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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Observer Editorial: Love thee, love all

October is LGBTQ+ History Month in the U.S., a time to consider and celebrate the legacy of the LGBTQ+ community throughout its fight for acceptance and liberation. This month has marked a number of events celebrating belonging across the tri-campus, including promotional events for University alum Greg Bourke’s memoir “Gay, Catholic, and American,” a celebration of National Coming Out Day in Baumer Hall and the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Saint Mary’s new LGBTQ+ Center.

The history of the LGBTQ+ community on our tri-campus is powerful — rife with administrative obstacles and hard-won successes — and it is one that deserves recognition. We applaud our schools’ administrators and student leaders for their work to make this history known.

However, the Irish Rover’s Oct. 13 publication of “No Man Can Serve Two Masters” disrespected this history and denied dignity to current members of the LGBTQ+ community on our tri-campus. In response to a recent series of efforts from the University community to recognize and affirm its LGBTQ+ members, the opinion piece calls upon Notre Dame to end its “adherence to secular standards set by the LGBT movement,” calling these acts of inclusivity “erosive.” Overall, the piece condemns the University’s inclusive initiatives — such as allyship training, respect of pronouns and the extension of employment benefits to same-sex couples — on the grounds of their “opposition” to Church teaching.

This kind of rhetoric has no place on our tri-campus, nor does it promote the Irish Rover’s mission of “preserving the Catholic identity of Notre Dame.” Instead, it alienates important members of our community and actively ignores the Church’s teachings of respect, compassion and non-discrimination.

The LGBTQ+ members of our tri-campus are not only welcome and loved, but they also play an important role in maintaining our schools’ vibrant Catholic community. This is a fact — and not one that should be up for discussion.

Caring for our LGBTQ+ students does not make our campus “too secular,” nor does it unalign our actions with the Catholic mission of our University. Taking care of our neighbors and fellow humans is a Catholic act — an intrinsically Catholic one, in fact — on top of being the right thing to do in the face of overwhelming social inequities. LGBTQ+ youth and young adults are 120% more likely to experience homelessness, up to 2.4 times more likely to struggle with mental illness and two to seven times more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to their straight and cisgender peers. However, these numbers are known to decrease significantly with access to spaces and efforts that affirm individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity.

Creating a campus culture that fosters belonging and respect for LGBTQ+ students is not only a tenet of the Catholic faith; it is a necessity for saving lives. It is our duty as good neighbors and as a Catholic university to ensure the mental and physical well-being of every member in our community. Additionally, for students and staff of the tri-campus who identify as both LGBTQ+ and Catholic, Notre Dame and its Catholic mission belong to them just as much as anyone else.

While there is still progress to be made for LGBTQ+ representation and accommodations at Notre Dame, we appreciate the ways the University has sought to make campus more welcoming, such as its decision to extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples in 2014 and its official recognition of Pride Month in June of this year. While Notre Dame is a Catholic university, it is also an institution with ethical responsibilities to the students and employees it serves; therefore, such decisions should not have to be debated.

And as part of the ongoing fight for full LGBTQ+ equality on campus, we encourage Notre Dame to continue in its pursuit of equitable and affirming causes. After decades of advocacy in support of updating the University’s equal employment guidelines, the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity to the non-discrimination clause is a simple change that is long overdue. Additionally, transgender and gender-nonconforming students should be provided access to gender-affirming housing on campus — having these students live in residence halls that do not reflect and affirm their gender identity forces them into situations of discomfort, intense dysphoria and even physical danger.

As a student-run newspaper serving all members of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross, The Observer strives to act as a safe space and an affirming platform for our tri-campus LGBTQ+ community — whether you work on our staff, write for us, submit letters or just read our content from time to time, we want you to know you are a valued and important part of our community.

As student journalists, we recognize the power of words, and we do not tolerate hateful and discriminatory language. We hope our publication can continue to uplift LGBTQ+ voices and assist in efforts toward equity on our campuses. If you’d like to submit a Letter to the Editor about LGBTQ+ issues on our tri-campus, our inbox is always open.

To the LGBTQ+ members of The Observer, whether you be writers, copy editors, photographers, social media strategists, editors or graphic designers: Thank you for your invaluable contributions. The paper wouldn’t be complete without you. And to those who may join us, you’re always more than welcome in our office.

To the LGBTQ+ members of our community who are not out: We stand with you as well, and we are so grateful for your gifts, talents and presence on our tri-campus. Remember that coming out is a choice that belongs entirely to you — it is never an obligation, and you don’t owe it to anyone.

For those interested in learning more about the powerful history of LGBTQ+ activism at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s as we continue our celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, we highly recommend exploring LGBTQ ND, a project organized by Notre Dame senior Marty Kennedy which documents 20th century LGBTQ+ student activism by compiling articles from over 50 years of Observer archives. Furthermore, the LGBTQ+ Domers project regularly shares historical information through their Instagram page ahead of their upcoming book. 

If you’re searching for community on the tri-campus, there are a number of clubs and safe spaces dedicated to connecting LGBTQ+ students and allies: PrismND and the Gender Relations Center at Notre Dame, as well as the Sexuality and Gender Equity Club (SAGE) and the LGBTQ+ Center at Saint Mary’s. Many of these organizations’ events are open to Holy Cross students as well. 

Despite the many resources currently available, we hope we can all continue to make our tri-campus a safe and welcoming space for all. No matter your school, your faith tradition or how “out” you may be, being LGBTQ+ at a Catholic institution is an act of bravery. We’re proud of you for being here. You’re always welcome in our tri-campus.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated the SAGE Club at Saint Mary’s had been introduced in October. The club was established August. The Observer deeply regrets this error.

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