Kent congregation welcomes LGBTQ students

Amy Cooknick

KentWired Video

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Members of the Kent community and Kent State LGBTQ student organizations shared stories and a home cooked meal together Saturday evening at Kent United Church of Christ on East Main Street.

The event, “We Are Family,” was part of a series of Kent Community Dinners organized by the group All Together Now, Inc., said Laura Mazur, director of All Together Now, Inc. The dinner was created to forge bonds between LGBTQ students and community members and members of local church congregations.

“The purpose of our work is to facilitate unity in diversity,” Mazur said. “This was a wonderful opportunity to give the greater Kent community the chance to learn more about these people so they could have the opportunity to understand that although our differences exist, our humanity connects us, and we’re all really part of one family.”

The event opened with a “social half-hour” for guests to mingle and enjoy live guitar music.

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“I come to as many of these community dinners as I can,” said Caroline Arnold, member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent. “I think it’s always a good way to meet other people in the community.”

Kent city councilman, Jack Amrhein and the Rev. David Pattee, senior pastor at Kent United Church of Christ, kicked off the event with welcome messages before a LGBTQ panel discussion.

Amanda Fincham, Susan Davis and Chris Clevenger served as representatives to the LGBTQ community during the pre-dinner discussion. Kat Holtz, HIV Prevention Specialist for Townhall II, sat on the panel as an ally.

Each panelist shared stories of what family means to him or her.

Susan Davis, 80-year-old postoperative male to female transsexual, said she struggled with her identity for decades before undergoing operation.

“Both (my father and grandfather were) very liberal men who believed in the inherent worth and dignity of all people and were very giving into the community,” Davis said. “So they represented wonderful role models for what was expected of me. It wasn’t what I was — and that was a very difficult situation — but I tried desperately.”

Davis said she was married twice and served as an Army officer in the Korean War in attempts to try to be a man, but she went through with the operation in 1981.

“Either I was male or female,” Davis said. “If I had to be both forever, I think I would have killed myself.”

Why should I care?

Kent Community Dinners are ways to highlight and celebrate diversity within the Kent community throughout the year. This event promoted LGBTQ acceptance within the community with the help of Kent LGBTQ students.

Amanda Fincham, senior English major and president of PRIDE! Kent, said “family” no longer means biological relationships to her.

Fincham shared the term “fictive family” with the audience. She said she first heard the term in her Intro to LGBTQ Studies class several years ago and has come to embrace it during her years at Kent State.

“A fictive family is basically the people you associate with every day,” Fincham said. “They’re the people that really make a difference in your life, and you know that you make a really big difference in their life. If your family that you were born into isn’t exactly the greatest, you always have the opportunity to make a new one.”

Chris Clevenger, vice president of PRIDE! Kent and student assistant for the LGBTQ Center, said he relates to Fincham’s idea of a fictive family.

“My family are the individuals who are in my life making a difference every day,” Clevenger said. “Family is a really big deal to me and this event’s really kind of big for me because of that. You’re all here for some reason. Just realize that there are groups out there that will accept you for who you are.”

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].