18 November 2016

Being LGBTQ at Notre Dame

I participated in a positive art project to support LGBTQ young people today. If you are in L.A. and would be interested in learning more and getting involved - comment, message, or email me and I'll get you in contact.

I'm being deliberately vague about the project in order to protect the creativity and intellectual property of this idea and I don't want to jump ahead of the launch!

Doing the project made me think about my experience when I first came out as a young LGBTQ person. I was at Notre Dame, an excellent school. Great academics, strong student focus, but also a pervasive macho culture and very conservative social values.

The editor of the alumni magazine asked me to write about my experience as an LGBTQ student at Notre Dame. It was scary - trying to represent a huge diversity of experience with just my own voice - and to do so in a format that would reach an audience that was potentially very hostile.

The writing process itself was very cathartic as I had the chance to look back and reflect on the experiences that shaped my coming out. (I'd also like to say that my article is very rambling and not great writing, so forgive my 21-year-old self if you choose to read it!)

The response...

Well, it was as expected.
Alumni wrote in saying that I should never have been admitted to the university. That I should choose celibacy. That they were withdrawing all financial support to the university because it chose to admit me and feature my story.*

On the other hand, the issue, which included several articles about LGBTQ concerns, received a first place gold medal award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for its special issue.

I believe that my four years at Notre Dame, a conservative midwestern college, made me into the LGBTQ feminist activist that I am. Being forced to define and defend my identity shaped my values and priorities. It led me to choose education and a career path where I could provide support for people seeking recognition and justice.

I hope that the four years in the Trump administration will serve as a similar catalyst for activists, youthful or experienced, to take up their values and push for them. It won't be easy, many people will push back, but let's take this as a wake up call.

*When I went back to the comments section in order add a link to this blog post, I was genuinely surprised by the number of positive comments I found. I had forgotten about the positive and affirming comments and only retained the negative ones. I am so glad that I looked up the comment feed again. There are still many comments that are frightening (for example, the Navy man who was "lost at sea" after aberrant homosexual behavior) but they do seem more balanced than I'd originally felt.

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