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Be for love

Alex Coccia | Monday, February 14, 2011

Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of Moulin Rouge includes a short Bohemian, saying his only lines in the play within the movie: “The greatest thing you will ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.” You may not agree that love is the greatest thing you can ever learn, but I’ll argue that it is in the top five. The beauty of today, Valentine’s Day, is not embodied in the sweet kisses, the exchange of chocolates, the purchasing of flowers, the writing of cheesy poetry or the watching of romantic comedies. What’s wonderful about Valentine’s Day is that it is an in-your-face day that recognizes the beauty of love. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for outward expressions of affection, the more serious of which we call love. Many students on Notre Dame campus will go out to dinner with their boyfriends or girlfriends, watch a movie with their best friends or even find a date through letters to The Observer.

It will not be uncommon to see a boy and a girl walking and holding hands on South Quad on their way to catch a cab at Main circle. What will be uncommon to see is two guys holding hands or two girls holding hands on their way to catch a cab at main circle. Now ask yourself, “What would I think if I saw two guys holding hands?” “Would I notice for some reason?” “If so, why?” Chances are that you would not ask yourself the same questions about a boy and girl holding hands — that you would not think twice about what you saw. This is an example of straight privilege on Notre Dame’s campus. Another example is in dorm and freshman orientation activities, the focus of which is building relationships with members of the opposite sex. Valentine’s Day can act as an opportune time for everyone — students, faculty and the administration at Notre Dame — to re-evaluate the amount of love on campus for Gay, Lesbian, Bisuexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) students.

Gay students on campus hope for a more inclusive student body, but what they receive is the embodiment of straight privilege. This privilege is perpetuated because of the University’s refusals to recognize a gay-straight alliance as an official club and to include “sexual orientation” in the legally binding, protective nondiscrimination clause. Thousands of straight and gay students and alumni support these measures — it is time for the administration to do so as well. The Spirit of Inclusion, written in 1997 as an attempted compromise for GLBTQ students on campus, says a lot of things about the University’s approach towards GLBTQ students: “We prize the uniqueness of all persons. … [W]e welcome all people. … [W]e value gay and lesbian members of this community.” The Spirit of Inclusion does not say, however, “We love all students regardless of sexual orientation.” The good news is that the University has the opportunity to outwardly show the greatest form of love for its GLBTQ students, faculty and staff, by inserting “sexual orientation” into the nondiscrimination clause and by granting a gay-straight alliance official club status. This legal protection from discrimination of any kind is truly an act of love, not simply inclusion. By the University taking the lead in making Notre Dame a more inclusive community, the atmosphere on campus will be soon to follow. It begins with the University and it begins with the students. These loving steps by the administration are so important for gay and lesbian students on campus — open and closeted. For the openly gay students, these acts show the University’s support for their students as human beings. For closeted students, these acts may make it easier for them to open up in an accepting environment about being gay.

At the Honors Convocation last week, Dean Hugh Page challenged the students to let love make us an outward facing community. We must be open and outward with respect to compassion and love shown for others — a love that Jesus would show, a love that is absolutely Christian — “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Let this Valentine’s Day begin a new year for love at Notre Dame — love from one student to another, love from the administration to its students.

This Valentine’s Day, be for love — gay, straight, friend to friend. Be for love: That’s the greatest thing you’ll ever learn.

Alex Coccia is a freshman. He can be contacted at acoccia@nd.edu

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