your resident ethnographer

Dear Pink Mennos,

Hi! I just arrived in Pittsburgh and I’m writing with a quick introduction. My name is Stephanie Krehbiel, and I’m a doctoral student at the University of Kansas in the Department of American Studies and the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’m here in Pittsburgh because my dissertation research is on the experiences of LGBTQ Mennonites, and more broadly, on the role sexuality-related issues play in Mennonite identities. I’m an ethnographer, so I choose to do my research in conversation with the people who shape and are shaped by the issues I’m studying. I decided to come to Pittsburgh two years ago, when I was preparing to start my PhD and reading all the dispatches from Pink Mennos at the MCUSA conference in Columbus. Clearly, important things happen at these conferences that have ramifications in people’s lives for a long time afterward.

I don’t think it’s ever fair for an ethnographer to go around studying people without giving back some of her own story, so a bit about who I am and why I’m writing about this: I don’t go to church, but I did grow up Mennonite, in North Newton, Kansas. I was baptized as a teenager at the Bethel College Mennonite Church, and later attended and graduated from Bethel College. My husband and I were married in BCMC a few years later. For both of us, the church’s treatment of our Mennonite LGBTQ friends and family members has been instrumental in our gradual drift away from Mennonite churches and institutions.

So it feels a little weird to be here. In fact, I’ve never been to a Mennonite conference before. And while the conference registration form wouldn’t allow me to label myself “other” or “anthropologist” or “none” rather than choosing a congregation, Ervin Stutzman and the other moderators know why I am here and have given me their official permission to be a fly on the wall at conference events. I’m most interested in the folks of Pink Menno, Menno Neighbors, and BMC, however, and part of how I’d like to thank you for letting me learn in your midst is to help you chronicle the events of this week. It helps me record what’s going on, and it lets you respond to and amend my accounts of the days’ events if you choose to, be that in writing or in person. I hope that between me and the other Pink Menno Press volunteers, we create a record of this week that is useful to all of us.

I’ll be around Pink Menno events all week, so please come introduce yourself. I’d love to speak with as many of you as I can. I’m the one with the brown ponytail and the HRC messenger bag, probably looking slightly intimidated. (I haven’t been around this many Mennonites in a long, long time!)