Azusa Pacific University
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.