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LauraBerk

LiteratureReview
InSupportofGaysandGod
LGBTStudentsandReligiouslyAffiliatedInstitutions
Thecontroversialrelationshipbetweenreligionandhomosexualityisoneofthemost
spokenaboutissuesaroundtheglobe.AsthereisagrowingsupportforgayrightsinAmerica,
andissuesofequalityareatthepoliticalforefront,longstandingdebatesregardingreligionand
homosexualitywithinhighereducationareresurfacing.Althoughmanypeoplebelievethatthis
gradualpushforsexualityequalityisallpositive,thepushbackfromreligionhascreated
difficultboundariesforgaystudentsacrossthecountry.Asthediscussionoftoleranceandcivil
rightsforgaysandlesbianshasbecomemoreprominentinrecentdecades,manyChristian
churchesandinstitutionshaverespondedbyaddingantihomosexualstatementstotheirofficial
policies,evenwherenosuchpoliciesexistedbefore(FinlayandWalther2003p.370).Because
ofthis,religiouslyaffiliatedinstitutions(RAIs)willbefacedwiththechallengetosupportgay
studentsontheircampuseswhileadheringtothevaluesofthechurch.
Thecommonmisconceptionisthatlesbian,gay,bisexualandtransgender(LGBT)
individualswouldnotbedrawntoRAIs,thatthesestudentswouldpickinstitutionsmore
supportivetotheiridentity.Wheretheycouldbeopentoexploretheirsexualityinamore
acceptingculture.However,despiteassumptionstothecontrary,lesbian,gayandbisexual
peopledoattend,teach,andworkatRAIs(Love1997p.382).Becauseofthis,itisimperative
thatresearchbedonetounderstandtheexperienceforhomosexualsonRAIcampuses.Often
times,RAIintuitionshaveacampusclimatewherehomosexualityisconsideredsinfuland

contrarytoGodsdesignforhumansexuality(Rutledge2008p.301).SincemostRAI
campusesmissionstatementsfollowthesameguidelineasthechurch,whichhistoricallydoes
notshowequalsupportforhomosexuals,gaystudentsarenotnecessarilyprovidedthesame
resourcesandsupportthatwouldbegivenatapublicornonreligiouslyaffiliatedinstitution.
Thiscreatesforanisolatingenvironmentwherestudentsfeardiscussingtheirsexualitywiththeir
peers.Withoutastructureorpolicytoprotectthesestudentsfromthediscriminationtheyface,
studentscannotsafelyseeksupporttohelpthemthroughthisdifficultselfdevelopmentprocess.
ItisimperativetounderstandthenecessarystepsRAIsneedtomaketobecomemore
accommodatingforLGBTstudentsontheircampuseswhileadheringtotheirconstituentsand
missionsstatementstheyarefoundedon.Thispaperwillexplorecommonthemesinliterature
regardinghomosexualityandreligiouslyaffiliatedinstitutions.Thediscussionwillanswer
questionstheliteratureaddressessuchas,whatmentalhealthchallengesLGBTstudentsfaceon
RAIcampuses?Whatroletheadministrationplaysandhowtheycanadvocateforboththeir
communityandtheirconstituents?Andfinally,whatcanbedonetochangecampusclimateand
createresourcesforLGBTindividualsonRAIcampuses?Afterreviewingtheliterature,ithas
beendeterminedthatduetotheintensementalhealthissuesLGBTstudentsstrugglewithat
RAIstheadministrationneedstobecomemoreproactiveincreatingsupportnetworks.The
literaturestressestheneedtochangetheoppressivecampusclimateonmanyRAIcampuses
acrossthecountry.
Beforediscussingtheliterature,itneedstobeaddressedthatnotallRAIsdealwith
homosexualitythesameway.Dependingonthereligiontheinstitutionisfoundedon,thereare
varyinglevelsofextremityonhowacceptingthecultureistoLGBTstudentsandtheirlifestyle.

