Queers in Community: Identifying Love
Reported by Bianca Tarsia
The start of this school year marks five years that Elliot Coulter has been a student at George Fox University (GFU). His bright pink hair stands out on campus, yet he feels there have been attempts made by others to conceal and/or mock his identity during his time here.
For the past three years, he has experienced being a transgender student on a Christian campus.
In the spring semester of his junior year, he chose to go by the name Elliot, no longer wishing to use his dead name. Elliot identifies as trans non-binary, demiboy, and uses he/him and they/them pronouns. Originally, he said that, “Some people thought I had changed my name to Elliot just because I liked the name; they still weren’t picking up on the fact that I was trans.”
GFU’s oft-repeated motto is “Be Known,” and it seems this is exhibited through small class sizes, professors who make an effort to build relationships with students, and numerous opportunities on campus to engage with others. However, this has not been Elliot’s experience.
He describes sitting in a class where “there was no talk about trans women, trans men, or nonbinary people.” When he voiced to the professor that he “didn’t feel included in this,” and asked how trans people would be involved in hopes of broadening who was included in the conversation, he was immediately shut down.
The professor told him that they were not going to talk about those groups of people because they were such a small community.
Elliot has had similar experiences with students as well, whether in the form of openly transphobic comments, or simply microaggressions. When he came out as trans to a fellow student in one of his classes, the student turned it into a joke, saying that it would be funny if she pretended to be a boy.
“In general, people are just really uncomfortable and don’t want to talk about it,” said Elliot.
Some students continue to purposely misgender him and others ask questions that he finds inappropriate. “I get a lot of people who ask all of these questions and want all of this weird info, and then never talk to me again,” he said. He said that he “want[s] people to be aware that there are queer people on campus and that we exist and we matter.”