The administration of Azusa Pacific University is at an interesting crossroads behind closed doors; the reconstruction of APU’s sexuality statement sways between the possibility of the university carrying out traditional religiously exclusive views or taking a step to protect the university’s queer-identified students.
This is an open letter to those whom this may concern: it is vital to the mental and physical health of all current and prospective students that APU’s statements validate the complexity of gender, even for the followers of Christ.
Here’s why I believe this is true:
For the past four years, my relationship with my higher power can best be described as a series of interesting, complex, and beautiful events.
When my grandma passed away, something inside of me understood the cliche was true; she was in a better place. Being homeless throughout high school, my spiritual faith was key in my determination to continue my education into college. And as I’ve watched our nation struggle to balance justice and peace, I continually pray to my god that we will one day achieve a tranquil nation.
But to this day, one factor of my life consistently closes some of my fellow believers’ minds to me: my gender.
As a non-binary transgender person, I cannot categorize myself as neither man or woman. And believe me, I’ve tried.
For years, I understood the words that were preached to me that only allowed for two genders. On top of this, I was taught that in reality, our genders are already assigned to us at birth.
Out of my love for my higher power, I swallowed my truth and I conformed to the life I was promised would bring happiness, acceptance and salvation… as a boy.
Yet like so many others whose minds do not align with the gender they were assigned at birth, there comes a time that it is no longer healthy to lie to ourselves, our family, society or God.
I remember the emotionally darkest times in my teenage years were spent in front of the mirror. I couldn’t help but become overwhelmed with disappointment for lying to myself, with confusion as to why I couldn’t be myself and still God’s good child, and with depression for having to even consider these thoughts.
Again, like so many other folks who try to balance truth and faith, these moments often lead to the consideration of taking my own life.
Placing the bible down, I know we can agree that life is a gift that should be valued, appreciated, and celebrated. But, this becomes almost impossible when someone’s whole existence is wrapped in a lie.
This is where education comes into play, and possibly where we begin to disagree.
I learned that my gender is fluid. I learned that while some transgender people are perfectly okay with being referred to as either men or women, my gender was far more complex. Somewhere along the spectrum, my existence is validated.
I also learned that there are people who could not be more devoted to our savior Jesus Christ and our creator, yet still believe that my gender exists. These individuals who remain faithful while an ally to the transgender community were a miracle and the point in my life that happiness seemed realistic.
Ultimately, I learned of the indescribable feeling of when my complex gender is welcomed inside the church. I found myself praying with my entire heart. I found myself smiling, counting my blessings. I found.. myself.
The statements that the administration is proposing however, will not allow for this. Blatantly stating that a university responsible for educating over 10,000 young lives will only recognize two genders is dangerous.
The claim that, as Christians, you will support ‘confused’ students into the right direction is false. Trying to convince someone that the gender they identify with is wrong and not welcomed by their higher power is exactly what lead me and so many others to consider suicide, and what lead so many other young lives to actually completing suicide.
To state that students need guidance as they search for “wholeness” in order to align their gender identity with their “biological sex” is falsifying every emotion a transgender person has as they come to terms with themselves.
As a transgender person, I want to make it clear that the gender ‘I think I am’ is in fact, the gender that I am. My physical body should not, and does not, place me in any box that you seem to support.
When a university will not stand by a student’s identity however, there is no possibility of being able to focus on studies without being concerned with one’s health and safety.
While there are hundreds of other options prospective students can pick from, their gender should not be a breaking factor as to why they should not consider APU. As a respected local university, the potential that lies in the hands of APU’s trustees in insurmountable.
Use the bible for doing good, for protecting the future of this nation, and for loving all students… not for the complete opposite.