Carol Wise VIA poster
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Carol Wise Joins VIA Discussion On LGBTQ+ Interests in the Brethren Church During Peace Week

Kelsey Tyler

The Queering Identities VIA event was held virtually by Bekah Houff, MU campus pastor, in honor of Peace Week. It covered LQBTQ+ topics, as well as how they are represented by the Brethren community. Houff made sure to thank the Church of the Brethren in the beginning of this event; because of a grant they received given by this church, they can afford to host an event such as this one on prevalent topics.

Virginia Rendler, MU Peace Studies Coordinator, and Houff handed over the facilitating to Carol Wise, Executive Director of the Brethren Mennonite Council. She began the event by encouraging students to think about how they identify themselves. The panel of speakers, made up of LGBTQ and church members, also expressed their identity stories and how they knew they fit into the LGBTQ Community.

Wise mentioned how it may seem ironic that all of them are a part of the same church community, yet there is a stigma behind being gay in some churches. She later went on to describe how she came out in the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and since then she has really watched the LGBTQ community grow and in an incredible and proud way. She noted that she is never naive to the fact that horrible things happened to LGBTQ members who were out, and she even described some of these things, but is proud and recognizes the growth along with the struggle.

Panelists reflected on the fact that anti-LGBTQ slander/arguments tend to have some sort of religious justification. When talking about figuring out his own identity mixed with religious beliefs, panel member Luke Miller described it as: “What’s the real living core that seems alive to me, and what are the things that have been added to that, which are non essential?” After figuring this out he feels that he has grown even stronger in his spiritual life.

Andrew Sun, another panel member, said that he is incredibly proud of “how younger folk aren’t obsessed with labels anymore.”

When closing the VIA, the members talked about how they “gender bend,” or how they challenge gender stereotypes in their daily lives. Andrew Sun mentioned how he is a pianist and plays in operas, where “gender bending” is a huge theme.

Joanne Gallargo, another panel member, mentioned how she will provide safe spaces for young people and ask them questions on their own gender and sexual identities. She prompted the question, “Do you feel gender-full today?” mentioning how she doesn’t really know what that means, but somehow people always know how to answer it.

They all encouraged the viewers to take care of and protect their own mental health, and make sure they are okay in their situations.