An exhibit known as the Visibility Project will attempt to tear down the stereotypes of interactions between the LGTBQ+ community and the religious community beginning April 17 and lasting through April 22 and beyond. It was organized by Christine Choi ’17 and Julia Burkley ’18 and, according to college chaplain Reverend Rob Spach, this project, though perhaps unbeknownst to its two student leaders, had been in its nebulous stages for quite some time now.
“Three years ago, my office brought to campus a Baptist pastor from Charlotte who has been a very, very strong ally of the queer community for decades…he came to campus and gave a lecture…about how part of our faith calls us to side with and speak out on behalf of people who are often marginalized, including the queer community,” said Spach.
From this initial lecture in support of LGBTQ+ inclusion in religious communities, a wave of enthusiasm swelled within the religious activist Davidson community. With the initial idea from John Michael Murphy ’16, Spach organized a series of dinners that invited members of the Christian community, as well as members of the queer community—some of whom were practicing Christians—to share a meal under the same roof to discuss issues of “faith, identity, and queerness.”
However Spach admitted, “Not everyone saw eye-to-eye in that group…but everyone involved with [the conversations] agreed that they lived up to their name as constructive conversations.”
One of the students involved in said conversations was Choi, indicating that the issue of queerness and religion has been an issue on her mind for quite some time. However, Choi did not actually conceive of The Visibility Project until she met Berkley for coffee at Summit Outpost earlier this year.
“It’s all Rob Spach’s fault because Rob told both of us to get coffee together and when Rob tells me to do something, I do it,” said Burkley.
She continued, “I really wanted to get involved with social justice with faith ever since I got here…and Rob told me to go meet with Christine…so we came up with this idea to bring visibility together with the dichotomous relationship between LGBTQ and ally and faith, and we came up with the project the first time we met.”
According to Choi, the Visibility Project involves taking pictures of people, both members of the Davidson community and otherwise, who are of any faith and are either queer allies or are queer themselves. Underneath the photograph of each participant lies a simple, personalized quote related to how religion intersects with a participant’s queerness or alliance with the queer community.
In addition to the main exhibit, the Visibility Project also includes a community talk back on Thursday, April 21 at 4:30pm in the Union Amphitheatre. This event is open to all members of the Davidson community and beyond, not just the participants in The Visibility Project.
“There’s this perception that people who are LGBTQ do not have a god and that people who identify as Christian or of faith are homophobic, and that’s just not the case,” said Burkley. “I don’t think our main purpose was to convert people to any side. That was not our intention at all,” she stated.
Christine added, “[The Visibility Project is] a very specific way of giving light to communities. We could be going about this by giving light to people who are of faith and discriminatory or who are queer and condemn faith…But there’s a group that we feel passionately about that we feel has been underrepresented throughout media, throughout dialogue, throughout everyday life, and we want to positively give light to the group we want to give light to.”
Both Christine and Julia express their thanks and appreciation to Joanne Suk ’18. Suk played an integral role in the project’s development, acting as a student digital designer. She created the project’s logo and designed all of their posters.
The Visibility Project is officially sponsored by the Davidson College Chaplain’s Office, the Westminster Fellowship, and the Canterbury Fellowship.