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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

A revolution of love

I recently consoled one of my dear friends as he sat crumpled on the carpet, shedding tears of shame and hurt, telling me how he wanted to end his own life. A young man, who since he was a little boy, has been taught that God rejected him, poisoned by a perversion of the love of God. It is something that he carries with him in the deep recesses of his bones every single day.The closest person to a saint I’ve ever met is my grandma, Carol (known as Moo) — a sassy, sharp, loving, loudmouth lesbian from rural Washington. Moo moved to Seattle and spent the 90’s running the “Chicken Soup Brigade,” a community-based agency whose volunteers provided home chores, transportation, and meals for people living with and dying with AIDS. She spent long days and nights washing the feet of the marginalized, witnessing to their human dignity and serving as a shoulder to lean on when they had no one else to turn to as they were dying.Moo has been in a long marriage with my godmother, Tiffany (Nene). To say that Moo or Nene do not have or deserve the full love of God or God’s people is an abomination. An abomination reflected in their experiences and my friend’s as he sat dejected on the floor.My grandmas are an example of what I hope for every single one of us: a life enmeshed in deep social bonds with others, a love that is deeper than the deepest ocean and a life grounded in an intrinsic identity as a beloved child of God. Seekers of the Kingdom. I’ve seen the Catholic Church I love so dearly pushing people out of its love. I’ve seen Jesus kidnapped by a revolution of exclusion disguised in adherence to ”Catholic values.” And, here, I’ve seen how the University I love more than just about anything else has at times turned its back on LGBTQ+ individuals in our Notre Dame community.  "Venite Ad Me Omnes" — meaning "Come to Me All” — adorns the bottom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. An image reflected and literally tattooed on my godmother's back reflecting her intense love of the sacrifice of Jesus.  Sacrifice and Love.  In the Gospel of Luke Jesus has come to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is for all — especially those on the margins, the people whom power is oppressing and religion is missing.  However, this call is not heeded by some on our campus or by University policies themselves. Many queer folks on this campus are left bearing the brunt of a revolution of exclusion and hate that is antithetical to Catholic values.A revolution of exclusion marked by the steady torrent of articles by “catholically oriented groups” attacking the people/creation of groups meant solely to support LGBTQ+ folks, close friends being called slurs while simply walking back to their dorm and those attacking queer people’s inherent identities as beloved children of God. When I think of who Jesus would be on this planet right now, I don’t think of those living in ivory towers of judgment, but instead of those bringing oceans of love to all the people they encounter.Notre Dame is making significant and exciting progress in some areas: Campus Ministry offers groups to discuss queer identities and Catholicism, ARC (Alumni Rainbow Coalition) is in as a new alumni group after decades of fighting and the recent change in the discriminatory harassment policy makes it so that we can state firmly that homophobia/transphobia are not tolerated when directed at students.However, this progress does not erase the long path to inclusion and belonging we still have ahead. Notre Dame is failing our students, not because we lack incredible humans acting in good faith to steer our University towards justice, but because of our continued reverence to malignantly mistranslated interpretations of the bible founded on exclusion of differenceNo matter the good faith of actors in the Church and Notre Dame at large, if we do not inject love into our systems and create structures that affirm the inherent human dignity of all LGBTQ+ people we are failing our mission. We are ensuring an environment where more people like my friend think of ending their life, where people like my friend feel alone in their fight for their faith.As Martin Luther King Jr. was discussing the work of creating a beloved community in the United States, he said, “We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.” Here at Notre Dame, we have that same opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into our veins. It’s just a question of whether we seize that opportunity. Reflecting on the love of Our Lady, the University should seize the opportunity to call more queer and transgender folks into the love of Jesus. Seize the opportunity to not just promise LGBTQ+ individuals (especially faculty, and staff) they will not be discriminated against by University policies/hiring, but to enshrine it in our non-discrimination clause. Seize the opportunity to create a housing situation that truly affirms the human dignityof transgender and nonbinary students on campus.These are not radical changes. Notre Dame Student Government compiled a wealth of data over the past couple months comparing Notre Dame to nationally ranked universities and other Catholic/Holy Cross schools. In fact, Notre Dame stands alone in the top 50 schools in the United States in not including sexual orientation and gender identity in our nondiscrimination clause. Even the majority of Catholic schools in the US (and the majority of Holy Cross schools) include sexual orientation and/or gender identity in their non-discrimination clause. With Gender Affirming Housing options, the data is even worseI worry every day as there are so many people like my friend who think of ending their lives because of a hatred they’ve been fed— a rejection of their human dignity by institutions meant to spread love.To those attempting to gate-keep the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church from LGBTQ+ people, there is a revolution of love marching toward you. For those not seizing the opportunity to bring our queer siblings into the fold, there is a revolution of love knocking at your door. To queer and transgender students on this campus, there is a revolution of love backing you up. I look to people who make that revolution: Marty Kennedy and all the folks working on LGBTQ+ Domers documenting LGBTQ+ history on this campus, an Observer Editorial Board that firmly stands their ground, Prism(and the soon-to-be ARC) for creating spaces of safety, the embodiment of Christ's mission in saint-like queer Catholics like my grandmas and the overwhelming number of students who subscribe to “Venite Ad Me Omnes”. The revolution of love will win because God is love, and love always wins.

Dane Sherman 


Oct. 23

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.