Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-08-21
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

A gay group's homecoming in Wheaton
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2011-11-02

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


During the unseasonably warm weekend of Oct. 7-8, alumni and their families returned to Wheaton College to celebrate homecoming weekend. This homecoming was different, however, because it was the first time that out and proud LGBTQ alumni and their allies returned to the campus in the school's 150-year history.

OneWheaton—the new group formed in April 2011 (its origins date back to Dec. 2010/Jan. 2011) to support LGBTQ alumni who feel/felt isolated while attending Wheaton College—participated in many homecoming activities, held a panel discussion and hosted a free concert featuring out lesbian gospel singer Jennifer Knapp.

Organization chair Jose Vilanova said, "LGBTQ alumni wanted to have healing and affirmation and our group was a response to that and this evolved over time as people became members of our private Facebook group."

The group's mission is, according to its website, "to provide an open, inclusive, and safe community for LGBTQ and allied alumni and students of Wheaton College. We support students and alumni with compassion, counsel, and resources so that they can live full, vibrant lives. We affirm LGBTQ individuals and their relationships that are the natural expression of their identity."

OneWheaton began when Vilanova received a phone call from Mitch Rodriguez, a young gay alumnus, urging him to get a bunch of gay alumni together to create "It Gets Better" videos for Wheaton students. Vilanova went on Facebook and started a private alumni group for LGBTQ former students to join and commit to take part in the videos.

Then Wesley Hill, another gay alumnus, spoke on campus, contending that gay Christians should remain celibate. Many alumni reacted to Hill's message, resulting in the videos being put on hold. Instead, they decided to go onto campus and distribute letters that shared LGBTQ alumni's individual and collective lives to Wheaton students as they left chapel. It was during the planning of the letter drop that the name OneWheaton was created, and the group continued to develop.

Currently, there are about 600 signatories to the letter on the organization's website. Approximately 365 people are on the private Facebook group and more than 1,000 people have liked the fan page on Facebook.

As for homecoming weekend, Vilanova said, "It was absolutely amazing and exceeded everyone's expectations. We all thought everyone would have a good time and were excited to meet each other in person. Every facet of the weekend turned out to be wonderful."

Co-chair Ruth Wardschenk said that this was one of the best weekends of her life, meeting and encouraging students while also witnessing fellow alumni heal emotionally. No longer afraid, Wardschenk said she cried as she walked around campus with her wife and daughter while wearing their OneWheaton attire.

Board member Hank Chen said, "I never thought I'd return to Wheaton College but I came this year not with a boyfriend but with my straight roommate, who was a proud ally and participated in everything OneWheaton did—not caring if people thought he was gay."

Concertgoers remarked that Knapp was spectacular. Following the concert, a Q&A discussion moderated by Kristin Winn, spokesperson for OneWheaton, was held. There, Knapp and LGBT alumni (Jessica Friesen, Adam Hibma, and Wardschenk) served as panelists. Vilanova shared that the panel discussion, attended by about 200 people, was just amazing. He added that they are still hearing stories of how people's perspectives of LGBTQ people changed (and continue to do so) because of the discussion.

To maintain anonymity, attendees used an iPad application or text-messaged questions ranging from what was it like to kiss someone of the same sex for the first time to a number of theology- and Bible-related inquiries. The one question that stood out for Vilanova was, "What is your view on the authority of the Bible?" Wardschenk answered, "If you identify as GLBT and Christian, you do not have to choose. You can have a partner or a spouse, a family, a church community and most importantly, you can have a complete relationship with Christ."

For the most part Vilanova, Wardschenk and Chen said that OneWheaton members and their families and friends didn't experience any issues, aside from some nervousness and iciness from some other alumni and current students. Conversely, they also got cheers and shout-outs from current students and respectful and inquisitive questions from people that led to constructive conversations with students, administrators and faculty.

The campus, according to Vilanova, had many preparatory meetings regarding OneWheaton and homecoming with the resident assistants. "The president of the college sent out an e-mail to the students reminding them that our members were alumni as well and they should welcome us on campus even though OneWheaton is not an officially recognized member of the college's alumni association," said Vilanova.

As for the future of the group, Vilanova says it's growing every day and "the Wheaton College alumni association and administration are really missing out because OneWheaton alumni have in a very short time created this amazing, miraculous organization. We're pretty damn fierce and they are missing out by not giving us full equality in the alumni affairs of the college."

Vilanova hopes that, at the very least, the college will acknowledge, encourage and support its LGBTQ students and not condemn them because it is written into the history of the college that two gay students committed suicide rather than living their lives as gay people. "Gay students who attend the college cannot keep feeling scourged by the campus. As recently as 2011, the chapel series on sexuality and wholeness depicted gay people as a tragic example of humanity. Imagine going to college for four years and having that message reinforced all the time," said Vilanova.

To find out more visit www.onewheaton.com .


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

African Festival of the Arts (AFA) hosts Annual Gala at Logan Center 2019-08-21
LGBTQ journalists to convene in Chicago in 2020 2019-08-21
NEH awards $29M to 215 humanities projects 2019-08-21
Equality Illinois looks ahead with more diverse board 2019-08-21
Michael Bauer reflects on a life of activism 2019-08-21
Paxton Pride organizer didn't give up on hometown 2019-08-21
Illinois Gay Rodeo Association presents Rodeo Round Town 2019-08-20
CBGMC launching Caucus Corps Aug. 29 2019-08-20
New HRC president to go on national tour 2019-08-15
IL Safe Schools Alliance, Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago merge 2019-08-15
LGBTQ+ Biz Bootcamp to start Oct. 5 2019-08-15
Chicago Meal Pack of 9/11 Day 2019-08-14
PODCASTS Crossroads Fund's 'Queering Left' tackles queerness, activism 2019-08-12
Sebastian Patti: Legal icon talks past, health issues and accomplishments 2019-08-07
Angela Barnes discusses chairing Center on Halsted's board 2019-08-07
College student balances LGBTQ+ activism, student life 2019-08-07
EXCLUSIVE: Community activists launch focus on Center on Halsted 2019-08-06
MillerCoors' 'Tap Into Change' running all summer 2019-08-06
New Dance for Life director named 2019-08-06
Columnist Esther J. Cepeda on coming out, writing career 2019-07-31
Rainbow pylons become city landmarks 2019-07-26
Chicagoan helps put AIDS Survivors Syndrome in the spotlight 2019-07-24
Incoming Chicago House CEO, board chair speak about the future 2019-07-24
Workshop on LGBTQ elders Aug. 19 2019-07-23
Disability parade highlights representation, social justice 2019-07-23
Fahrenheit award reception Aug. 23 2019-07-21
Andersonville Summer Sidewalk Sale this month on July 26-28 2019-07-19
Affinity looking for program coordinator 2019-07-17
Adler Planetarium Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing 2019-07-17
Cell Block parties to benefit HIV services 2019-07-13
ART Scholars talk queer representation, identity in 'Community' panel 2019-07-11
PRIDE 2019 Esteem Awards honor local, national Black LGBTQ communities 2019-07-10
Black Gay Men's Caucus holds annual LoveFest 2019-07-09
Activist/author Urvashi Vaid keynotes DignityUSA event 2019-07-07
Buttigieg speaks at Rainbow PUSH event 2019-07-07
HRC makes historic choice for next president 2019-07-01
Shedd premieres 'LGBTQ+ Pride Night' 2019-07-01
LGBTQ Victory Fund backs Buttigieg 2019-06-28
HRC Foundation releases report on child-welfare agencies 2019-06-26
HRC makes historic choice for next president 2019-06-26
 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.