Kudos to the Calvin Chimes

Wanted to give a shout-out to the folks at the Calvin Chimes, the student newspaper at Calvin College, for the great feature story that they ran this week.

Allowing minorities to define themselves and put their own stories in writing is a powerful thing, particularly in the sort of atmosphere fostered by Calvin College where, as one writer this week pointed out, LGBT related questions are so often purely speculative or “academic,” since few students are willing to put themselves forward as members of the community.

Other writers pointed out that they felt unsure of being able to find their place on campus were they to come out of the closet.

The articles are all pretty short. Go ahead and check them out for yourself.

I suppose I was pretty struck by how all the stories sound like the stories we were telling when I was a student at Calvin College. Reading through many of the articles, I thought to myself, “I remember when I thought that! I remember that point in my life when I said that, too.”

Although I haven’t been gone from Calvin all that long (I graduated in 2010), it’s disheartening to see that little has changed. I don’t go back, so I’m only peripherally aware of what’s going on at Calvin through reading the Chimes, the Facebook grapevine, etc. but I felt as though everything I’d been hearing from folks was that “things are changing, things are getting better.”

I have only one critique to offer the good folks at Chimes, which I do so lovingly: Everyone in this story is, so far as we can tell (there are a couple silhouetted photos), white, and almost everyone is male. Calvin is such a white institution as it is, I believe that it must be downright isolating to try and establish a place for yourself on campus as both a racial minority and also as a member of the LGBT community. There are stories there that need to be told. A writer I already linked to pointed out how very few queer women are out at Calvin College. I’m not quite sure why the atmosphere at Calvin lends itself to this sort of climate where there are lots of gay men and relatively few queer women.

What are your thoughts? Any other Calvin alums seeing this as a sign of positive change? 

Again, kudos to you, Calvin Chimes. You are the best thing about Calvin College. (And how I miss that old office.)




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5 responses to “Kudos to the Calvin Chimes

  1. Thanks for this piece 🙂 Some things have changed, some haven’t. The atmosphere has changed – LGBTQ students say it feels kinder, and I agree. SAGA peer educators have been doing LGBT+ workshops in every dorm for the last 3 years. And we were able to invite Justin Lee and Wesley Hill http://www.calvin.edu/student-life/ss/ Small steps, but significant. And the Chimes feature is definitely significant. It will help others to come out, and help us to “love reality” as Deb Rienstra says here http://the12.squarespace.com/debrarienstra/2013/11/16/love-reality.html
    Please pray for us.

    • Julia, I’m so pleased to hear that. I did see Wesley Hill’s lecture and his Q&A session with Dr. Saupe. And I’m pleased that SAGA is doing dorm workshops. I’ve been hearing positive things about how Calvin has been changing, so as I said, it did surprise me that many of the fears and misgivings people felt while I was there from 2006 to 2010 are exactly the same.

      Students are scared of being unable to find places where they are welcome if they are out, students feel that being transgender, gay, bi, or lesbian is in some ways no more than an academic discussion for their non-LGBT peers to engage in, dorms still breed hostility, etc. Change does take time, of course, and when there is a deep hurt in the community among a particular segment of people, the healing will take time, listening and learning and many earnest conversations; Calvin is doing many of those things.

      I suppose in the end I’m wondering where the optimism is coming from? Is it student driven? Are students’ attitudes changing? Is the LGBT community feeling more support from the administration? Is it a sense that the board of trustees’ memo and the whole kerfuffle that went along with it is in the past now and we can move on once more?

      • Julia

        I agree with your observations, Joel. And it’s good to ask where the optimism’s coming from.

        Student attitudes are complex, especially as there’s complete turnover every 4-5 years and the dynamics are changing all the time. We also have a greater and growing proportion of evangelical, AHANA, and international students than we used to, which affects the climate. Same-sex marriage and the visibility of LGBTQ people in the media and public life are having a more normalizing effect, and more and more students know someone personally who is gay. When we surveyed students in fall 2011, 53% said they have at least one close friend or family member, known to them, who is LGBTQ or intersex. But many if not most sexual minority students from Christian homes already have a sense of shame / internalized homophobia, and depending on who they interact with at Calvin that regrettably often gets reinforced. We do need to do more to create a better climate for them.

        In my opinion, the change in institutional leadership is a good thing. Of course there are difficult tensions to navigate, which is especially hard in a time of financial uncertainty. Our constituency is very affected by the polarization in the culture, and the default approach in most churches is Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The 09 memo was placed “in abeyance” in 2010, and the board of trustees will have cycled to a completely new set of people by next fall or the one after. If gay marriage passes in Michigan in February it will raise new questions for us.

        Thank you for watching Wesley’s talk. I recommend both of Justin’s, too, especially the evening one. The videos are on the sexuality series homepage. I’m very thankful for the couple of days I spent with each of them when they came; I have great respect for them both.

        Thanks very much for getting in touch, Joel. This feels healing for me. I’m so sorry for the ways you and your peers were hurt and treated as an issue during those memo years that were so difficult. I’m sorry for my part in it. If you’re ever in GR maybe we can continue the conversation in person.

        God bless you,

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