Monday, June 1, 2009

The Impact of Spiritual Violence

Many factors have led to my becoming an advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. One of the most devastating events was the disappearance of my beloved friend Liz.

In college I was involved in a nationally-known, campus-based Christian organization. I found this group provided some structure for my life as well as deep, loving friendships. One of those friendships was with Liz.

Liz and I were the same age. She was bubbly, fun, animated, caring, and a great sister to me. Liz was one of my best friends and I loved her.

One Friday night, I went to our weekly meeting and Liz wasn't there. I asked the leadership and was told Liz was sick. That week I tried to reach Liz by phone but was unsuccessful. The following Friday night, no Liz. Once again I asked and was told that Liz would not be returning to the group and that I was not to ask anymore questions. Needless to say, I went ballistic. The head female group leader took me upstairs to a secluded room and sat me down. She then proceeded to tell me that that Liz was no longer part of our group and then informed me that I was forbidden to try to contact Liz because . . .

Liz was "a homosexual."

Of course, I did not respond to this news nor the directive in the manner to which I had been instructed. I was enraged!

I searched for Liz in the limited non-Internet ways that were available to me at the time but she was gone. I was both heartbroken and incredulous. Was this not the same Liz we had loved? Her being a lesbian had zero impact on my feelings for or commitment to her.  That revelation was barely a blip on the radar for me. I just wanted my friend to know that I was not a part of the horrifying message she was receiving. I never got a chance to tell her. I never saw or spoke to Liz again.

My heart continues to break for Liz as I wonder how that rejection and alienation impacted her life. I search for her online periodically. Being connected to the devastating spiritual violence that Liz experienced is unfinished business in my own life. When the dominant group in society demands assimilation from the minority group, they not only oppress their target but also diminish their own humanity. I felt diminished. I feel diminished. I am diminished.

On Thursday, June 11th, Grand Valley State University will host a forum to examine the impact of homophobia in faith communities. I hope you will join us and add your voice to this continuing conversation.

Religion & Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in our Community
Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 7 p.m.
GVSU downtown campus - Eberhard Center, Room 215

This event is sponsored by the Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, Dean of Students Office, LGBT Resource Center, Women's Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Allies & Advocates, LGBT Faculty and Staff Association, Department of Liberal Studies, and Department of Women and Gender Studies.

For more information, visit the LGBT Resource Center website. Also, follow us on Facebook: Our fan page is "Grand Valley State University LGBT Resource Center" and join the group "Religion & Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in our Community." You can track this event and others on Twitter by following "gvsulgbtcenter."

We hope to see you on Thursday, June 11th at this important event!

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