Friday, April 20, 2012

Discovering the "Art of Discovery"

It started with an email
from our youth director Isaac
on Sunday afternoon:

"I’m e-mailing you because I was asked to find a priest
that would be free this Thursday to come and pray for an event that Haven
(the secret LGBT club at APU)
is hosting at Citrus College.
I thought of you, especially since you came out
in the article that was published at APU’s magazine a while back.
Let me know if you will be free this Thursday
and could make to the event."

I wasn't exactly "free."
I was scheduled to be at a meeting down at City Hall
planning LGBT Heritage Month coming up in June --
but when I checked out the Facebook event link Isaac sent
and read about what the APU student group was putting together
I sent my regrets to the Heritage Month planning team
and put "Art of Discovery" on my agenda instead.

They had me at:
We are the Haven of APU,
group of students working specifically
to create brave spaces on our campus for the LGBTQ community.
We are forced to meet in secret.”

So Thursday night,
instead of heading south on the 110 to Los Angeles City Hall
to a meeting in the Mayor's Chambers
with a planning team working to put together
a month of celebrations honoring our LGBT Heritage,
I headed east on the 210 to an event in the parking lot of Citrus College
with a courageous team of young leaders working to create
a safe space to speak their truth
and claim their experience as LGBT people.

More about the event:
Hosted by Haven, which is a support network of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) students and supporters from Azusa Pacific University that is not yet recognized by the school "Art of Discovery" is an evening of music, art, dance, poetry and much, much more exploring the topics of gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity.

It will be held in the Citrus College Student parking lot that runs along Barranca, next to APU (the back parking lot of Citrus College). Last year we were able to host it on campus, but this year after a number of denied proposals by APU's administration we have been limited to hosting this off campus. Citrus has graciously given space on their campus.

We believe it is important for people of sexual or gender minority to have the freedom to express themselves, share their stories, and exist openly within an affirming and supportive community. This night of expression exists to create a space that reminds us that we are not alone and with the continued effort of students, alumni, family, and friends, one day the LGBTQ community will be able to exist openly without repercussion.
The evening began
with the organizers introducing the purpose of “Haven” …

We believe that the full spectrum of sexual orientation is something to be celebrated, not suppressed.

We exist primarily to provide a safe place acceptance
for those of any sexual orientation
who might feel marginalized by APU’s policies or culture.

Though on campus advocacy is not our primary purpose,
we hope to be a springboard for events
that promote awareness, tolerance and equality
among students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

... and then a reading of this poem by Mary Oliver: "Wild Geese"

You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

And then I was invited up
to give an opening prayer
followed by the “as advertised” evening
of music, art, dance, poetry and much, much more.

And I sat in the parking lot of Citrus College
in awe of the courage of the witness of these brave young people –
touched by the power of their pain
in the face of institutional and individual homophobia.
And I recognized how far we are
from turning the human race into a human family
that equally loves, values and affirms its LGBTQ family members
as I listened to the 20 year old college student
speak of his struggle to rise above
“the continual nausea of eating your own shame.”

And then I got in my car
and drove west on the 210 –
back to my regularly scheduled life
where it is so easy to get complacent
about “how far we’ve come”
and so tempting to succumb
to what they’re calling “movement fatigue”
and so hard sometimes to remember
when I’m preaching from the pulpit at All Saints Church
or sitting in the hall of the House of Deputies
or meeting the Mayor’s Chambers at L.A City Hall
or going about any of the other daily details
of my very busy, very important schedule
that there are kids in parking lots
and lecture halls and church pews
struggling to rise above
the continual nausea of eating their own shame
when they should be
claiming their place in the family of things.


Ann said...

Thanks for being a presence - a witness of what can be for these students.

Scott Okamoto said...

Your support and your presence meant the world to the students. Thank you.

uffda51 said...

Wow. What a great story.

If you search for the word lesbian on the APU web site you find a course entitled
SOCW 415-Addictions: Assessment and Intervention

"This course provides an overview of addictions from a bio-psycho-social-spiritual-cultural perspective. Unique issues relative to children, adolescents, women, people with disabilities, people who are gay/lesbian . . . "


IT said...

Why do gay kids go to schools like APU? LIfe is hard enough at that age without that kind of abuse.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good question, IT. I guess part of the answer is that, if you are a Christian and want to go to that school, and you can afford the tuition, why shouldn't you be able to go?

The question is, why should schools that call themselves "Christian" be allowed to treat others in this way? If they get federal funding, in any way, shape or form, it should be placed in immediate jeopardy.

Would we ask this question if the issue were race? Or, gender? Or physical ability?