Although religious groups express varying views toward the LGBTQ community, the Yale Chaplain’s Office continues to act as a source of support for queer students.

Last weekend, the Chaplain’s Office led a retreat for LGBTQ students to help them step away from the stresses of Yale and engage in spiritual reflection. The retreat was organized under the “W{holy} Queer” initiative, a program founded in 2013 that is now an interfaith collaboration among the Office of LGBTQ Resources, the Chaplain’s Office and the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life.

The initiative was inspired by a series of lectures on spirituality and LGBTQ stories started almost a decade ago under the leadership of University Chaplain Sharon Kugler. Today, the initiative’s programming includes everything from monthly dinners that discuss the intersectionality of LGBTQ issues and religion to baking sessions that teach students to make their own rainbow-colored bread.

“Personally, I found the retreat to be a unique opportunity where I could re-engage with my faith and my queer identity among a group of peers in a similar mindset,” said an undergraduate member of the queer community, who chose to remain anonymous due to the undisclosed nature of their present sexuality. “The fact that the retreat brought together students from different parts of Yale further created a space where I felt able to explore my identity as a whole person rather than just a Yale student studying public health.”

Associate University Chaplain Rev. Jenny Peek, the retreat’s organizer, said that the W{holy} Queer program has transcended all schools of the University. She added that the program’s events now act as a space for undergraduate, graduate and professional students alike to gather and discuss all things queer and religious.

Peek said that all students are welcome to come to W{holy} Queer initiative’s events, regardless of their spiritual persuasions, gender identities and sexualities.

“It can be difficult to find mindfulness in the context of the endless commitments, emails and opportunities we face as Yale students,” said the students who attended the W{holy} Queer retreat, in a joint statement to the News. “The retreat was an opportunity for a group of interested students to step away from these distractions and to engage with ourselves, our beliefs and identities, and with one another.”

In the statement, the students also said that they returned from the retreat reassured that they are not alone in embracing both their spirituality and queerness.

While some members of the queer community on campus attend events organized by the Chaplain’s Office, others interact with the Office outside of its regular programming.

“Based on my frequent ice cream and Swedish Fish study breaks in the Chaplain’s Office this year and last, it seems like the Office provides a space for relaxation and rejuvenation for all members of the Yale community, regardless of identity,” said Kira Sze ’21, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Peek said that when organizing the W{holy} Queer events, she has also learned from the students she has guided, noting that it is an “absolute joy” to serve this “community of loving, resilient, creative and compassionate students.”

Marlee Goldshine, social justice fellow at the Slifka Center and organizer of W{holy} Queer events, added that the Slifka Center seeks to provide meaningful ways for Yale students to participate in Jewish life. She added that the Center’s leadership role in W{holy} Queer is one of the ways it works towards achieving that goal for the LGBTQ community.

For its next event in the W{holy} Queer programming, the Chaplain’s Office will host a communal mask-making event on Oct. 31.

Jever Mariwala |