Jesuit Universities Host Drag Show, Celebrate Queer History, and More

With the academic year underway, today’s post features three LGBTQ+ stories from Catholic Jesuit higher education.

Saint Louis University Drag Show Celebrated by Students

On October 11, National Coming Out Day, a university-sponsored drag show was hosted at Saint Louis University (SLU), Missiouri, according to the student newspaper The University News. The event was popular, attracting a large crowd.

A small group of LGBTQ-negative demonstrators, one of whom claimed to be a priest, protested the event. In addition, the Chairman of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, a SLU student, encouraged readers of an alt-right publication to contact the university employee who organized the event. However, the show still went on as planned, and both students and staff participated, including sophomore student Emma Lercher, who noted the importance of SLU creating spaces for queer expression:

“‘I think queer and drag history is mostly erased when it comes to talking about American history. So I think it’s really great that SLU is highlighting it with this event and I’m just really excited.’ Lercher said.

Members of the Rainbow Alliance echoed Lercher’s sentiment:

“‘We’re so excited to have a big event that’s just a celebration of queer joy,’ executive board member of Rainbow Alliance and SLU junior, Abby Pribble stated.”

The event was popular with the wider community, and will possibly become an annual event.

Creighton University’s Intercultural Center Celebrates LGBTQ+ Students

Creighton University’s Intercultural Center offered programming throughout October, which was LBGTQ+ History Month, to celebrate queer students. One such event at the Omaha, Nebraska school was a “Jays OUT Day,” which underscored the importance of creating an inclusive campus community, according to The Creightonian:

“Jays OUT Day is Creighton’s response to National Coming Out Day. It happened about five years ago. It came about because we have a really healthy community and want them to feel welcome here on campus,” said Curtis Taylor, assistant director of the CIC.”

Creighton’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) also co-hosted an event with the university’s Theology Department entitled “Queer Christianity: Intersecting LGBTQ and Faith Identities,” which explored the joys and struggles of being a queer person of faith. David Tavarez, secretary of the school’s GSA, described the purpose of the event:

“The premise is absolving the guilt with religion and being a queer person, and its open to anyone. It is for people to hear about how to be religious and queer.”

Saint Joseph’s University Celebrates Queer Campus History

A new exhibit at St. Joseph’s University (SJU) entitled “Celebrating 30 Years of the Alliance,” celebrated the campus’ Gay Straight Alliance, now called SJUpride, opened in late October according to The Hawk.

The event at the Philadelphia school is a culmination of the work of library staff including director Anne Krakow, and academic research undertaken by student Kevin Hoban, who conducted interviews on the history of homophobia at SJU for a project.

The exhibit highlights the rich history of the campus GSA:

“The Alliance was created in 1989 by Richard O’Malley, a former administrator; Vincent Genovese, S.J., then professor of philosophy; and Dr. Lourene Nevels, then school psychologist and professor of psychology.The group’s original name was Committee on Sexuality and Sexual Minorities (COSASM), and included faculty, staff and students, according to Elizabeth A. Linehan, R.S.M., professor emerita of philosophy and a member when it was COSASM. [Editor’s Note: Sister Elizabeth Linehan is a member of New Ways Ministry’s Advisory Board.)”

The names for the club shifted over the years, as did the group’s strategies to support LGBTQ+ students. Ann Green, a professor of English and member of The Alliance, described the changing needs of queer students over the years:

“At one point, there was a hotline…They tried a support group, but people wouldn’t come to it at that time because no one wanted to be out. And then, at some point, we started doing Rainbow Week. And that became Unity Week and then that became Unity Month. And early on we started Safe Zone Training.”

Trainings began in 2001 and still occur at the school, and offer both a history of the queer community on campus and ways to create a safe atmosphere for all students. English professor Thomas Brennan, S.J. hopes that the exhibit will remind students of the progress that has been made and the work that has yet to be done:

“Students need to remember where this began…This wasn’t something that just came out of nowhere. This has real and important antecedents and people took risks. And this culture that we have, I think we got a lot of work to do on this issue. But we’ve come this far, not just by chance, but because people made deliberate choices.”

The exhibit will be available to community members throughout the rest of the month, and serves as a reminder of the decades of work undertaken by LGBTQ+ people and allies to create an inclusive campus.

Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, November 7, 2022

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