Post submitted by Sara Green, a participant of the Soulforce Beyond Equality Ride.
Last month, HRC Alabama greeted Soulforce Beyond Equality Riders in Huntsville, Alabama.
Soulforce, an organization that seeks to utilize collective activism to free us from spiritual violence, coordinated the ride for advocates across the Southeast U.S. We gathered to transform fear into power at campuses where religious fundamentalism is wielded to harm LGBTQ students.
In Huntsville, the Riders stopped at Oakwood, which is a Seventh Day Adventist-affiliated HBCU (historically black colleges and universities), where they participated in a facilitated dialogue about LGBTQ people on campus with 40 students, faculty, staff and administration. It was a great opportunity to learn from each other and share stories.
We connected with supporters of the Human Rights Campaign who opened up their hearts and homes to provide us safe places to sleep and understanding conversation while we ate.
I learned a lot about Seventh Day Adventism. They believe, like I do, that God is love, but at the same time they are very socially conservative. Most believe gender roles are divinely ordained.
Personally, as a student in divinity school, the Bible doesn't hold much power for me. My lived experience needs to inform what I know about God. However, to my surprise, I found myself talking about the Bible anyway. Oakwood students were already there and ready to engage. It felt important to use the tools I had at my disposal, such as my years of training, alongside our Fellowship work, to really connect with the students.
Our Riders talked about ways that the campus body could support their LGBTQ population, such as holding space for a student dialogue, establishing a GSA or participating in a National Day of Action as a campus.
While the students talked about their feelings and confusions surrounding gender and sexuality, it was enormously difficult to get them to fully back things they could do publicly on campus to support LGBTQ students.
Despite that, we gathered at the end of our time together and prayed, holding hands. The pastor, to our total shock and surprise, began our closing prayer with, “Dear Father – and Mother-- he who is also she, she who is also he, and they, and we...” I was so happy. It was amazing to watch this man stand up in front of his community and really reflect back what he learned.
I hope that his commitment and the lessons learned really stick for the community at large.
People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration – and LGBT people and our family and friends are no different. The HRC Religion and Faith Program is working to create a world where nobody is forced to choose between who they are, whom they love and what they believe. Learn more here.