Students at Georgetown University looking to explore gender and sexuality will now be able to do so in a new residential community, reported campus newspaper The Hoya.
The “Crossroads: Gender and Sexuality” Living Learning Community will launch next academic year. Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs at the Washington, DC, school, said the new community is entirely consistent with the University’s values:
“‘Our Catholic and Jesuit values call on us to engage with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ with our LGBTQ community. It is in keeping with our Catholic and Jesuit values to provide a language, perspective, and sense of inclusion for deepening our sense of cura personalis.'”
A Living Learning Community (LLC) is described by the Office of Residential Living as a space “where like-minded individuals can share and deepen their passions through social, educational, and reflective activities.”
Students Grace Smith and Henry Callander wrote the proposal for a gender and sexuality community, which was initially rejected by the Office of Residential Living last year. But Smith said approval now comes just as Georgetown celebrates the tenth anniversary of its “Out for Change” campaign, a pro-LGBT movement, which began in response to bias incidents in 2007. Part of that campaign included the founding of the LGBTQ Resource Center, which remains a leader of its kind in Catholic higher education, and other efforts to ensure LGBT students are safe and welcomed. The LLC is the latest step.
Smith praised the new LLC as “a major and unprecedented accomplishment for a Catholic university,” and continued:
“‘It makes a profound and radical statement that religion does not have to be mutually exclusive with the freedom to understand, challenge, and grow through and with expressions of and reflection on gender and sexuality. It says: come as you are; be who you are; love how you do; and we’ll make a home for you.'”
Chad Gasman, who will be a coordinator for “Crossroads: Gender and Sexuality,” said this LLC will help LGBT students have fewer issues with housing. Gasman, who also heads the student group GUPride, told The Hoya having such a space is “an assurance of safety and comfortability.” He added:
“‘For trans students especially, housing is a very difficult and stressful process. . .[H]aving an assurance that a floor on campus is not only geared towards queer and trans issues, but is going to be heavily, if not entirely, filled with fellow queer and trans students is undoubtedly a load off trans students’ minds when housing selection rolls around.”
Looking forward, Smith said there are still housing challenges to be tackled at an institutional level, including all-gender restrooms in every dormitory and the ability of students to choose housing which is right for them, rather than mandating housing based on assigned sex.
“Crossroads: Gender and Sexuality” is a leading step in providing a unique LGBT residential space, adding to the handful of other Catholic colleges and universities which have begun implementing gender-neutral housing options. These schools include the College of the Holy Cross , Worcester, Massachusetts, and Fordham University, New York City. But the issue of housing for LGBT, and specifically transgender, students is not without controversy. It was reported in 2016 that the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, denied safe housing to a trans student.
How to best support LGBTQ students in Catholic higher education is a complex matter, but it is good to see Georgetown University taking its commitment to provide quality support so seriously by continuing to make progress each year.
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 18, 2018