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College gets gay-straight group

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/2/2016 (1097 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A gay-straight alliance has arrived at Providence University College, one of Manitoba’s most socially conservative post-secondary institutions.

Providence students must agree in a covenant to practise sexual intimacy within the marriage of one man and one woman. But students have stepped forward to form a gay-straight alliance.

“We want to be there for everybody. We’re not out to debate or challenge school policy — we’re there to create a safe space,” student Isabella Selk said Tuesday. “The covenant is something we strive to live by.

“The goal of the (alliance) is to create a safe atmosphere in which people can talk about this,” she said, with fellow organizer Jessica Caul agreeing.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/2/2016 (1097 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A gay-straight alliance has arrived at Providence University College, one of Manitoba’s most socially conservative post-secondary institutions.

Providence students must agree in a covenant to practise sexual intimacy within the marriage of one man and one woman. But students have stepped forward to form a gay-straight alliance.

Rev. Allison Chubb, a graduate of Providence University College, supports the Christian school’s new gay-straight alliance.

SUPPLIED

Rev. Allison Chubb, a graduate of Providence University College, supports the Christian school’s new gay-straight alliance.

"We want to be there for everybody. We’re not out to debate or challenge school policy — we’re there to create a safe space," student Isabella Selk said Tuesday. "The covenant is something we strive to live by.

"The goal of the (alliance) is to create a safe atmosphere in which people can talk about this," she said, with fellow organizer Jessica Caul agreeing.

Anglican Rev. Allison Chubb — a graduate and former employee who is a lesbian — will speak at the Otterburne faith-based private school Friday night in support of the fledgling alliance.

"They’re trying to make it a very safe place. No assumptions will be made about anyone’s sexual identity" if they choose to attend the 7 p.m. meeting, Chubb said Tuesday.

"It’s very new and exciting — for some of us," said Chubb, now chaplain at St. John’s College on the University of Manitoba campus.

Sociology Prof. Val Hiebert said because of research she has published, third-year students Selk and Caul went to her in the fall for help in forming the alliance, which draws 10 to 25 students and faculty to each meeting.

"It was a lunch conversation about the comfort level people may or may not have here at Providence," Selk said.

"This is a hot topic in evangelism," said Hiebert. It is difficult for students anywhere to be openly non-heterosexual, and especially so in a faith-based, ‘saving society,’ she said: "It’s still not an easy journey for students to navigate.

"How do we work and worship together in the same church, as gay and straight?" she asked. No one has to self-identify at the alliance meetings, Hiebert pointed out. "The point of the group is not to ask anyone to identify in any direction."

Chubb graduated in 2004 and worked from 2008 to 2010 as an admissions counsellor, but said she did not come out when she was at Providence.

"I had to hide who I was. No, no, I left there to come out," she said. "I married my wife, whom I met at Providence."

Chubb said some professors are supportive of non-heterosexual students, but have to be careful. One gay professor left during her time, she said.

"It was just not a comfortable environment. There was this whole secret underground," Chubb said. "In an evangelical setting, having allies is huge. You’re considered a confused sinner."

Chubb said Providence gave her the courses she needed to teach English overseas, and despite having to hide her identity, Chubb has nothing but good memories about her education in Otterburne and the grounding she received in critical thinking.

Providence is among three Bible colleges that have received operating grants since the final days of the Filmon Tory government in the 1990s, but is not subject to Bill 18 — anti-bullying legislation with specific sections about sexual orientation. It dictates that high school administrators must provide support to any student who wants to form a gay-straight alliance in school. The most vocal opposition to Bill 18 came from the Steinbach region.

An aide to Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum said Bill 18 only amended the Public Schools Act and does not cover post-secondary.

"Post-secondary students also deserve safe and inclusive learning space, and we’re happy to see that university and college students and leadership are working together to tackle this issue. We are committed to working with all educational institutions to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for Manitoban students," Allum said through his aide.

Hiebert’s lecture on intersex realities and the church can be viewed at http://wfp.to/intersex.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 7:25 AM CST: Adds photo

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