Love(1997)explainsthatreligiousaffiliatedcampusesalloworsupportgaystudentsonawide
spectrum.TheinvolvementthecampuschoosestohavewithLGBTstudentsdeterminedheavily
onthetypeofinstitution.
Religiously affiliated colleges vary widely. Lumping them together masks as much
diversityaslumpingtogetherallliberalartscollegesAtoneextremeareinstitutions,
suchasBiblecollegesandfundamentalistschools,whichexplicitlyenunciateveryclear
andconsistentbeliefabouthomosexuality.Itisachoice,itiswrong,itisimmoral,and
theBiblespecifieshomosexualitytobeasin.Attheotherendofthecontinuumare
institutions,suchasofthosefoundedintheFriends(orQuaker)traditions,thattendtobe
moreopento,acceptingof,individualdiversity;theytendtoseesexualorientationasone
elementofthatdiversity.Ofcourse,manyinstitutions,nodoubtthebulkofRAIsinthe
UnitedStates,fallbetweentheextremes(p.382).
FinlayandWaltheragreestatingthat,membersofConservativeProtestantdenominationshave
thehighesthomophobiascores,followedbyModerateProtestantsandCatholics(2003p.370).
ThisisimportanttotakeintoaccountasmajorityofRAIsareofChristianandCatholicdecent,
theliteratureprimarilyfocusesonthesecampuses,whichmaybeconsideredculturallymoderate
intheirviewsofhomosexualitycomparedtootherRAIs.
Oneofthemainreasonsitiscrucialthatwediscusstheexperienceforhomosexual
studentsonRAIcampusesisbecausetheirmentalhealthisputatsevererisk.Duetotheintense
psychologicalissuesLGBTstudentsfaceatRAIs,allthearticlesbeingreviewedspenda
majorityofthediscussionusingtheiremotionalandmentalexperiencesastheprimaryreason
RAIadministratorsneedtomakeachangeontheircampuses.Therearetwowaystheliterature

focusesonforhowthesestudentsareputatrisk.HillerMitchelandMulcare(2008)explainhow
thisfeelingofisolationforgaysstudentsatRAIshappensintwowaysthroughnegative
subjectpositionsindiscourse.Thefirstdividesoff,orseparatesthesubjectofthediscoursefrom
thosearoundherandtheseconddividesthesubjectofthediscoursefromherself(p.82).In
simplerterms,firsttherearestudentswhoidentifyasgayandduetothisarealienatedorbullied
bythecommunity.Second,andwheremajorityofstudentsatRAIsfall,arethestudentswho
fearvocalizingtheirsexualityandareprivatelydevelopingtheiridentityinaclimatethatisnot
acceptingofwhotheyare.
NotmanyindividualshavethecouragetobeoutorpublicallyidentifyasLGBTatan
RAI.DuganandYurman(2011)explain,LGBstudentswithspecificenvironmentalfactors
(e.g.,perceptionofcampussupport,perceivedrisksassociatedwithdisclosureandpresenceof
LGBrolemodelsoncampus)largelyinfluenc[e]whetherandtowhatextentapersoncameout
toothers(p.202).ForexampleLove(1997)explainswhenstudyingtheclimateatSt.James
College,asmallliberalartscollegeinthenortheast,Noneofthefacultyandstaffinthestudy
whohadbeenattheinstitutionformorethanafewyears(andseveralhadbeenattheinstitution
formorethantwelve)couldrememberwhenalesbian,gayorbisexualstudent,facultyorstaff
memberwasoutoncampus(p.393).InanotherarticleregardingtheclimateatSt.James,Love
(1998)sharesthatthecampusminister,indicatedthathethoughtthehomophobicatmosphere
wassothreateningthatnoonecouldevenmentionthattheyhadexperiencedahomosexual
thoughtorincidentintheirlifetoanybodywithoutfearofbeinglabeled,brandedandostracized
(p.309).Thelackofhomosexualsthatareoutonthesecampusescanbeattributedtothe
negativeexperienceshomosexualswhoareoutatotherRAIs.

