Celebrating LGBTQ History Month on Jesuit Campuses

Students at Fordham University celebrating LGBTQ History Month

October is LGBTQ History Month and, like many years, Catholic universities and colleges celebrated on campus. Here are two reports from Jesuit campuses this semester.

The LGBTQ Resource Center of Georgetown University, the oldest Jesuit university in the United States, launched a series of virtual activities and programs to celebrate LGBTQ History month. 

In an interview with student newspaper The Hoya, Shiva Subbaraman, executive director the campus’ LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center, emphasized the significance of these events:

“‘The coming together of all of who we are and who we can be, that is very powerful for the LGBTQ community, because oftentimes, you know, this piece of our identity can be in conflict with the rest of the identities and so to provide a space, to provide opportunities and places where we can be whole people is really important.'”

Subbaraman also discussed the challenges of building community through solidarity in light of the current restrictions due to COVID-19, in which large social gatherings are not permitted:

“‘I think the biggest loss I’m feeling is that ability to gather in Red Square,’ Subbaraman said. ‘There is something about, especially for gay, LGBTQ people, our ability to see each other in person and that sort of visceral sense of connection is very, very important, I think, you know, because we, unlike other identities, we can’t tell who each other is, right? Like we can’t recognize each other until we sort of get together.’”

These virtual programs, co-sponsored with GU Pride, GU Queer People of Color, and the Tagliabue Initiative for LGBTQ Life, have taken place at different times to allow participants to enjoy all of them if desired.

Another Jesuit school, Fordham University, New York City, hosted a “Digital Dialogue” forum on October 8, 2020 for LGBTQ History month, in which participants explored the relationship between religion and sexuality, as reported by the student newspaper, The Observer.

“What does it mean to be gay on God’s campus?” was a focal point of the conversation.

One of the student panelists, George Kite, said that his Catholic upbringing stymied him from sharing his sexual identity with his family and friends. He was afraid of the “perceived contradiction of ‘being gay and Catholic.”

Kite’s spiritual journey has shifted to a more nuanced understanding of these two identities. The news report stated: 

“Since coming out, he says that his relationship to Christianity has become less centered around the Church and more about his personal relationship with Jesus, although he does still consider himself a Catholic.” 

Jack McClatchy underscored that the harmonization of his Catholic faith and sexual identity was made possible through the fundamental principle of social justice. When inclusion, love, and compassion take center stage, a reconciliation between two seemingly irreconcilable human identities can occur.

The Fordham community also celebrated the 10th anniversary of its LGBTQ and Ally Network of Support, reported The Observer:

“‘[The Network of Support] is welcoming to LGBTQ students and their allies, in keeping with the Jesuit tenet of “cura personalis” and the explicit Catholic teaching that all persons should be treated with dignity and respect,’ its mission statement says. . .The program has had over 900 participants over the years of faculty, students and staff.

Being a member of the Network requires undergoing five hours of training, refreshed every five years, so that members can both know about LGBTQ resources on campus to which people can be referred, as well as challenge LGBTQ-negative language and behaviors.

Both Georgetown and Fordham University have taken affirmative steps to engage their campuses LGBTQ communities in  meaningful ways. These Catholic institutions have empowered their students to confront the complex interplay of religion and sexuality.

–Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, October 31, 2020

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