Reid Arthur, a senior theater major at George Fox University (GFU) in Newberg, Ore., was already out as gay to his family and close friends. But at a school lip sync competition in November 2019, Arthur came out to the whole GFU community and soon the wider world.
As he danced to the Taylor Swift lyric, “’Cause shade never made anybody less gay” (from her 2019 song “You Need to Calm Down”), back-up dancers ripped off his iridescent hoodie to reveal a white long-sleeved shirt with rainbow fringe hanging down beneath his outstretched arms. A video of Arthur’s lip sync was recorded by fellow GFU student Evan Engstrom, who posted it to YouTube the next day; it quickly gathered close to 49,000 views, capturing the attention of Teen Vogue, the Washington Post, and Swift herself.
George Fox University—a Christian University of 4,000 students founded by Quakers—drew attention in 2014 when a transgender student asked to move from female on-campus housing to male on-campus housing and was instead offered a single apartment or the option to live off campus.
Following Arthur’s performance, the executive council of the George Fox student government sent out an email to the student body.
We want to be as clear as possible that we affirm LGBTQIA+ students in particular and all students in general. Each person is created in the divine image of God that we hold as paramount to our mission. We exist to serve, love, and provide for a student body that welcomes and cherishes each member of the community. We are at a pivotal time in George Fox University history to decide how we love our neighbor and how we raise up the voices that deserve to be heard.
Following this email and the resulting parent and student complaints to his office, President Robin Baker clarified the university’s position on human sexuality.
George Fox is a Christian community that holds that God intended sexual relations to be reserved for a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. We know that there are people in our community and in the broader society who do not share this understanding. There is space at George Fox for disagreement. . . . Our position on sexuality is the product of thousands of years of Jewish and Christian practice. It is rooted in biblical tradition, consistent with the theological statement of the Northwest Yearly Meeting—our founding denomination, and a product of many conversations with the George Fox Board of Trustees.
Arthur won first place in the lip sync and donated his $500 cash prize to GLAAD and the Trevor Project, two LGBTQ nonprofits.