When the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled a Christian University should be allowed to open a law school despite its controversial Community Covenant, Trinity Western University hailed it as a ruling “in favour of freedom and diversity.”
That covenant requires students, faculty, and staff to sign to refrain from sex outside a heterosexual marriage, a move some say discriminates against gay and lesbian students.
For its part, TWU describes itself as a “safe and welcoming place” for LGBTQ students.
So what is it really like for gay students at a Christian university?
LISTEN: CKNW’s Shelby Thom joins Jon McComb to break down the LGBTQ experience at TWU
Former student Dillon James says the law school saga “disenfranchised” many gay students on campus, describing the environment as being “don’t ask don’t tell.”
He wrote to Trinity ” the lived experiences of myself and others contradict the freedom and diversity you are celebrating. I don’t care if you get a law school or not–just please stop knowingly fostering an environment in which students subconsciously segregate themselves from their LGBT counterparts.”
“That was one of the primary reasons why I left the school,” says James. “It was the reason behind the different coalitions that LGBTQ students have formed now, it’s been so psychologically distressing.”
Former student Alexandra Moore shared a similar perspective, penning a blog post titled “I’m a TWU alum. I’m Queer. And no, TWU is not a safe space for LGBTQI students.”
Moore says after writing a piece on same sex marriage for the school paper, she was censured and nearly lost her job.
“I was told that I was not to speak on such matters and was very nearly fired from my teaching assistant job for the English Department for presenting my opinion.”
Aline Bouwman, current editor of the Mars’ Hill student newspaper, says the experience of being queer on campus can be a difficult one, as reflected in an article published today giving voice to the school’s LGBTQ community.
“A lot of them have to do with isolation, the feeling of being silenced, being voiceless in some way,” she said.
Bouwman says the feature, called “Breaking the Silence” includes stories from students as well as alumni, many of whom feel they can speak more freely now than when they were students on campus.
TWU is firing back, and says James’ and the Mars’ Hill stories don’t paint a full picture of LGBTQ life on Campus.
In an email to CKNW, spokesperson Amy Robertson says some of the alumni stories in the student paper are 10 to 20 years out of date.
“It’s also important to note that along with the rest of Canada, our campus has changed and matured over the last decade,” she wrote. “Being gay at TWU today is far different than being gay at TWU 10 to 20 years ago.”
Robertson says she’s heard far more good reports than bad ones from students, and heard the same from one of the school’s former residence directors.
“Many LGBTQ students loved the community they experienced here. Many LGBTQ students came out to her because they felt so safe and affirmed by her.”
Robertson says the school does its best to listen to students, and will be holding a town hall next week.