APU Visits Equality California’s Office In West Hollywood
By Arturo, Toni, and P
On Thursday, April 11, Equality California opened the doors of our West Hollywood office to the students of Azusa Pacific University (APU). Field Manager, Bella Week, and Phone Team Supervisors, Aimee Mendez and Justin Florez talked to the group of 20 students about EQCA’s work, and answered questions they had about our past and present legislation.
APU is the largest Christian university in California. The school’s policy clearly states that same-sex relationships or acts are strictly prohibited and subject to disciplinary action. On the application, the student must agree that “homosexual activities are unacceptable behaviors for students enrolled at APU”. Because of this, some of us were a little unsure of how all of the students would react to the stories of LGBT people. As we began to share our stories, the group of students became very open and interested in our personal experiences and our fight for LGBT equality.
The discussion then turned into an open forum between the APU students and EQCA staff. At this time, the group was joined by three of our phones team staff – Arturo, Toni and P. What happened was a truly amazing discussion about EQCA, sexuality and gender.
During the open discussion, one student asked each of the staff members to talk about their personal journey and how they joined EQCA.
Arturo shared that he had worked in the HIV arena during the time the virus were claiming so many lives and came to EQCA to pursue equality for all regardless of sex or gender. Toni discussed her Christian upbringing, Christian family and attending a private Baptist university while searching for her identity as an African-American transgender woman. P also spoke of his strict religious upbringing and shared how his struggles made him want to fight for all LGBTQ people facing discrimination. He said, “It was interesting sharing my personal experiences with the APU students. At first I thought I might be judged, given their affiliation with a Christian school that discriminates against LGBT people, but in the end it turned out to be an enlightening discussion. We all shared our views and beliefs, and to my surprise we shared a lot more similarities than differences. I believe we each walked away with something special, and have a feel for the stance and struggles of both sides.”
The most profound question came from a young female student who asked us to talk about our view of Christianity and God, and how it ties into the work we do. As many of the staff grew up with faith being a big part of their lives, the answer from each person was that God is love and we deal with our sexuality and gender through love. It was also expressed that although there are some who cite their Christian faith as a reason for wanting to deny certain freedoms to LGBT people, we have each experienced so many Christians who support full LGBT equality because of what their faith teaches them acceptance and love.
Many of the students had friends and family members who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Many of them expressed opposition to what they consider to be their school’s anti-LGBT policy. One of the students even shared her experience working as a camp counselor at Camp Aranu’tiq; a week-long, overnight summer camp for transgender and gender-variant youth ages 8-15, with locations in New England and California. It was inspiring for the staff to hear about such a wonderful camp, and that this young woman was so passionate about it, even though she is attending a university that didn’t actively practice inclusion and acceptance with its own students.
As the Boy Scouts of America continue to exclude LGBT youth and families, we want to take a minute to applaud the work of Camp Aranu’tiq and groups like them for providing a safe and welcoming place for all youth, regardless of sexual identity or gender expression.
For more information, please visit www.camparanutiq.org
And here’s a great article about APU’s policies from the perspective of an out gay student:www.theclause.org/collide/
From all of us here at Equality California – thank you to the wonderful students of APU who visited us!