Queer in Spirit discussion group explores spirituality and sexuality

Scholar Development Program Specialist Anne Moore runs with an LGBTQ pride flag at the LGBT Center's Coming Out Day Rally on Wednesday, Oct 7, 2015. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily)

Reverend Daniel Bell, the Protestant chaplain, hosted a Queer in Spirit interest meeting and dinner in the LGBT Center on Oct. 26.  At the meeting, students discussed the importance and possibilities of developing and sustaining a group that allows students to explore their spirituality and/or religion through a queer lens. The interfaith discussion group is open to queer people of all faiths, as well as those without a specific faith or denomination who are interested in engaging with spirituality.

The University Chaplaincy and the LGBT Center often collaborate and co-sponsor events and programs, but Bell plans for Queer in Spirit to feature ongoing meetings as opposed to being a one-time event. Hope Freeman, the Director of the LGBT Center, is passionate about creating a space for queer students to center themselves and find a sense of identity.

“[I want] the group to really find out what they want for themselves first, and not really rely on the pressure to do something or present something,” Freeman said. “[I want them to] find out who they are within that space and where they are on their spiritual journey.”

Bell said his idea to begin the Queer in Spirit group came when he met with students who wanted to explore what it means to be a person of faith and queer and what implications a student’s gender and sexuality might have for their religious or spiritual practices and community.

“[Queer in Spirit] will serve as a safe, welcoming, supportive, meaningful and fun space where students can bring their whole selves without fear.” Bell said. “I also hope that it serves as a sign to everyone on campus that it is a good and beautiful thing to explore and integrate all of who you are — queer, straight, spiritual, religious, secular and otherwise.”

According to Bell and Freeman, there is a growing interest amongst LGBTQ+ students on campus to engage with the intersection of faith and queerness. 

“Groups which focus on the experiences of LGBTQ people with regards to their spiritual and/or religious perspectives provide a much-needed space on the Tufts campus,” Eli Rosmarin, chair of Jewish Queer Students at Tufts (JQUEST), said.

Rosmarin hopes that, in the future, JQUEST can work with Queer in Spirit as the groups serve similar purposes.

“Many times spiritual and/or religious perspectives only recognize a heterosexual, cisgender binary. A big question is how can we change the dialogue in religious and spiritual spaces in a way that enables LGBTQ individuals to feel welcome and accepted,” Rosmarin, a sophomore, said.

Bell explained that his life and ministry attest to the fact that people’s identities, regardless of faith, gender or sexuality, don’t have to be in opposition, and that they are all important to who we are as human beings.

Bell identifies as a Christian who has struggled to reconcile his faith and sexuality.

“Now I am openly gay, in a relationship, and a member of the clergy in the Episcopal Church. I want to support queer students discover their own spirituality and help deepen the faith lives of LGBTQ+ folks, especially those who have been disenfranchised by some churches and other religious communities,” he said.

Bell said that, moving forward, the group has decided to meet every other week at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, most likely in the LGBT Center. The next meeting will be held on Nov. 9.