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Louis James is a pseudonym for a student at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU). He worries about dismissal, discrimination, or academic harm if his identity is discovered. He is a gay man.
IWU outlines rules of behavior for students and includes several specific anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including regulation of romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex. The university also states, “We believe the grace of God sufficient to overcome the practice of such activity and the perversion leading to its practice.”
Louis frequently worries that IWU will discover that he is gay and kick him out of school. He has seen social media posts about former students at IWU who were dismissed when they came out as gay. The fear has prompted Louis to experience anxiety while walking around campus that has made it hard for him to eat and sleep.
He is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Indiana Wesleyan University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Jaycen Montgomery identifies as transgender with an open sexuality.
He attended George Fox University from 2012 until March 2016, when he left without graduating.
George Fox’s student handbook outlines rules of behavior for students and includes several specific anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including regulation of romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex. The policy and general climate at George Fox made Jaycen feel excluded and not seen for who he is, prompting him to feel anxiety and depression.
While a student, Jaycen requested to move from female housing to housing with other men following his transition. Living in a female dorm meant that each day, his first thoughts were about his struggles living in a body that never felt right to him. His request was initially denied by George Fox because he is a transgender man.
Jaycen is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at George Fox University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Spencer Vigil lives in Seattle, WA. He is a transgender, bisexual man who is also a part of the BIPOC community.
He graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2019. Seattle Pacific’s Student Standards of Conduct outline rules of behavior for students and includes several specific anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including regulation of romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex.
Spencer was afraid to come out as transgender on campus, but after confiding in some trusted friends and faculty, he came out more publicly in 2019. He often endured slurs from classmates and public shaming or teasing from professors. In order to participate in a theater department production, he was made to sign a document saying that he was knowingly breaking SPU’s lifestyle expectations and that he was aware of a list of consequences such as loss of scholarships, inability to graduate on time, or expulsion.
“Thinking back on the situation, I was so emotionally devastated that I had trouble sleeping for months,” Spencer said. “I continue to suffer from anxiety, depression, and insomnia resulting from the campus climate at SPU and discriminatory actions taken against me. Transgender students like me remain vulnerable to harassment and discrimination at SPU.”
He is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Seattle Pacific University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Rachel Moulton lives in Riverside, CA, is a member of the LDS Church, and is gay. “I know that I am a child of God,” she said. “And I now know that being gay and being a child of God can both be true.”
Rachel grappled with significant religious trauma for much of her life, unsure how to reconcile feelings of same-sex attraction with her deep faith. She tried to ignore her feelings but concluded that there was nothing she could do to change her sexual orientation.
During her freshman year at Brigham Young University – Idaho, she attempted suicide. She felt abandoned and betrayed by her school and Church, which has long taught that same-sex attraction will disappear in the next life. The school also has many anti-LGBTQ+ provisions in its Honor Code and has a history of requiring LGBTQ+ students to undergo so-called “conversion therapy.”
After recovering, she returned to BYU-Idaho, where she took several required classes that underlined anti-LGBTQ+ views on marriage and family. She sought support from USGA, a support group for queer students at BYU-Idaho that was not allowed to meet on campus. After several years of self-discovery and self-affirmation, she returned to BYU-Idaho in 2020 through online courses, but the discriminatory environment and anti-LGBTQ+ climate had not changed. Rachel is now working as a behavior technician for children with autism and hopes to return to school someday.
She is raising her voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Brigham Young University – Idaho and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Jonathan Jones grew up in Little Rock, AR and attended a nondenominantional church that felt like home. The church was a big part of his life until he came out as a part of the queer community. They identify as a bisexual, non-binary, genderfluid person.
Jonathan plans to graduate in July 2021 from Azusa Pacific University, where he participates in a scholarship program based around social justice and leadership. The scholarship required Jonathan to serve in a student leadership position, and in the summer of 2018 the school reviewed campus policies as part of the orientation for the position. The university was removing its ban on on-campus dating between people of the same sex, which made Jonathan feel affirmed and seen. But after an anti-LGBTQ letter from a professor circulated across the school, Azusa Pacific University reversed the policy and reinstated its ban on same-sex relationships.
“This was a very scary time,” Jonathan said. “I had started to feel safe coming out. Other students had started to feel safe coming out. And now this felt like a trick, a trap. I started hearing from other LGBTQ+ former students at APU who had lost their leadership positions or scholarships because of same-sex relationships.” By the spring of 2019, same-sex dating was not referenced in the handbook, although the school’s opposition to marriage between same-sex couples is listed.
