christians, including Biolan’s, can be affirming of same sex relationships and transgender identities.

 

With Gratitude,
The Biola Queer Underground

To My Gay Best Friend

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Sassy Gay Friend,

The day you texted me and said “I know you hate talking online, but would it be okay if we have a slightly serious talk online?” my heart sank.  My thoughts raced as I typed back “ok, what’s on your mind” and everything from you knowing I liked you and not wanting to be friends anymore because of it to you dying from some deadly disease raced through my mind. It took you about a minute to respond, but to me, it felt like an eternity. I was sitting in class and I am pretty sure my teacher thought I had just had a heart attack, or found out a relative died.

When you finally texted back, I opened the text after holding my breath for a good 5 seconds, and opened my eyes to read “I think I might be bi/gay” and my heart sank. Not because I thought being bi/gay was a sin, you knew I didn’t which is why you felt okay opening up to me. No, my heart sank because I knew how much I liked you and knew that meant you would never like me back. Nevertheless I knew that this was a very big thing and that you trusting me enough to tell me that meant more than you dating me ever could.

As time went on and we started getting involved with the group that created this website, I slowly began to stop liking you romantically and start loving you more and more as my best friend. This year was hard for both of us, and I am so glad that we had each other to talk to and cry to and hold when things were too tough that we could not handle it alone anymore. And I shudder to think of what would have happened had I reacted differently. If I had told you that we could not be friends while you pursue this “abomination” of a lifestyle or if I had decided that me liking you was too hard and that we should stop hanging out as much. You mean the world to me and I wouldn’t trade you for anything. You are one of the strongest Christians I know, and not because you go to singspo and sing loud, or because you are a part of Revive, or even just attend bible classes and pray. If I were to truly believe in a good God, it would be because of how I have seen him work through you in my life.

I love you so much and hope that some day I can repay you for the amazing strength you have been in my life. You are gay. And I love you, not despite that, but I embrace that and love all of you, just the way that you are.

Love Always