What I Meant When I Said Faith-Based
& The Future of Sub:Culture Incorporated
I’ve had this post in draft form on my desktop since January. But since it’s #TransGenderDayOfVisibility, it seemed like the perfect time.
No more hiding.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Two years ago, during Pride Month, we posted an encouragement on our social media channels to Black Trans College students. The response and subsequent removal of financial support from concerned donors was not what I expected, and it forced me to think about who we are as an organization, what we will not apologize for, and what it means to us when we say Sub:Culture was founded as a faith-based organization.
I had to do some soul searching.
When I started Sub:Culture in 2018, I’d watched students face significant barriers to their academic success, spiritual, emotional, and social well-being. I identified four main categories of barriers that my students and students across the country seemed to keep encountering.
There were spiritual barriers. Students had a hard time making meaning and sensing the goodness of God, because the discipleship methods used to do so called their ethnic identity and sense of dignity into question.
There were academic barriers. Black students were more likely to experience harassment and discrimination on campus related to their race. It resulted in negative educational outcomes, like lower academic achievement, lower graduation rates, and lower rates of admission into post graduate education.
There were socioeconomic barriers. Many of my students were the first to attend college, worked unimaginable hours to pay for school, which limited their ability to socially engage and enjoy such a unique time in life.
The stressors related to race (both institutionalized and internalized), the pressure of maintaining grades to keep a scholarship, do well to take care of family back home, and the constant feeling of restlessness led to the last barrier–which was social and emotional wellbeing.
Then, last June, we learned that there was a group of black students that needed to be especially advocated for within the Black community, and we did. We helped two trans students who were homeless during their semester breaks after coming out to family at home.
We realized that Black students who identified as (LGBTQ+) often faced even more adversity at school due to the intersection of their marginalized identities. These barriers are even higher for Black transgender people, who have double the unemployment rate of all transgender people, and four times that of the U.S. general population.
Transgender and gender-expansive people are put at greater risk for poverty, homelessness, and involvement in “undergrown economic” work. Together, these factors put transgender people at an increased risk of violence and danger. The victimization and discrimination result in poor educational outcomes and decreased psychological well-being. Furthermore, Black Trans students have limited or no access to resources that may improve their student success, social and emotional wellbeing, and access to robust and inclusive support networks.
Black Trans youth and young adults face an incredibly difficult time in our society. They are rejected and discriminated against by family and friends, isolated from social circles, and their identities are seen as deviant or abnormal by the mainstream. As a result, they suffer higher levels of depression, anxiety, and SI . This must change. We must take a stand and come together to support Black Trans youth and young adults. Christian's should be the loudest, and I am sorry it took me so long.
Anyone who follows Jesus recognizes that it's not about WHO you love, but HOW you love that matters at the end of the day.
Anyone who follows Jesus also recognizes how significant, necessary, and important an outward expression of inward reality can be--whole Christian denominations have been created because of its importance.
Anyone who follows Jesus recognizes that God's name was Sophia, before it was Jesus, and there is way more to gender than genitalia. Otherwise, we've used he/him/his pronouns for God for really awkward reasons.
Anyone who follows Jesus recognizes that it is our responsibility to ensure that the rejected, lonely, forgotten, and marginalized members of society should have the seats of honor at our tables of fellowship, faithfulness, and leadership. Because Jesus has never given us permission or precedence to do anything other than include, embrace, and welcome.
It took me far too many years to stop making excuses and blaming the Bible for not loving like Jesus. So I write from a place of deep repentance and remorse. Not self-righteousness. I’ve caused so much harm. I own that. I want to build up what I torn down in my words, my biases, prayers, and my preaching. Maybe some of you do too?
We can start by educating ourselves on the realities of the Black Trans experience.
We can begin to seek understanding about the importance of gender identity and self-expression.
We can help create safe spaces, both in person and online, where those who have been rejected by the church feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear or rejection--not because we are sliding down a slippery slope, but because we are serious about Jesus.
The Future of Sub:Culture Incorporated.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned that addressing the concerns of Black LGBTQ+ students requires an intersectional approach that takes into account all aspects of their oppression: racism, homophobia, and transphobia.
Black LGBTQ students deserve to have the opportunity to learn and succeed in supportive school environments that are free from bias, harassment, and discrimination, but they don’t often get it.
As the founder and chief executive officer at Sub:Culture I approached the Board of Directors. Together, we concluded that our programs need to pay more attention to the needs of students who lie at the intersection of multiple forms of bias and marginalization.
Sub:Culture is committed to doing what we can to be a ‘stand-in’ support system, providing resources that aid in students’ academic success, and their spiritual, social, and emotional well-being. Most of all, we hope to be responsible for a resounding confidence that they are loved, seen, and valuable to their Creator.
We will partner with organizations who are taking these unique issues head on. We will not shy away from seeking to engage and understand the barriers our students face.
We will be unapologetic in our advocacy for their rights as citizens and their value as image bearers.
We will be vocal about the realities facing Black marginalized students, including Black LGBTQ+ students.
For us, that’s what it means to be faith based, but we won’t be waving that flag anymore. The contemporary connotation that comes from Christianity is not who we are or what we ever were.
We want to thank those who have been a part of our success over the years as an organization but are unable to continue with us in good conscience in light of our affirmation and acceptance of LGBTQ+ students.
We understand, and we thank you for all that you have done.
As for me, I hope to continue to run this organization, motivated by the exact same things that birthed it. Following Christ means to partner with Him in setting the lonely in family, removing barriers to the knowledge and experience of God’s love, kindness, mercy, and advocating in tangible ways so that temporary roadblocks don’t become permanent dead ends for students with marginalized identities.
Interested in helping us continue the work of clearing the path for Black College Students? You can do that here.