There are other practices that put LGBTQ+ students in danger. APU classifies the LGBTQ+ student group as a ministry, a lesser distinction from a student “club” that results in less control of the group’s finances and programming. When one queer student came out to their roommate, the queer student was removed from the housing assignment, with APU saying the student was “coming on” to the roommate.
Jonathan is raising their voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Azusa Pacific University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country. “Future queer Christian students deserve a space to expore their spirituality alongside their sexuality in a faith-based environment without the fear of harassment of discrimination,” they said.
Faith Millender lives in St. David’s, PA. She grew up in West Africa and moved back to the United States when she was 15. Her parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. She identifies as bisexual and queer.
She has studied at Eastern University since 2018 and plans to graduate in May 2022. The university has a policy in its handbook prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships between people of the same sex. Professors are bound by a similar clause, and violating it is a terminable offense.
Faith is co-president of Refuge, Eastern University’s school-sanctioned LGBTQ+ student group, from which Faith derives strength. “While Eastern provides a better environment for queer students than some other Christian colleges, I still feel frustrated and invalidated because of my school's policies on sexual orientation,” she said. “Eastern University's policies result in discrimination, misgendering, and queer students on campus being labelled as morally wrong.”
She is raising her voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Eastern University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Alex Duron is originally from El Paso, TX. He is Catholic and is the only member of his Latinx, Catholic family who graduated from high school and attended college. He came out as gay nearly 15 years ago, at the age of 25, and is now engaged to a longtime partner.
In the fall of 2019 he was accepted into Union University’s doctorate program in Union, Tennessee, and he prepared his life for this next step, selling his car, arranging housing in Tennessee while his partner remained in Texas in the home he and Alex bought together, and quitting his job to focus on the doctorate program. But just days before his orientation at Union in July 2020, the university rescinded their acceptance. The school had somehow found out that Alex is gay and engaged to marry a man, and because of that, they expelled him from the school. Union University is authorized for a religious exemption to Title IX that allows them to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.
“I went into shock,” Alex says about the day he received the email rescinding his acceptance. “My future was being ripped away from me. It felt like all my work as an ICU nurse and all my prior degrees meant nothing. Union’s policies denied me access to the federally-funded nursing program of my choice. A federally funded institution should not be able to pick and choose who can receive an education.”
Immediately after being expelled, Alex took a FEMA contract to treat Covid patients in San Antonio, then eventually applied to a different program. He is now pursuing a doctorate in Fresno, CA. He is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Union University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Danielle Powell lives in New Orleans, LA and is a pansexual woman. She attended Grace University beginning in 2007 after making the university volleyball team and receiving a significant financial aid package based on her academic record and financial need. Her sister lived in Omaha, NE, where Grace University is located, and she thought it would be nice to study where she’d be close to family.
During her senior year she developed feelings for her best friend, who was a woman, and she came out as pansexual, which was prohibited by the school’s honor code. Within 24 hours she was separated from her peers in her housing community, and throughout the judiciary board process was questioned about her faith, shamed in front of faculty and students, and prohibited from seeing her girlfriend alone. Ultimately, she was expelled in 2011, and the school demanded that she repay thousands of dollars in institutional scholarship funds.
“I am participating in this lawsuit to be sure that no student's education is compromised in
the way mine was,” Danielle said. “I have lost so much due to Grace University's actions. I lost respect, equal treatment, vocational opportunities, financial earnings, anonymity, etc. I do not want other students to have to face these same losses.”
Danielle is raising her voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Grace University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Gary Campbell lives in Apollo Beach. He identifies as a gay man.
Beginning in August 2001, he became a student at Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit,
PA. He did not graduate and in 2003 stopped attending the school, which is now called Clarks Summit University.
The university has a student handbook detailing rules of behavior for students and includes several specific anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including regulation of romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex. The school learned of his attraction to men and encouraged him to “overcome his sin.” Over time, students charged with monitoring the behavior of other students attempted to entrap Gary into behavior that would violate the student handbook. “The behavior was manipulative and immoral at best, and possibly bordered on sexual assault
at worst,” he said. “I would not have been a willing participant in an activity specifically and
solely geared towards getting me punished.”
When Gary confessed that he is gay, he was suspended for seven days and removed from a number of extracurricular positions. He was forced to return home for this time at his own expense and then was not allowed to attend school full time. Later in his career he was barred from living off campus because of the chance he would engage in same-sex behavior.
