When The Daily Californian’s March 3 issue came out with my partner’s face next to mine, blown up on the front page, I was mostly pleased. The staff had unpacked a large, complicated, mostly secretive issue about an uncommon aspect of the already convoluted world of Greek life and had done so admirably and professionally. I will always be unequivocally grateful to writer Sara Grossman for taking on our story and presenting it to the world.
The problem with newspapers as a medium, however, is that they tend to follow the very structure that the queer community rejects — the sort of binary truth that gave rise to our troubles in the first place. When I was kicked out of Christian sorority Alpha Delta Chi for being in a same-sex relationship with another member, it was because most of the members viewed heterosexual relationships as the only valid type of Christ-centered relationship. Little room was left for the more-complex understanding that queer and Christian identities do intersect. Like the structure of the U.S. court system, much of the journalism industry believes demonstrating a fair and balanced account is about presenting two sides, regardless of whether the issue can be distilled so simply. Sometimes, there is more than one side, and sometimes, someone is simply wrong.
So I believe the very structure the Daily Cal and most other newspapers use during reporting led to a story that never would have been truly accurate in its portrayal. Katie Engelby, for example, was allowed to speak as though she represented many of the Beta Chapter members, even though that is not the case at all. In fact, she was the sole exception in nearly every case. The general response to the article made me realize that many were interpreting the Beta Chapter to have been generally supportive of us, even though despite the vote to let us stay, the chapter was continually divided and overwhelmingly silent on the issue as they watched the situation disintegrate. Through their silence, they condoned the actions of the national board — and that silence should not be mistaken as support. I understand that Engelby was highly quotable and represented a perfect counterweight for the article and many of my and Sophia’s statements, but she was also far from being a representative voice.
I write this for two reasons. First, in light of the recent Easter Sunday and my upcoming anniversary with my partner, I have been reflecting on my identity and journey as a queer Christian. Second, it’s important to me that we hold others in our UC Berkeley community accountable for their words and actions. Our UC Berkeley community cannot have a true dialogue among our various perspectives if we are not honest about what we believe and why. It only damages our intellectual and academic integrity when we claim to believe the ideals and philosophies of particular beliefs while acting in opposite ways.
When the article published, many called me out for a quotation prejudiced against atheists, even as I was defending the queer community in the same breath; I thank the Berkeley community for this. I grew up in a conservative Christian environment and still unintentionally carry much of that culture’s effects with me. It has only been and continues to be because of the Berkeley community that I have grown and confronted many of these internalized predispositions. I apologize sincerely and thank the community for its patience. At the end of the day, we cannot begin to understand and educate one another across the aisles — political, religious, social or otherwise — until we are honest about where we stand and how we are portrayed.
Finally, in an issue as basic as human rights and the autonomy to choose our own most intimate relationships, there is little middle ground. The organization of Alpha Delta Chi has chosen to stand against the rights of the queer community, and that is their prerogative. But since the article came out, I have been contacted by members at other ADX chapters who told me their own similar experiences of being forced out of their chapters but never felt able to share these stories publicly. So, at the very least, let ADX’s members be recognized for their dishonest portrayal of Christianity at its very core: Christ, to me, represents unconditional love, whereas ADX not only practices highly conditional acceptance, but continues to pretend to accept all denominations.
In its bid to present a balanced defense of both “sides,” the Daily Cal searched hard for the quotable lines that would put ADX in the favorable light of having tried to stand up for my partner and me. But ADX, with the exception of only a few individuals, did not. In striving to retain the integrity of the journalism industry, the Daily Cal oversimplified and misrepresented my story. The letters “ADX” represent a conservative, fundamentalist and bigoted Christianity; by consequence, so does each member who wears those letters on campus. Silence is not support, and the Christian sorority of Alpha Delta Chi has an obligation to remember that “thou shalt not bear false witness.”
Kylie Foo is a senior at UC Berkeley.