Photos courtesy of Crossroads
March marked the four-year anniversary of Seaver College’s historic LGBTQ+ club, Crossroads.
Crossroads was the first LGBTQ+ organization to be approved by Pepperdine’s Seaver College on March 21, 2016. Alumnus David Hylton (2016), who confounded and was co-president of Crossroads, said the club was an opportunity for students at a Christian university to explore the conversation of religion and sexuality.
“I felt like Crossroads had this unique opportunity to be truly a safe haven for a lot of these people who were going through this discovery time of their lives,” Hylton said.
The club was not created overnight; Hylton said he started working on the approval of Crossroads in September 2015. Previous LGBTQ+ clubs, such as GLEE in 2007 and ReachOut in 2011, had been denied official status by the university.
The other co-founder and co-president, alumnus Jason Sim (2017), said they spoke with other students and administration to figure out what the club would look like, all while honoring the Pepperdine Mission Statement and satisfying the Board of Regents.
“It would be a crossroads, basically, of all the diverse groups,” Sim said. “Whether they were gay, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, or between Christians and the non-believers — across professors, the board and students — it’s a crossroads where we can meet.”
The two alumni worked with then-Dean of Student Affairs Mark Davis, who now serves as the Dean of Students. They also reached out to then-English Prof. David Holmes and then-Resident Director Zachary Love to be advisers of Crossroads. Love wrote in an email to the Graphic that he felt Crossroads was able to succeed — unlike some of its predecessors — because of how Hylton and Sims partnered with the university.
Davis wrote in an email to the Graphic about his collaboration with the two former students. He wrote that he, Sim and Hylton met to talk openly about concerns with past proposals, and they looked at examples of other Christian universities with university-recognized student organizations in support of LGBTQ+ students.
Both Sim and Hylton spoke of the trials and tribulations that came out of creating the club.
“There were times where it was frustrating; there were times it was satisfying,” Sim said. “We wanted to make sure that the students were getting what they wanted from the club. But, at the same time, we wanted to have a club in the first place.”
Hylton added that he wanted the club to be something that was a natural progression for Pepperdine. Rather than being a political statement, he said that he wanted a place for people to come together and find community, along with support and fun. Davis repeated the sentiment of focusing on the students instead of ties to politics.
“One of the struggles was staying focused on care for our LGBTQ+ students and not getting caught up in the tensions surrounding this topic that have been so divisive in our nation, churches and families,” Davis wrote.
When it came to the students, Hylton said he felt an overall support. The only pushback he encountered came from alumni.
“They felt like this was a watered-down version, and Pepperdine is just doing this to stay politically correct,” Hylton said. “I was hurt at the time, but now I laugh about it. I think it was just a very interesting reaction because [these alumni] didn’t really know the people that were at Pepperdine anymore, so they didn’t know that the student population was changing where students were super supportive.”
Campus Presence and Politics
Senior and Vice President of Crossroads Madison Thacker has been a part of the club since 2016. Since her freshman year, she said she has seen Crossroads become more visible on campus.
Junior and Administrative Officer for Crossroads Julia Clark agreed the club has gained more presence at Pepperdine since her freshman year.
“I remember freshman year as it being almost like a support group,” Clark said. “We would retreat into our room in the PLC every other week and just talk about all of our problems. Now it’s more like, ‘Hey, we’re here, and everyone is invited.’ We want to do stuff with you, and we want to be involved with the community.”
Crossroads has built a presence on campus through campus-wide events, such as raising money for the AIDS Walk, collaborating with other cultural clubs and hosting their first convocation event in spring 2019.
A Freedom Wall post regarding the LGBTQ+ community at Pepperdine motivated the club to organize a convocation event, which the Graphic reported on in April 2019. The display included perspectives both in support and against LGBTQ+ relationships and questioned why there was not yet an LGBTQ+ themed convocation.
Fall semester of 2019 brought another Crossroads convocation event, along with more LGBTQ+ discussion on the Freedom Wall. Back-and-forth displays regarding Chick-fil-A created a conversation on the relationship between Pepperdine and its LGBTQ+ students, which the Graphic reported on in-depth that fall.
A major takeaway from the Graphic’s reporting was that the Crossroads constitution prevented members from participating in organized, political activism. Those who worked on the founding of the club in 2016 wanted to avoid political ties, but senior Daniel Iturri told the Graphic in 2019 that it does not make sense for an organization like Crossroads not to be political.
“Being gay on campus is political on its own; it’s impossible to separate the two, especially at a place like Pepperdine,” Iturri previously told the Graphic.
Crossroads adviser and Psychology Prof. Steve Rouse said he and the Crossroads executive board have met with the current administration to clarify the constitution and what exactly “being political” means.
“We came away from a meeting with the administration with a really positive sense that the constitution is able to be changed,” Rouse said. “I think some of that language [in the constitution] really needs to be modernized and clarified. We are going to try the rest of the semester to get some actual changes to the constitution.”
Junior and Crossroads President Juan Carlos Hughes said Crossroads has not yet proposed their changes to the constitution, but from their prior meetings, he said the administration appears to be willing to meet and discuss those changes.
Hughes added there would be the Crossroads Family Reunion Picnic later in the semester where students, administration and alumni can come together and acknowledge how far the university has come but also talk about what still needs to be done.
Unfortunately, because of the current COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and across the globe, the Crossroads Family Reunion Picnic and all other Crossroads events were canceled. Hughes expressed optimism for these events and conversations in the future.
“I think this is only the beginning,” Hughes said. “I think that’s been a big quote I’ve heard from an alumni; he heard that from one of the lesbian students in the 1990s, and I reaffirmed that today. This is only the beginning toward more visibility and inclusion of LGBTQ+ students.”
Contact Channa Steinmetz via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @ChannaSteinmetz