Christian Colleges Flummoxed by Continued Existence of Gay Students

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The Baylor mascot. Because it's fun. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images

"It's like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object," Adam Short, a gay freshman at Baylor University, told the Times in a story out this morning. Short is fighting for campus recognition for a club that can discuss sexuality and combat homophobia, but Baylor is a Baptist college and has barred any such group. He's just one of many increasingly confident LGBT kids at Christian colleges who are becoming more vocal about what they see as a simple issue of identity and acceptance. They're up against rigidly conservative faculty who have to answer to even more inflexible alumni. But very occasionally, these kids meet with success — at Belmont University in Nashville, gay rights student groups were recently allowed after years of "heated debate."

This report comes out at the same time as one from the Associated Press, which informs us that gay teenagers living in environments that were conservative and lacked gay-straight alliances or anti-bullying policies were 20 percent more likely to commit suicide. From the AP, which cites a Columbia University study that was published in Pediatrics:

The study's social index rated counties on five measures: prevalence of same-sex couples; registered Democratic voters; liberal views; schools with gay-straight alliances; schools with policies against bullying gay students; and schools with antidiscrimination policies that included sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens living in counties with the lowest social index scores were 20 percent more likely to have attempted suicide than gays in counties with the highest index scores. Overall, about 25 percent of gay teens in low-scoring counties had attempted suicide, versus 20 percent of gay teens in high-scoring counties.

Among straight teens, suicide attempts were 9 percent more common in low-scoring counties. There were 1,584 total suicide attempts - 304 of those among gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Hatzenbuehler said the results show that "environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth."

Well, isn't that a punch line for the anti-gay crowd?

It's fair to say the conflict at Christian colleges is only going to amp up — at least until gay people stop going to those schools, or (even more unlikely) the schools liberalize their policies. The Times asked a few of the LGBT kids why they attend such colleges in the first place. One said that they go "hoping that college would turn us straight, and then once we realized that this wasn’t happening, there was nothing you could do about it." But that doesn't stop them from trying.

Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity [NYT]
What leads gay, straight teens to attempt suicide? [AP via Jezebel]