Hilleretal.(2008)sharesthefeelingsofAshleya20yearoldstudentwhohasvocalized
hersexualityatherRAI,IoftenfeelhurtandbetrayedbecauseIfeelthatthechurchandmy
communityisconstantlyrejectingme(p.80).Theygoontoexplainthatthesestudentsafter
beingrejectedduetotheirsexuality,becomedividedfromtheirfamilies,theircommunitiesand
fromthemselves,theimpactsontheirmentalhealthandwellbeingarelikelytoincludehigher
ratesofselfharm,druguse,depressionandsuicide(p.82).Andtheirresearchsupportsthese
claims,Youngpeoplewhomentionedreligionwerealsomuchmorelikelytohavethoughtsof,
orsucceededinharmingthemselvesasaresultofotherpeopleshomophobiathanthosewhodid
notrefertoreligionintheirresponses(Hillieretal.2008p.84).Thedatafromthisstudyisjust
additionalevidencetosupportthestoriesandexperiencesofstudentscitedthroughoutthe
literature.
Duetotheexperienceoftheirpeerswhoareoutintheircommunities,manystudentsdo
notchoosetopublicallyvoicetheirsexualityatRAIsornevercometotermswiththeir
questioningsexuality.ManygaystudentsatRAIsstrugglewiththeirsexualityandtakelonger
tocometoacceptanceoftheiridentitythantheirpeersatnonaffiliatedschools.Thesestudents
areinternallystrugglingwiththecoexistenceoftheirreligionandsexuality.Thepersontakes
thediscourseasatruthaboutherself(e.g.,Iamevil).Thiscreatestheinnerdivisionwithone
partoftheself,theChristianself,inconflictwiththeother,thehomosexualself.Thisinner
divisionhasbeencalledinternalizedhomophobiaandcanresultinpoormentalhealth(Hillieret
al.2008p.82).DAugelli(1992)explainshow,theemotionalintensityanddifficultyofthe
[identification]processwillbedeterminedbythedegreeofheterosexismandhomophobiawithin
eachindividual(p.423).Thedataspeakstothementalhealthproblemsattributedtothis

internalizedhomophobia;Hillieretal.foundthatwithinhersampleofyoungpeoplewhofelt
theywereattractedtothesamesex,thosewhoreferredtoreligionintheirqualitativeresponses
feltworseabouttheirlivesthanthosewhodidnotmentionreligiousdiscourse(Hillieretal.
2008p.84).ThesestudentsandtheirfamiliesareinvestingtheirtimeandfinancesintoRAIs
withtheimpressionthattheywillfeelsafe,andhavesupportservicestohelpthemduringsucha
criticaldevelopmentaltimeintheirlives.
SinceLGBTstudentsarecontinuingtoenrollinRAIs,theadministrationhastotakea
proactiveroleindetermininghowtheycanhelpthesestudentssotheydonotfeelsoisolatedand
helpless.Administrationstrugglewiththeissueprimarilybecausetheyhavetowithholdthe
missionoftheuniversity,whichiscommonlybasedonreligiontheywerefoundedon.Theyalso
needtorecognizewheretheremaybeagapinresourcesprovidedforthestudentswhowere
recruitedtotheschoolandchosetoattend.Love(1997)explains,theonlypeoplewhohadthe
powerandauthoritytoinstitutethesechanges,theupperadministration,werethemost
constrainedfromacting,whethertheywantedtoornot(p.391).Thesecampusleaders
ultimatelyhavetomakechoicesthatsupportthemissionoftheirinstitutions,whichiswhymany
administratorsdecideagainstLGBTcentersandorganizationsoncampus.DeSalesUniversity
VicePresidentofStudentLife,JerryJoyceexplained,WearetrulyaCatholicinstitution,sowe
wouldntformallyendorseorsupportagroupindirectcontradictiontoChurchteaching,Ifwe
arestayingtruetotheteachingsoftheCatholicfaith,itwouldhypocriticaltoallowaclubthat
wouldcelebratetheLGBTlifestyle(McGuinness,2012).Manyinoppositionthese
organizationsonCatholiccampusesfeelthatthesestudentscanchoosetoattendotherschools
anditisnottheirresponsibilitytoprovidesupport.

