When two preachers came to campus rail against “homo sex” on Sept. 15, they drew a swift counter-protest of more than a hundred students wielding signs and pride flags. On that very same day, Penn’s Queer Christian Fellowship, which is sponsored by the Christian Association, happened to have a gathering planned. Students spent the gathering processing what had occurred on campus.
“For too many of the students in QCF, this rhetoric is nothing now,” Christian Association campus minister Rev. Megan LeCluyse said. “That does not change the fact that [such messages] are incredibly hurtful.”
College senior Rashad Nimr , a member of Queer Muslims and Allies at Penn, agreed that what the preachers espoused represent “a very common mentality in the U.S.” At Penn, which offers places for minority students to meet allies and other similarly-identifying students, it can be shocking to be “thrown back into reality,” Nimr said.
There are three queer-religious groups on campus: Queer Christian Fellowship, Queer Muslims and Allies at Penn and J-Bagel, a student group for Jewish students identifying as LGBTQAI.
Of these, representatives of both QCF and QMAP have commended Penn students for their reaction to the two preachers
“A lot of people walking past those preachers might have felt victimized and unsafe,” Co-Founder of QMAP and 2016 College graduate Shan Choudhri said. “The way that students responded is a reassuring display to those who might have felt victimized.” Choudhri added that he never saw a protest critical of homophobia to this scale when he was at Penn.
Both Nimr and Choudhri also said that when people like “Brother Ross” and “Pastor Aden” come onto campus, they reinforce the idea that religion cannot be a safe space for LGBTQ students while further polarizing the queer community against the religious community.
In light of what happened, it is important for religious groups to be more outspoken about their acceptance of LGBTQ students, they said.
President of the Penn Catholic Students’ Association and Nursing junior Alaina Hall agreed. She called upon more religious groups to speak out against instances of injustice.
“Those preachers were using religion as a platform for their homophobia, so it’s important for religious groups to come out and say that’s not what we represent and that’s wrong,” Hall said. She added that all LGBTQ Catholics were welcome to join PCSA.
College junior Jennifer Saouaf, also an executive member of QCF, said the organization has experienced some students still seem to believe that they have to choose between their sexual and religious identities.
While she found the messages of those two preachers to be “deeply shocking,” she hopes it does not alienate queer students from exploring their faith. To students who are both religious and identify as LGTBQ, she had the following message:
“There exist other people like you, in the world and at Penn. You don’t have to choose between being one or the other.”
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