Perfecting Eden: Goshen College from a Gay Student’s Perspective

By Patrick Ressler

Let me start by saying that I love Goshen College. I am blessed by a diverse community of students, faculty and staff. I am blessed by all the opportunities that a small liberal arts college has to offer me. I am blessed by the values that Goshen College holds at its core—which I believe in whole-heartedly. I am grateful for this college and for this community on a daily basis (with the possible exception of my Music History final exam day). You may ask, how could anyone possibly complain about such an institution? Let me frame the comments to follow not as complaints, but rather as discrepancies from the inclusive, informed and loving Goshen College that I know. We have a good thing going, but why stop there?

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Faculty Policy – As a gay student, it’s very uncomfortable to know that Goshen College professors are not allowed to be openly GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer). In the past, these professors have been allowed to stay at Goshen College with the understanding that they will remain silent about their sexual orientation. Last year, Goshen students responded to this policy by organizing a silent vigil in opposition to this exclusive hiring practice, with nearly 100 students in attendance. The current Goshen College hiring policy undermines the contributions of openly GLBTQ faculty members and excludes their important voices from our community conversation. As a future music educator, I hope to have the opportunity to teach students in my Mennonite denomination, and I would welcome the possibility to come back and work at my alma mater, Goshen College. It’s a painful reality that immediately after my graduation from Goshen College, there will be no place for me within this community as an openly gay person.

Exclusive Rules & Regulations – While it’s hard to know what Open House Hours protect, I’ve always felt some confusion with this policy as a gay person. I’m a male attracted to other males who is not allowed to visit female dorm floors “after hours.” I was unable to live with female friends my freshman and sophomore years, and co-ed options are very limited even as juniors and seniors. Do these rules apply to me as a gay person, or am I simply assumed to be heterosexual because of my sex? These policies seem to not take my sexual orientation into account—I am, at worst, forgotten; at best, an anomaly. I would like to see living arrangements on this campus based on what’s healthiest and most comfortable for all students, rather than heterosexist understandings of sex and gender.

The GLBTQ Student ‘Fight or Flight’ Phenomenon – Sadly, many GLBTQ students come to Goshen College for some time, then transfer in hopes of finding a more open and welcoming college environment. Personally, I’m tired of “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer” being left out of a long list of distinctions (race, faith, socio-economic status, etc.) that Goshen College openly welcomes into its doors. I am happy to say that there is a thriving number of GLBTQ students currently on Goshen’s campus—so make sure to include them! They bring something unique to this community that would be lost if they decided to leave. If you have questions, ask us. We are your friends, students, coworkers, classmates, teammates, floormates, housemates. We are a part of this diverse community.

Goshen College strives to be an inclusive, informed and loving community of students, faculty and staff. Together, we’ve achieved “a piece of Eden” for many who are lucky enough to call this place a home or a workplace. My wish is that it can be a nurturing place for all who wish to learn, teach and work, regardless of sexual orientation.

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