By Mary Liu
Some have wondered, some have asked. Some assumed, but only some really knew.
By now, a decent fraction of the SPU community is aware of the recent controversy surrounding alleged acts of discrimination connected to me, the outgoing ASSP president.
I am not here to defend any actions, and I am not here to pin any blame; I am here purely to speak of my experience.
From around the end of fall quarter 2017, our ASSP team was approached by a few people asking about our ASSP statement of affirmation regarding the LGBTQIA+ community.
Not explicitly stated in the SPU constitution, sexual orientation remains a complex topic simply because of the nature of the Methodist denominational stance on the issue.
There is precedence of ASSP Core releasing such a statement of inclusion to reassure all students that they are welcome here, regardless of their sexual orientation, amongst other identifiers.
My role as ASSP president is to listen to the student voice and relay it to upper administration (or vice versa), and to do what I can to increase awareness regarding related issues. That is where the intersection of faith and culture becomes an area grayer than winter Seattle skies.
I had conversations with administrators about releasing such a statement, with them asking me what the purpose of this would be.
I did not, and still do not, see this question as inherently discriminatory. To me, questions that force me to think deeper about reasons for my actions are stimulating and helpful for me to put a firmer stance on my cause. I felt that I would face the same sort of questioning even if I had wanted to put on a fundraiser.
I chose to use the same techniques and questions to ask my own team during our weekly meeting.
When I shared my own struggles and coming to terms with my own beliefs towards the issue, and my concern for our Methodist association, I was faced with immediate backlash and claims of discrimination.
That event revealed two grave mistakes on my part: One, coming into the year without a stance; and two, taking the time to thoroughly think about whether or not my words would represent the message I wanted to convey.
I thought long and hard about my actions and why they would be perceived as discriminatory. To my knowledge, much of my criticism stemmed from that meeting. The questions I posed with the intention of stimulating conversation, along with my confession of uncertainty, taught me to understand why people react differently from how I would.
I identify as cisgendered heterosexual, which means that I still identify with the sex I was assigned at birth, and I am also straight.
That in and of itself puts me in a majority that does not understand what it is like to be constantly questioned of why people need to address sexual orientation. Yet a couple key things seemed to have been left out on the topic of discrimination: I am a minority female in America.
In addition to being one of the 11.3 percent of Asians at SPU, according to CollegeFactual.com, I am the first Asian woman ever to hold the position of ASSP president at SPU.
None of my critics have even mentioned this fact when they chastised me for not being sensitive to discrimination.
Again, I admit that I can never understand what it is like to be from the LGBTQIA+ community in such a toxic culture.
But don’t you dare try and tell me I don’t understand discrimination and being marginalized.
Honestly, thinking about all this, it’s just really interesting.
I was not very angry about the situation and the accusations that followed the meeting our core team had. I was more in a mixture of some confusion and a whole lot of hurt, hurt that came from being the unintentional aggravator that caused distress for my team, which I am sincerely sorry for.
I understand that this hurt will take more than words and more than time to mend.
There was hurt that came from the broken trust we had built over our time together as a team.
For me, I was deeply hurt by the lack of understanding I was given when I tried to explain (never did I hope to excuse) myself and my actions to my team.
When I did my best to explain where I was coming from, I was faced with more accusations and even formal requests for my resignation.
This entire experience taught me more than I came into the year hoping for. In spite of whatever it was I experienced, I still have room to be more sensitive. Just because I am comfortable with a way of speaking does not mean all my peers are as well.
And just because I thought it was my turn to speak my mind does not mean that I need to open my mouth.
Thank you all for these valuable lessons, and thank you for allowing me, Mary Liu, to serve as your ASSP president.
I hope you all have a fantastic wrap to the school year.