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Hope for change at the university I love

| Thursday, September 21, 2017

Over the weekend, I had the privilege to attend a certain conference thanks to the help of the Office of Student Enrichment and their assistance. The conference is called Out 4 Undergrad (O4U) and they had conferences geared towards college students that identified as LGBTQ+ all across the country pertaining to different fields of occupation: business, marketing, engineering and technology. As a computer science and graphic design student, the choice was clear and I attended the O4U Tech conference located at Twitter HQ in San Francisco, CA. The weekend was sublime and quite magical, and that’s underselling it quite honestly. Although the conference consisted of over 300 individuals from all across the world and different backgrounds, for that weekend we shared a single community. This community consisted of queer students, mentors, recruiters, directors and organizers who were all ready to make a meaningful change in the diversity of the workforce within the tech industry. It was a weekend of affirmation and confirmation that emphasized no matter our differences, it was our similarities that united us all together. After a weekend of networking, building relationships, bumping elbows, making lifelong friends and handing out countless resumes, I hopped on a plane at SFO with a dream and my cardigan — actually it was a turtleneck, but no one needs to tell Miley that. When I landed in South Bend and came back to Notre Dame, I realized that weekend was behind me. The weekend of non-assuming genders, open inclusive spaces, gender-neutral restrooms and just being surrounded by some of the most fun people you’ll ever meet was gone and became a memory on my camera roll. Instead, I came back to a school where I’ve personally witnessed people mock trans issues, belittle the significance of gender-neutral restrooms and never stop to think that there are more genders than the two that are restricted to our on-campus housing choices.

Contrary to the perception of my many criticisms of Notre Dame, I actually do love this place. I wouldn’t criticize this university if I truly didn’t care to improve the climate for all students on this campus. I chose Notre Dame as a first-generation college student because I visited during Spring Visitation Weekend my senior year of high school and fell in love with a university. I saw PrismND in its first year of existence and heard of the efforts of all those involved in the 9 to 5 movement and witnessed a passion that really changed the atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students at Notre Dame. This glimmer called me to ND and welcomed me with open arms. However, as the years have gone by, that glimmer has faded, but my hope for this University has not. I still hold out for hope that one day a student from Notre Dame can attend a conference for LGBTQ+ students and leave the very same environment that they’d be coming back home to. Because at the end of the day, this campus is our home for four years. And much like any other home, the entirety of its inhabitants need to participate to help make every member feel welcome. Whether that is simply searching up terms, listening to stories of LGBTQ+ icons, or just generally doing research on unfamiliar topics, empathy is key and the start of a long journey Notre Dame has in creating an inclusive space for its LGBTQ+ students. But I have faith it’s possible and that faith won’t fade.

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