Glenda McDannel was tapped by Haven's graduating leaders to be a co-leader of the group just as it was emerging from the shadows of APU's underground. She didn't know it at the time, but she would help lead the group into battle with the homophobic and transphobic culture and administration to make the campus safer than it was. And during her final years, she would see Haven become a nationally known group.
APU's Queer community became a fascinating cross-section of students who were openly queer, students who were "wrestling" with their queerness, and students who simply wanted to appear to be counter-cultural. It reminded me of wealthy white students adopting hip hop identities as some kind of cool rebellion in a conservative white space. Some students even claimed to be some form of queer while also maintaining their fundamentalist, purity culture, evangelical values. If the journey of coming out is complicated in the secular world, it is exponentially more complicated in evangelical spaces. With all of the spiritual and emotional abuse and resulting baggage, the process is fraught with guilt, anxiety, and fear.
Even so, Glenda and her community fought for their place at APU. Building on the work of the generations before them, they continued the activism, and art nights, and the celebrations of life needed to make the fight worthwhile.
But in the end, Glenda would be expelled from APU in the shadiest of manners, leaving us to believe she was booted out for her role in making APU safer for LGBTQ students. This was confirmed by a well-intentioned administrator keeping in touch with her and reaching out to help her get back in years later and after an official LGBTQ student org was in place. The fact that he thanked her for all her work to help LGBTQ students only made it worse. The very things she was kicked out for were being lauded but only because the policies had changed.
To her credit, Glenda refused to return and finish the 2 classes needed to graduate. She is living her life with a good job. She is married. And she is still an amazing person I am honored to know.
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