The Soulforce Equality Ride is in North Carolina March 17-19. While in the state, the group of 25 young activists will visit Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and Campbell University in Buies Creek. Join us here at the qnotes blog each day for personal commentary on their activities and actions at the two schools from Rider Sabrina Diz.

As Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Campbell University are relatively close to each other, this year the Equality Ride decided that we could reach out to students of both campuses during a three day stop. Normally it is emotionally as well as mentally draining to visit a campus. Not that I’m complaining, this is what drives me, but justifying our views, beliefs and identities day after day is not an easy task. As the bus drove into the parking lot this morning we were all exhausted from yesterday and yet still very excited since Campbell invited us on and agreed to host us for most of the day. After our experience at the Seminary yesterday I believe I can speak for everyone when I say we hoped for a warmer welcome.

It was extremely disappointing to see that the schedule for the day was so tightly controlled. Again, there was very little time allowed for student/Rider interaction. After a presentation by our Riders in the auditorium that went pleasantly well, instead of continuing with the lively discussion, the President of the school talked about Campbell history for over an hour. It was a deliberate tactic on their part in order to deter and derail conversation. Afterward we were ushered out to a campus tour and then to a closed area for lunch that was “by invitation only.” During lunch the speaker talked about football and school legends for at least a half hour, after cutting off dialogue between the Riders and students that had begun organically. Even though the moderator did his best to frustrate our efforts the students were genuinely interested in engaging us. One gay and out student in particular has worked ceaselessly to have a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) approved on campus and boldly spoke out, telling the moderator that he was sorely disappointed at the school’s stance and their inability to take action. It was a shining moment.

While the 25 of us have many wonderful points to make, ideas to share, and are eager to engage in conversation, Alexey Bulokhov (2006 Rider, 2007 co-director) summed it best when he said: “The Equality Ride bus is like a giant mirror. Each school that we visit gets to view themselves in it and how their campus reflects Christian love.” Because of this we always prefer when we can sit back in amazement as students stand up for what is right and just in the face of administrators and faculty that have forgotten what those values look like.

Some of us were talking afterwards and agreed that whatever the welcome we receive it will be properly judged only after we are gone, once we can evaluate the welcome queer students on campus continue to experience. After leaving campus we got together close by with queer students and talked together about their experiences at Campbell, their frustrations, and their need for a safe space to talk and continue to share. I felt saddened that I did not have the opportunity to connect and share with more students today. It felt awful to be so controlled and manipulated, treated so much less than I am used to by my own Christian brethren! The boldfaced lies by faculty and deliberate minimal student interaction was discouraging, but we find hope in the courage of the students who are working diligently to create a safe space on Campbell University and we are committed to working with them until this goal is achieved.

About Sabrina Diz
As a youth, Sabrina, 28, yearned for a faith community. As she also began her coming out process at the same time, she found searching for a faith home difficult. That is, until she found Metropolitan Community Churches. Years later, the Frederick, Md., native is taking her faith journey on the road to visit other LGBT Christians, reach out to those in need of support and speak to those who would make outcasts of her LGBT brothers and sisters. She says, “There was no way I could pass up an opportunity to engage in dialogue with people who might not believe in God’s superfluous love…or who might ignore others that, like I did, may feel isolated, deserted, or forgotten.”

About the Equality Ride
The Equality Ride is now in its fourth year and on the road in pursuit of justice for transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people through engagement and action. This year’s ride will stop at 16 campuses in the Northeast, South, and Midwest — all with policies that are discriminatory to LGBTQ students. The ride in 2010 places a special focus on community work and will engage with campuses and their surrounding communities. We will partner in volunteer work, host organizing forums, link students with community members, and support existing justice work.

Learn more about Soulforce and the Equality Ride…

Ed. Note — Editor Matt Comer was a participant on the 2007 Equality Ride.