ThoseinsupportofLGBTstudentsatRAIsfocusonfindingpartsofthesecampuses
missionstatementsthatemphasishelpingandcaringfortheirstudents.Thisargumentisusedto
showhowadministratorscanshowsupportforboththechurchandgaystudentsoncampus.
Sincesupportingthesestudentsfallsunderthevisionofthemissionstatement.JohnGarvey,
DeanofBostonCollegeLawSchool,oftenvoicesthatadministratorscanbesupportivewhile
alsoupholdingtothevaluesofthechurch.Heexplainsthattheirneedstobeabalancebetween
religiouslibertyandequality(Rutledge2008p.300).Love(1997)explainsthatbynot
supportingLGBTstudents,theadministrationisactuallycontradictingthemissiontocareforthe
individual.Theinstitutionwasperceivedasbeingfocusedonservicetoothers,spirituality,
caringfortheindividual,andeducatingthewholestudent,yetlesbian,gay,andbisexualstudents
experiencedhatred,pain,loneliness,anger,helplessness,rejection,andisolationinthatsetting.
Furthermore,theydidnotseethemselvesashavingavenuestodiscussorexploretheirsexuality
(p.384).Theunresponsivenessofadministratorsiscontradictingoftheirmissiontofosterthe
developmentandcarefortheirstudents.FutureresearchneedstobedoneonreactionstoRAIs
whohaveLGBTcentersandsupportservicesinordertomotivateadministratorstotakecharge
andchangetheclimateoftheircampuses.
ThisisnottheonlythingthatcanbedonetoenhancetheexperienceforLGBTstudents
atRAIs.AllowingLGBTstudentstocreatetheirownstudentrunorganizationsandrecruit
studentswhocanactasallieswillhelpfosterrelationshipsandprovidesupportnetworkswithin
anoppressivecommunity.Theseorganizationswouldbeasmallstepmadebytheadministration
toacknowledgethepresenceofthegaycommunitiesontheircampuseswithouthavingto
activelyactagainstthemissionoftheinstitution.Kristaa19yearoldandstudentataChristian

collegeexplains,thatLGBTstudentgroupshavehelpedherbecomemorecomfortableinher
identity,talkingtootherqueerpeopleisawesomebecausetheycanrelatemuchbetter(Hillier
etal.2008p.86).Love(1998)explainshowthelackofLGBTorganizationsfurtherisolates
homosexualindividualsonRAIcampusesmakingitdifficulttoresearchtheexperience.Given
thislackofcommunity,theopportunitytoparticipateandobservetheactivitiesoflesbian,gay
andbisexualstudentsasagroupwasextremelylimited(Love1998p.302).Byadvocatingfor
LGBTorganizationsatRAIs,therewillbeapopulationforfutureresearchtobeconducted.
ThisresearchisnecessarytobuildastrongercaseastowhyRAIsneedtoprovidesupport
servicesspecificallyforLGBTstudentsontheircampuses.
Also,administratorscanhelpcontrolthepeerdiscriminationandbullyingbyadding
sexualorientationtonondiscriminationpolicies.Thiswaywhenhatecrimesoccur,disciplinary
actioncantakeplace.Reprimandingstudentswhoverballyandphysicallyassaulthomosexual
studentsdemonstratesthatthecampusdoesnottoleratediscriminationandsetsastandardfor
otherstudents.ForexampleatDeSalesUniversity,theadministrationdoesnotsanctionstudents
forhatecrimesagainsthomosexualstudentsbecauseitisnotoutlinedintheirpolicies.In2010
therewasanincidentwhereastudentfoundtheirdormroomdoorvandalizedwiththeword
Fag.Joyce[TheVicePresidentforStudentAffairs,citedabove]confirmedtheincident.I
canconfirmthatawordwaswrittenonastudentsdoor,saidJoyce.Gallagher[analumni
memberadvocatingforLGBTstudentsoncampus]claimshewastoldthatthelackofanon
discriminationpolicyatDeSalesthatincludedsexualorientationmeantnoactioncouldhave
beentakenagainstthevandals(Rich2012).Byincorporatingsexualidentityintopolicies,
administratorsareprotectingtheirstudentswithoutsinglingoutsupportiveservicesfor

homosexuals.Thesechangesshowthattheinstitutionacknowledgeshomosexualstudentsand
canbegintochangetheclimateofthecampus.Ibelievethisabareminimumstepadministrators
canmaketohelpthesafetyandwellbeingofstudentswithoutharmingthemissionofthe
institution.
Personally,Ifeelthatitisimperativeforhighereducationinstitutionstosupporttheir
studentsregardlessofthesituationathand.IthinkbanningLGBTorganizationsorstudentsfrom
congregatingtogethertosupporteachotherthroughahighlycrucialtimeoftheirself
developmentdoessevereharmtotheirpsyche.Byignoringtheneedsofthesestudents,andnot
creatinganenvironmentthatisacceptingofdifferences,administratorsaretellingstudentstheir
identityisnotworthacknowledgementandtheyshouldhidethatpartofthemselves.Thiscanbe
extremelydangerousforthestudentsdevelopment.Astudentmightnotnecessarilybe
comfortablewithhisorheridentityuponarrivaltocollege,anditisforstudentaffairs
professionalsandadministratorstofosterrelationshipswherestudentsfeelsafetoexplore
themselvesandbelievetheywillbesupportedwiththeidentitytheyassociatewith.
Assomeonepursuingacareerinadmissions,Ifeelthatifwearetorecruitandaccept
thesestudentstoourinstitutions,theinstitutionsarethereforresponsibletoprotectandeducate
thestudentregardlessofhowtheyidentify.BynotallowingLGBTorganizationsoncampuses,
andnotactivelychangingpoliciestomaketheclimatemorewelcoming,administratorsare
reinforcingthehomophobiccultureonRAIcampuses.Theseinstitutionsarenotjustlimitingthe
resourcesandsegregatingaspecificgroupofstudents,theyarealsoaffectingthewaythese
studentsselfidentifyandgainconfidencenecessarytoentersocietyasafullydeveloped
individual.