Shortly after that, Gary decided to leave the school. He became more comfortable with himself, began dating a man, and reached two years of sobriety after a period of self-medicating with alcohol to grapple with Religious Trauma Syndrome. He attempted to finish his degree at Clarks Summit University in 2019, but after being admitted received a call from the Dean of Men that someone reported that Gary was in a same-sex relationship. He would not be able to finish his degree there after all. He ultimately completed his degree at Lackawanna College, which had heard about his discrimination experience and allowed him to attend free of charge.
“I am participating in this lawsuit to make sure that what I went through does not happen to anyone else,” Gary said. “I want to make the world safter for LGBTQ+ students who attend religious schools. I also feel like it is my civic duty to make the world a safer place.” He is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Clarks Summit University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Audrey Wojnarowisch lives in Newberg, OR, where they attend George Fox University. She expects to graduate with degrees in English and Sociology in May 2022. She identifies as bisexual and non-binary.
George Fox has a “Lifestyle Statement” and a student handbook that underline the university’s opposition to same-sex relationships. A campus-wide conversation on LGBTQ+ relationships emerged during the 2019-2020 school year when a student came out and was supported and embraced by many students, including the president of student government, which Audrey called “validating.” This event prompted Audrey to come out herself, and in the months since she has participated in discussions and efforts with school officials to make the university more affirming, but they have seen little change.
In their freshman year, Audrey was sexually assaulted by a female student. She worried about reporting the assault because it would out their sexual orientation to the university and put them at risk. When she did ultimately decide to report the assault to her resident advisory and area coordinator, George Fox University did not file a Title IX complaint as they should have.
“The school’s policies and approach to LGBTQ+ students make me feel marginalized, pushed aside, and erased,” Audrey said. “It affects my college experience on every level. It affects my
performance in the classroom, where professors teach that straight marriage is the foundation of God’s social order. It affects my experience with potential mentors in my department, where professors preach that queer identities are fundamentally at odds with the Christian faith. It affects my experience in chapel, where I am alienated from worship spaces. It affects my experience with my peers, who are allowed to treat me as an outsider.”
Audrey is raising their voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at George Fox University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country. They said, “I want George Fox’s policies to change so that I won’t be at risk of discipline for my identity or relationships and so I, and other LGBTQ+ students, will be protected if we experience unsafe situations, harassment or violence.”
Scott McSwain lives in Tacoma, WA. His father is a Southern Baptist minister. He identifies as a gay man.
He graduated from Union University in 2010. Union University’s “Community Values Statements” outline rules of behavior for students and includes several specific anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including regulation of romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex and the prohibition of being transgender.
While a student, Union University discovered that Scott is gay. Administrators took him into a dimly lit room, told him he was going to go to hell, and said that they worried about his soul. They threatened to expel him and eliminate his credits unless he agreed to attend so-called “conversion therapy.” He was given vouchers for a therapist approved by Exodus International, which at the time was a prominent group that advocated for and offered conversion therapy. The therapist wound up sexually harassing Scott, which he reported to the school, who did not take action.
“The school’s policies made me feel that I was subpar and subhuman in their eyes,” Scott said. “As a result of the school’s actions, I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. I have been to urgent care multiple times for panic attacks. I am participating in this lawsuit because Union continues to discriminate against students and potential students based on who they love while accepting federal funds.”
Scott is raising his voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Union University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.
Journey Mueller lives in Longmont, CO. She identifies as a lesbian.
She attends Colorado Christian University, which has many anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the student handbook. A lifestyle covenant in the handbook regulates romantic relationships and sexual conduct, forbidding same-sex romantic relationships and signs of affection and noting that those actions may result in discipline.
While a student, Journey’s roommate suspected that she is a lesbian and forced her to confess, then outed her to school administrators. This trigged a series of disciplinary actions, including mandating so-called “conversion therapy,” mandating mentorship, and placing her on academic probation. CCU also removed Journey from her housing, placing her in an isolated dorm where she had to live alone, because CCU did not want me to live with other women. She was required to attend "ex-gay" chapels where same-gender relationships were demonized and abstinence was touted as an alternative to homosexuality.
The abusive environment resulted in clinically diagnosed PTSD and mental health crises such as self-harm and suicide attempts. To stay alive, Journey left CCU shortly before the end of her first year.
“CCU stole my coming out from me,” Journey said. “Instead ofme coming out to my family when I was ready and in my own way, they forced me to come out to my family and to do so under humiliating and painful circumstances. I barely survived this experience.”
She is raising her voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Colorado Christian University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.