Two campus news stories show the LGBTQ progress that continues to be made in Catholic higher education.
DePaul University Hosts Queer Prom
At DePaul University, Chicago, the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Office of Student Involvement recently hosted a Queer Prom, as the DePaulia reported. The event was open to all, but geared in particular to offering a safe space for LGBTQ students to be themselves.
The SGA senator for the LGBTQ+ community, Riley Reed, said that she was pleased with the attendance and diversity at the Queer Prom.
“I think the most beautiful thing I noticed was how many different types of people were here and how people could just let loose and have fun, especially with a lot of the different laws we’ve seen being passed in Florida and Texas,” Reed said, referring to bills targeting trans youth in Texas and LGBTQ content in school curricula in Florida. “I think that was just really motivating to see all these amazing queer people coming out and celebrating themselves.”
For Reed, it was important to help host the prom for LGBTQ students in particular. She had been pressured not to go to her high school’s prom because she wanted to attend with someone of the same gender.
“I don’t want anyone to feel the way that I felt or other people have felt in the past,” Reed said. “I really wanted to throw this so that people could enjoy [having a prom].”
Other students echoed Reed’s sentiment that the prom provided a fun and welcoming space for everyone in attendance. “It was nice to have a really safe and inclusive space so we can all hang out together,” one senior said.
The Queer Prom’s goal was to make students know that they matter and are accepted, including at religious schools like DePaul, which is the largest Catholic university in the country.
The organizers hope that the Queer Prom will become an annual event to reinforce the sense of community for LGBTQ students at DePaul.
Tri-Campus at Notre Dame Hosts Pridefest
The University of Notre Dame’s student government recently hosted its first Pridefest event, a weekend of activities meant to foster awareness of and appreciation for the LGBTQ community on campus.
As The Observer reported, Pridefest’s first event was an LGBTQ+ Student Experience Panel with students from three South Bend, Indiana schools: Notre Dame and neighboring institutions, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College. Students on the panel discussed their experiences on their campuses and their hopes for how LGBTQ students’ experiences could improve.
For example, at Notre Dame, students are assigned to residence halls based on their sex assigned at birth, a system that several panelists said comes with challenges for LGBTQ students, and trans students in particular.
“When you’re in the dorms and when everybody knows who’s gay, it’s like this red X on you,” one student said.
Another student, who is trans, said, “I was really out of place living in a women’s dorm,” calling for better housing options for trans people on campus.
Although the students named the struggles of being LGBTQ at Notre Dame, they also celebrated the strengths of the community on campus. Resources such as the student organization PrismND, the university’s Gender Relations Center, and social media groups specifically for LGBTQ students help to foster community and belonging.
The panelists praised the small moments and individuals that have helped them feel more at home at Notre Dame, such as a priest adviser in a men’s dorm encouraging residents to bring girlfriends or boyfriends to the dorm’s dance.
“I find joy in just small little moments where you realize you’re being noticed,” a student said.
Programs like the ones at DePaul and Notre Dame are a hopeful sign of queer students’ efforts to push for greater and more visible belonging. Whether conversing openly about LGBTQ topics on a panel or dancing the night away, queer students at Catholic colleges are making spaces in which they can be fully themselves–and also teaching the wider church about LGBTQ welcome.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, April 18, 2022