The Rapidian

Controversial LGBT feature sparks conversation

Local college newspaper runs feature to show sexuality minority on campus.
Ryan Struyk, Chimes' editor and featured writer, was very important to this feature.

Ryan Struyk, Chimes' editor and featured writer, was very important to this feature. /Anna Delph

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Additional stories, descriptions and Letters to the Editor can be read on Chime' online page.

 

Calvin College’s Chimes came out and said what they thought needed to be said.

In what proved to be a controversial move, Chimes, Calvin College’s student lead newspaper, became a platform for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual) students to speak their voice and let people know they are at Calvin. In last week’s edition of Chimes the “Listen First” feature appeared both online and in print, leading to a week of controversy, conversation and understanding.

Since the story was published online on Nov. 13 and then in print on Nov. 14, Chimes staff have seen an influx of comments and discussion regarding the controversial notion that LGBT students exist at Calvin College, although Chimes editors have been adamant from the start to keep conversation from turning sour in any direction.

Editor Ryan Struyk, a featured LGBT writer himself, introduced the possibility of this feature to the Chimes staff, and gained a lot of support, despite the hesitancies shown by other staff and college personnel when the feature was pitched.

“It’s hard to know what to expect with something like this,” Struyk said. “But from the start until now, friends, family, students and faculty have been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Chimes made it very clear that the LGBT feature, letting students speak their voices, was not meant to polarize people or push any agenda one way or another on this very decisive issue; the goal was to give a platform to voices that are often overlooked and neglected. Many LGBT students have not seen a supporting community at Calvin, and the feature may change that. 

Eden McCune, a featured writer and senior at Calvin College, thought an issue like this should be addressed.

“I know some people were very surprised when I talked to them about this,” McCune said. “It’s an issue that affects a lot of students, and I’m happy to tell my story.”

Struyk reiterated the goal outlined in Chimes article.

“We wanted to keep it from being divisive,” he said. “We just wanted to put a face on a topic that’s only been political. It’s easy to get caught up in positions and forget that these are real students struggling with their own sexuality.”

According to a 2011 Calvin College Sexuality Series survey, 4 percent of Calvin students identify as LGBT. Struyk noted this, saying LGBT issues are prominent at Calvin. Struyk noted that some people may recognize it as an issue, but always think LBGT affects “other people” and not anyone they know. He wanted to change that, and the Chimes staff reflected this goal.

“After we hear stories and place a face on an issue, we may still take our differing positions,” the brief on Chimes’s official website said. “But we refuse to do battle.”

Struyk is not the only contributor to the feature to see an overwhelming number of positive comments since the release of the story. McCune was also bracing for the worst.

“Overall, the reactions I’ve gotten are pretty positive,” McCune said a few days after the the print version of Chimes was released on campus. “What I really wanted to happen was for people who haven’t thought about this issue before to think about it.”

The Christian Reformed Church has long acknowledged that being gay, simply being attracted to the same gender, is not a choice; this position has been in place since 1973. Both Chimes and Calvin College adhere to this position.

Chimes defines “gay” as “being attracted to the same gender,” acknowledging that the word itself invites a flurry of debate. Chimes editors also wrote that gay, in their definition of the word, only relates to orientations and attractions, and “not to their sexual activity.”

McCune knew that a lot of people wouldn’t react right away, just absorbing the news. She noted it was a big thing for some readers to let sink in, but she was hoping there wouldn’t be too many negative reactions.

“I haven’t received any negative emails, texts or Facebook messages,” McCune said. “This is really something that Calvin needed. A lot of people don’t know terminology about this issue.”

Chimes staff and personnel have been thrilled with the deluge of positive comments and support for the students who came out to raise awareness. Chimes hopes this wave of acceptance is just the beginning of making Calvin College a more LBGT friendly campus.

“This isn’t an issue you can just put away,” Struyk said. “One of our goals was to make a safer campus for all students at Calvin.”

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