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Panel examines LGBTQ life at ND

Adrienne Ruffner | Friday, November 3, 2006

What does it mean to be gay at Notre Dame?

A 15-student panel of both heterosexual and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) members of the Notre Dame community examined this question and others Thursday night in a forum titled “Heterosexism and Homophobia: Fine By Me?”

The event, sponsored by the Core Council and Gender Relations Center, was part of LGBTQ Week, an effort to foster awareness about and to celebrate the historical accomplishments of the LGBTQ community.

The discussion took place in a “fishbowl” format, where the panelists conversed among themselves as the audience listened to what they said. The conversations centered on questions such as, “What are the ways in which homophobia oppresses LGBTQ individuals in society and at Notre Dame?”

Students on the panel discussed the daily challenges LGBTQ students face at Notre Dame, from being too afraid to bring members of the same sex to dorm dances or hold hands with their partners to hearing hurtful remarks.

“I’ll be walking down the hallway in my dorm, and someone will say about a video game, ‘Dude, that’s so gay,'” said junior Kevin Crowley. “When you really think about how difficult it must be for someone who’s gay to hear that … it’s terrible.”

However, homophobia on campus sometimes extends beyond casual remarks and awkwardness to acts of hostility. Several students on the panel said they were accosted with slurs while wearing their orange “Gay? Fine By Me” T-shirts. Junior Angela Vara said she had recently found a Facebook group titled, “Wrath of God? Fine By Me” which criticizes the T-shirt campaign.

“I was so embarrassed to have the school I go to be associated with that,” said Vara, who added that she and other students who support the campus LGBTQ community joined the group to protest and mock it.

Panelists said many students at Notre Dame feel uncomfortable about homosexuality because they believe it contradicts Catholic teaching, but contended that it is possible to be a devout Catholic while respecting members of the LGBTQ community.

“There’s so much confusion and misunderstanding with Church teaching,” said Heather Rakoczy, director of the Gender Relations Center and a moderator of the forum. “The Church calls same-sex unions ‘intrinsically disordered.’ If you were LGBTQ and heard that, you would be afraid there is something wrong with you, but really, all ‘intrinsically disordered’ means is that there’s no procreation.”

Rakoczy said the Catholic Church frowns upon sex outside of marriage, whether between heterosexual or homosexual partners, because sex is reserved for procreation. Because they cannot procreate, same-sex couples can’t get married in the Church, she said.

Junior Mel Bautista emphasized that faith for anyone can involve a struggle – especially with controversial issues – but it should be a guide that leads to tolerance and respect.

“Jesus gave us an example with the outcasts,” she said. “We’re called to love everyone, no matter what the heck is wrong with them and what the heck is right with them.”