Religion, identity and queerness: Inside USC’s first queer interfaith meeting

The group explores their intersections of queerness and spirituality.

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On Thursday, February 23, the USC University Religious Center held the first Queer Interfaith meeting. They welcomed the students with open arms as their ideas of queerness and spirituality were discussed in a safe space.

The meeting focused on finding and exploring the intersections of queerness and spirituality. Students who attended the meeting got a pamphlet labeled “queerituality guide.” The guide had fill-in-the blank options where attendees could write in their experiences or coping mechanisms that may have helped them.

While filling in and coloring their “queerituality guide” each member took a turn discussing their beliefs, on both religion and identity. Although the meeting started a bit quiet, as time went by, everyone opened up. Each member discussed their upbringings and spiritually with God and how that affected their sexuality.

Robin Stroud, the director of student engagement programs with the University Religious Center ran the meeting.

Robin, originally from Norman, Oklahoma, who comes from a religious family, struggled with religion growing up as she was forced to follow the same beliefs as her family, but often wondered what other beliefs were out there for her.

“I was raised in an environment where it was not okay to be queer and it was really not okay to be trans. You could come into the church if you’re queer but you can not even come in if you are trans because they believe you may affect the congregation or something,” Robin said. “That is not okay with me, because that is incredibly damaging to people’s spiritual health and well being”.

Robin is a mother of two. Her eldest, August Stroud, is a 23-year-old trans male who uses he/him. August and his mother share a special bond as they have been there for each other through every hurdle of life.

“I am extremely grateful and proud. She and my dad have always been 100% on my side and have done their best to hear me out, even when I get really esoteric with gender stuff,” August said. “I’m so glad she’s creating spaces for people on this campus like she did informally for me and my peers back in Oklahoma.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community shared some different churches around the Los Angeles area that are welcoming to the community.

“I was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, around the Loma Linda area and I experienced more of a conservative version of Adventism that was not affirming towards the LGBT community,” said sophomore Grace Boyd. “I actually found a church in Glendale called the Glendale City Church and I’ve been really impressed how they’re very affirming of the LGBT community. They actually had a conference recently about Adventist LGBT allies and members.”

Emotions bubbled in the meeting. What started with reserved introductions ended in shared hugs. With the sentiments and love that was present in the meeting, many members reached out to their friends that attend USC about attending future Queer Interfaith meetings.

Robin is excited to start the group back up in her first year as a member of the USC family.

“I’m not doing anything that has not been done here before,” Robin said. “It just has not been done here in a minute, so we are just kind of restarting it.”