Micheal Espana-McGeehon, BA Writing/Literature, 2001; MAT Secondary Education 2003 ,writes:
When I first arrived at George Fox University I was so full of hope. I had spent most of high school harassed because of a perception that I was gay. Many of my friends were gay or lesbian, and because of this association with them I was taunted, harassed, and once even beaten. In my home church I had been taught that grace was possible for everyone, except for homosexuals and other “chronic sinners”. I was so excited to escape from this environment, especially when I found out that George Fox University was associated with the Quakers. I was so excited to be a part of a community that was founded by a religious organization founded upon testimonies of peace, integrity, simplicity, and equality.
During my years at George Fox University I met wonderful, compassionate people along the entire spectrum of faiths, creeds, political beliefs, and social backgrounds. I felt welcomed by the students, faculty and staff, and by those I called “The Quaker Mafia”, a group of scruffy spiritual seekers that I still count among my closest friends (and Friends). I found an environment where I could flourish spiritually and intellectually, and I loved my time at George Fox University.
However, I do know that a number of my friends were gay, and did not find George Fox to be as welcoming as I did. I remember one night holding a dear friend as they sobbed because they had come out to the chaplain and had been told to hide their orientation, or face expulsion. Another friend was forced to leave Fox because she was not willing to live a lie, and not acknowledge their partner as a central part of her life. Other friends and I would gather in The Bon (the dining hall) or at the Coffee Cottage, and would discuss gay rights issues while peaking over our shoulders to make sure no one could overhear and report us.
My time at George Fox University was a key part of my life. I found my vocation there. I found a spiritual path that I still follow there. I met my loving wife there. I still have deep family and relational ties to the university. But I have always wrestled with George Fox University’s stance against LGBTQ rights. How can we be a community that promotes equality, integrity, and peace when people are forced to hide their identities? How does treating a sizable part of the alumni and students of the University as “sinners” promote the Kingdom of Heaven? Because that’s the key to me: compassion, love, peace, integrity, and equality are foundational to Quaker belief. As a University and Community that is named after the founder of Quakerism, how can we continue to treat our fellow men and women with anything less than love?
I hope that this group helps to show LGBTQ Foxies and their friends and family that they are not alone, that they are a part of a community that loves them, and that they do not have to be afraid of who they are. The light of Christ shines in everyone, and that light is love. May that light shine in the George Fox University community.
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