Catholic Schools in South Bend Host Programs for Transgender Inclusion, Remembrance

Attendees at the Saint Mary’s College workshop on transgender inclusion

Catholic universities in South Bend, Indiana recently hosted events to advocate and to honor transgender people. At Saint Mary’s College, a student has begun to take steps to make campus culture more welcoming for trans students. And students at the University of  Notre Dame held a vigil for the victims of anti-transgender violence.

Saint Mary’s Hosts Transgender Inclusion Workshops

Sophia Sanchez, a senior at Saint Mary’s College, directed a workshop on transgender inclusivity. The Observer, a student newspaper for the colleges of St. Mary’s, Notre Dame, and Holy Cross, which are all in close proximity to one another, covered the workshop, describing it as “aimed at making the tri-campus community a more welcoming place for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.”

Megan Buell, executive director of Transgender Resources Education and Enrichments Services (TREES), a support organization for trans people in rural environments, answered questions and offered resources to participants. Sanchez began the program by describing her involvement in Saint Mary’s new LGBTQ center:

“I want to tell you a little bit about myself, just so you can understand why we’re here today sitting in a workshop about transgender inclusivity at an all-women’s Catholic college. This semester I interned with [TREES] and Megan Buell, the executive director. I myself identify as a cisgender woman belonging to the LGBTQ community and have tried very hard to advocate for LGBTQ rights here at Saint Mary’s.”

Sanchez discussed several issues that impact the campus, including using correct pronouns on student identification cards, bathroom accessibility, names on diplomas, and misgendering in a variety of campus situations such as in classroom interactions.

Additionally, the workshop presented the progress Saint Mary’s has made with trans issues. Because of the establishment of an LGBTQ center, an Office of Student Equity, and the first affinity group for LGBTQ alums, Sanchez was encouraged that “things won’t stay like this forever because we’re doing workshops like this and we have more resources now on campus.”

Sanchez encourage the participants to spread the workshop’s information around campus:

“‘Take some of these things and maybe share them with someone, one fact or something that you learned today. Share it with someone who’s not here, maybe your roommate or someone you see in passing. Even if you feel so inclined or comfortable that you can maybe add your pronouns to the bottom of your email signature. I think that’s a great start.'”

Notre Dame Students Hold TDOR Vigil

The University of Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center and PrismND, an LGBTQ student organization, sponsored a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance. The president of PrismND, junior Gabe McKenna, spoke to begin the event, which took place on the campus’ iconic Grotto outdoor prayer space. 

“We gather here tonight to honor the memory of those murdered in acts of anti-transgender violence,” McKenna said, according to The Observer . “In 2021, we lost at least 48 transgender people [nationally] to acts of violence. They were real people, people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.”

In addition to telling the life stories of some of the victims, McKenna offered prayer petitions:

“We pray for the souls of those who were murdered this year and in the years past as a result of anti-transgender violence, that they be wrapped in the loving embrace of our merciful Lord and Savior.”

The vigil also offered prayers for those who commit violence against transgender persons. McKenna added:

“Let us pray for those who committed these acts of violence, that they might recognize the presence of Christ and those around them and seek God’s merciful love and forgiveness.”

Deborah Bineza, program coordinator for identity, intersectionality, and inclusion at the Gender Relations Center, concluded the vigil with closing remarks:

“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, particularly black transgender women. Their deaths highlight the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

Elise Dubravec (she/her), New Ways Ministry, January 17, 2022

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