The month of October is Gay History Month, and the Pride Network has been organizing several events to educate the UR community about its culture and struggles. On the night of Thursday, Oct. 9, the Pride Network held a screening of the 2007 documentary, ‘For the Bible Tells Me So,” in Hoyt Auditorium.
The documentary sheds light on the internal family conflicts that arise when religious beliefs clash heads with sexual orientation.
The fiery topic of the Bible’s stance on homosexuality made for a crowd of diverse beliefs and ethnicity.
At the end of the documentary, one of the featured parent couples from the film, Bob and Mary Lou Wallner, answered the audience’s questions in an open panel.
The film focuses on showing the biased misinterpretations of scriptures that have lead to decades of homophobia and violence.
In doing so, the film included theological commentary on five biblical references to homosexuality. The overarching message was that the verses are taken out of their socio-cultural context.
Some of the key points included references to Leviticus 18 that condemned someone for wearing linen and wool, just a couple of verses before condemning homosexuality.
Among other focal points was the use of the Bible to justify slavery in the South.
The film also focused on five Christian families and their journeys to accept their children coming out.
In some instances, the parents not only accepted their child’s sexual orientation, but also sought to understand and support them in their decision.
However, some of the outcomes were far more gruesome than the others. In the case of Mary Lou Wallner, her harsh letter response to her daughter Anne’s coming out drove Anne to suicide in February of 1997.
Since then, Mary Lou and Bob Wallner have been campaigning for the church to spread a message of love and acceptance of homosexuals.
John Cullen, Ph.D., a board member of UR’s Pride Alliance, played an instrumental role in getting the Wallners to visit the school for the screening.
‘After watching the documentary, I was inspired and ordered Mary Lou’s book,” he said. ‘After searching and contacting people so I could find the missing book, it never turned up. While I was trying to find the book, I was also communicating with Mary Lou back and forth through e-mail. [Then] Mary Lou offered to speak at the University.”
The two have been planning the visit for the past six months. But the Wallners’ visit to Rochester was not exclusively to UR; they also visited several local churches in order to spread their message for change.
During the panel discussions, Mary Lou Wallner answered an array of questions posed by the audience.
A student asked her if she has seen any changes in the attitudes toward the GLBT community.
‘I am very encouraged by what we’ve seen recently, but there’s still room for improvement,” she said. ‘We won’t force it down their throat, though. We just hope and pray that they’ll understand.”
‘If you’re not out, come out,” Mary Lou Wallner said in her closing remarks. ‘That is the first step to getting anything done.”
Before leaving, the crowd embraced the Wallners’ presentation and gave it a standing ovation.
One Pride Network representative described his feelings on the GLBT issues he faces, which the Wallners discussed.
‘Sometimes I do feel judged,” President of the Pride Network and senior Alexander Papastrat said. ‘But I surround myself with accepting people. All communities have room to grow, and as an organization, we need to educate the community.”
The Pride Network has been operating at UR since 1969. The group seeks to educate the campus and greater Rochester community about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. These issues include education on GLBT culture, the diversity of family structures and general discrimination against the GLBT community.
Pride Network also seeks to provide social and academic activities.
The screening of ‘For the Bible Tells Me So” was one of several awareness events that have been planned for this month in honor of Gay History Month.
Members of the Pride Network said they were proud of the turnout and are continuing to organize related programs throughout the month.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.