Love(1997)explainshowadditionalresearchisnecessarytodiscoverwheat
professionalscandowithintheculturalconstraintsoftheircampus,whileattemptingtochange
thosecultures(p.382).OtherrecommendationsLove(1997)makesinclude,changingthe
institutionsmissionstatementtospecificallyaddressissuesofsexualorientation,creatinga
campuswidetaskforceonthisissue,increasinggayandlesbianlibraryresources,conducting
orientationactivitiesforgayandlesbianstudents,anddistributingliteraturetoprospective
studentsaboutgayandlesbianorganizationsonandoffcampus(p.395).Althoughnotallof
thesestepsadministrationcanmakewithoutthesupportofalumniandparentdonors,andthese
stepswillnotbeenoughtocombatthehomophobicclimateofacampus,makingchangessuch
asthesearenecessarytoprotectthewellbeingofLGBTstudentsatRAIs.
Associetycontinuestofightforsexualequality,RAIsaregoingtohavetodecidewhere
theyarewillingtomakechangestoeitherenhancetheexperienceforgaystudentsontheir
campusesorvocalizetheirstancetocontinuetooppressthisgroupofstudents.Thisneedstobe
donesofuturestudentsunderstandthetypeofinstitutiontheyareenrollinginpriortoapplying.
Althoughsomecampuseshavealreadymadethesechanges,andareamorecomfortable
environmentforLGBTstudents,untilthemajorityofRAIsarewillingtomakethisshiftthis
conversationneedstostayattheforefrontofhighereducationalissues.FinlayandWalther
(2003)explain,Inspiteofthenegativeattitudes,however,pressureonChristiandenominations
toreconsidertheirteachingswithrespecttohomosexualityhasincreasedoverthepasttwo
decades(p.371).Aschurchesarereconsideringtheirstanceonhomosexualityandadaptingto
newpolicies,RAIswillmostlikelyfollowintheirfootsteps.Becauseofthis,researchonthe
bestpracticesforcounselingandsupportingstudentsstrugglingwiththeinternalconflictoftheir

religionandsexualitywillneedtobedonetocreatepoliciestofosteramoresupportive
environment.
Theliteratureexplainshow,Youngpeoplewhoaresamesexattractedarelikelytobe
mostvulnerableatatimewhentheyseekstomakesenseoftheiremergingsexualfeelingsinthe
contextofpowerfulChristiandiscourseandanincreasinglyChristianizedgovernment(Hillier
etal.2008p.82).Withthisbeingsaid,theliteratureoutlineswhyitishighereducation
professionalsobligationtosupportadvocateandprotectthewellbeingofLGBTstudentsat
RAIcampuses.Duetotheextremerisksoftheirmentalhealthwhiletryingtodiscovertheir
sexualityinanoppressiveenvironment,administratorsneedtobalancethepressurefromthe
religiouscommunitywiththerequirementtosupporttheirstudents.Wenowunderstandthat
futureresearchisneededtounderstandthebestpracticesforsupportingLGBTstudents
strugglingwiththeirreligiousandsexualidentity.RAIsthataremakingchangestoprovide
resourcesforLGBTstudentsshouldbestudiedtodeterminetheresponsefromthecommunityso
otheradministratorsarelesstimidtobegintheprocess.Thisissueisonlygoingtobecomemore
apparentforRAIssobyhavinghardevidenceonthebestpracticestocreatepoliciesandchange
climate,institutionscanbebetterpreparedtosupporttheirstudentsandenhancetheir
experience.

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