Claire Murashima, 22, who recently graduated from Calvin University, a Christian school, has been making headlines as the first openly queer student to hold a leadership position in the student government’s 102-year history.
Murashima went to Calvin University because she desired something different from the liberal high school she attended in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “I wanted to expose myself to something new, and I knew my beliefs would be critically examined,” she remembered.
She also believed that going to a Christian institution would make her more “holy.” Murashima believed in notions that learned growing up. “I equated being gay with sin, and I wasn’t comfortable with that in my life yet,” she said. “I definitely wanted to not cause controversy and be straight.”
When the Covid-19 Pandemic started in March 2020, during her junior year, Murashima and her roommates were just sitting around their room depressed, so she felt enticed to run for student government, saying she always had an interest in it. In April, her campaign was launched.
Murashima had a plan to do something unpopular to what the institution had even seen before – come out as bi-sexual. “I wanted to lead with what I’d do as president and, later, when I was doing those things and people had already built up respect for me and knew me, I would come out,” she explained. “I don’t regret that.”
In May, Clair won her election and announced her sexuality in an October 2020 op-ed for the school newspaper.
“A few years ago, I never thought that I would be coming out to the world through my school newspaper at my Christian university, ” she wrote in the paper. “But my legacy will invariably be different because I am Calvin University’s first openly LGBTQ student body president. I’m bisexual…I’m sharing my story with the community because I take the weight of representation seriously, I have a desire to lead Calvin and the CRC into the future and want other queer students to see themselves in my story. I’d feel as if I’d made a mistake as student body president if I did not use my platform to do so.”
Many students and administrators were in support of their openly bi-sexual president, but there were others who did not lend their support. In March, three students set up a table on Calvin University’s lawn with a banner, bashing the student for her representation. The sign read, “LGTBQ is sin. The Bible says. Change my mind.”
The students involved in the protest claimed that Calvin officials gave them approval, but Sarah Vizer, Vice President of Student Life, denied the accusation. She asserted that the students submitted misleading information regarding their intent for the event, claiming it was an apologetics event.
“The form did not indicate the true nature of the information ‘table,’ but indicated it was about Christian apologetics,” Vizer said. “It is important to note that no approval for an LGBTQ-based debate or conversation was requested nor approved.”
The table was later shut down by public safety. President of Calvin University Michael Le Roy, sent an email to the Calvin community responding to the news.
“As fellow image-bearers of God, we write today to affirm the image of God in our LGBTQ+ friends. We want all of our students to know that they are loved,” he wrote. He further affirmed Calvin’s position on marriage and sexuality. “Sexual intimacy is a gift from God to be celebrated in marriage between a man and a woman.”
Murashima is grateful to be an inspiration for her students and those going through similar challenges. “Not every queer person should be — or wants to be — changing the institution that oppresses them, but that’s just who I am,” she said. “It’s a gift. I feel like it’s something God gave me.”