The spring semester is beginning with a new LGBTQ-specific literature course at a Minnesota Catholic college. Today’s post includes this story and other news from Catholic higher education.
LGBTQIA+ Literature Premieres at St. Thomas
Some students at the University of St. Thomas will be taking a course specifically in LGBTQIA+ literature this semester, taught by adjunct professor Melissa Hendrickx. Tommie Media reported:
“Hendrickx sees the course as an opportunity for positivity and growth at a university where two prominent topics – LGBTQIA+ and Catholic discourse – mirror the greater society’s cultural clash. The class is in the process of being marketed widely across departments and campus.
“‘I think it positions St. Thomas in a unique place,’ Hendrickx said. ‘When you are at a university inspired by the Catholic tradition, (which) does not have a great history in terms of recognizing LGBT rights, it can lead to some soul searching discussions.’
“The course aims for equitable representation of identity, along with recognition and support of the work and influence of LGBTQIA+ authors and authors of color. Hendrickx plans to cover post structural theory, the politicization of queer identities and the impact of religion on those who identify as LGBTQIA+ as well as examine commonalities across different experiences.”
Kelly Wilson, a theology professor at the school located in St. Paul, Minnesota, affirmed the course’s goals of intersecting LGBTQ and Catholic identities, and added the hope that it might benefit LGBTQ students. She told Tommie Media:
“‘I think it’s important for human beings to connect to narratives … narratives can give them vocabulary for dealing with the world that they’re experiencing. . .The importance would be that shared history, that shared narrative that queer folks can plug into.'”
The course is not exclusively for LGBTQ students, and Hendrickx hopes it will be an opportunity for people with “privileged identities,” like straight or cisgender allies, to “start better understanding and empathizing with other groups.”
Catholic U. Launches Campus Ministry-Affiliated LGBTQ Group
The Catholic University of America has consistently failed to recognize the LGBTQ student group known as CUAllies after more than a decade of requests to do so. But student newspaper The Tower reported that Campus Ministry launched “Beyond the Labels,” a group for LGBTQ Christians.
The Tower’s report was a longer profile about LGBTQ students’ experiences on the mostly conservative campus in Washington, DC. While some positive experiences, such as with a social work professor, were noted, most stories were negative. One student, senior Allison Fitzgerald, shared about a theology professor who had the class debate the validity of transgender rights. The newspaper explained further:
“The most suggested improvement for the school mentioned by the students was to make CUAllies a recognized club. Samuels talked about how officially recognizing the club could show queer students have a space and are accepted here, as opposed to saying they are accepted because ‘Catholics accept everybody.’ [student Ashton] Samuels added, ‘It would be a statement that they are actually welcome rather than ‘you are welcome but just like, offer it under the table’ which is essentially what we are doing right now.'”
Bondings 2.0 has followed the decade-long saga of Catholic University students seeking recognition of CUAllies. For that full reporting, click here.
Gonzaga U. Holds Courageous Conversation
Last semester, LGBTQ members of the Gonzaga University community spoke at a panel, “Courageous Conversations: The Queer Experience.” Panelists responded to student questions, while also making audience members aware of campus resources for queer and transgender students at the school in Spokane, Washington. The event ended with an announcement about the University’s event honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance last November. For more information about the panel, visit The Gonzaga Bulletin.
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s series on LGBTQ issues in Catholic higher education. You can read other stories in this series by clicking here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 22, 2022