This Sunday, November 13, Goshen College will be presenting a concert to raise money for the LGBTQIA Student Leader Scholarship. Stephanie Hollenberg, a soprano and GC graduate, will be performing with accompaniment from Christine Seitz on piano.The LGBTQIA Student Leader Scholarship was established in October 2015 by GC graduate Pax Ressler. The scholarship was established to empower the leadership of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual students at GC.
“This scholarship was created as a means of providing material resources to LGBTQIA students, recognizing that the July 2015 change to Goshen’s hiring policy would not be enough to transform the culture of queer and transphobia on campus,” said Ressler.
The scholarship provides financial assistance to students who demonstrate a commitment to social justice. It also prioritizes students of color as well as students with a financial need.
“I hope this alumni-led crowdsourced scholarship influences leaders of Goshen College to make more decisions to enact justice for LGBTQIA people,” said Ressler, “What opportunities for LGBTQIA diversity training are leaders of Goshen College offering to faculty, staff and students?”
Ressler has many other questions in regards to the actions GC has taken to provide for people of all gender identities. For example, has action been taken to provide and label bathrooms for people of all gender identities? And perhaps most importantly: have LGBTQIA people been consulted and invited to take leadership in making these changes at GC?
“The LGBTQIA Student Leader Scholarship is just one example of a concrete… step to change a decades-long narrative of LGBTQIA discrimination at Goshen College,” said Ressler, “My hope is that leaders of Goshen College will make many more steps in dismantling queer and transphobia on campus.”
Hollenberg chose to perform in the concert as a way to grieve the sufferings the Mennonite church has caused to those in the LGBTQIA community, and to celebrate the recent events at GC and beyond.
“It became evident [when talking with Pax] that what we are seeking is not simply ‘safe’ spaces, but rather ‘brave’ spaces in which we can share accountability, vulnerability, and stand in solidarity together,” said Hollenberg, “I hope that we can begin to explore questions such as how [we can] build brave spaces for listening, understanding, and reconciliation.”
Hollenberg told a story from her junior year of college at GC. She had attended an ecumenical conference of young people interested in church leadership and found herself at a gay bar one evening with a group of LGBTQIA people from the conference.
“Sitting around the table together, each person told their coming out story. I felt like I had landed in the lap of God, like I was walking on holy ground,” said Hollenberg.
As the conversation continued, Hollenberg was asked, “What are you going to do to make the [Mennonite] church a more inclusive place?” This question has stuck with her ever since that evening. She was given an origami flower by a friend from that group, and it serves as a reminder of the question.
“I’m deeply grateful for the willingness of my collaborators to join me on this concert,” said Hollenberg, “The Goshen Community is amazing, and I’m humbled again and again by how you show up for matters of reconciliation and justice. Thank you, and I can’t wait to celebrate with you this weekend!”
The LGBTQIA Scholarship Benefit Concert will be in Reith Recital hall on Sunday, Nov. 13th at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 adults, $5 seniors/students. Further donations for the LGBTQIA scholarship fund will be accepted at the door.