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Embrace the alternative

Kaitlyn Reily | Friday, September 23, 2005

The one piece of advice my grandmother gave to me before I left for college was this: Don’t let girls hit on you.

Going into college, my worries involved handling the workload, making new friends and adjusting to life away from home for the first time.

The idea that I would arrive at Notre Dame and be barraged with girls interested in more than friendship never crossed my mind, though it was a worry that obviously plagued my grandmother.

I went to a fairly liberal Catholic high school, so I believe I have been exposed to people from a wider variety of backgrounds than my grandmother had been at the same point in her life.

In high school, I had several gay male friends, and I enjoyed the dimension they brought to my life. I spent many Friday nights checking out guys with my gay male friends in Washington, D.C., and though at times I felt like my social life was an episode of “Will and Grace,” the friendships I made in high school with those living “alternative lifestyles” enriched my own life and taught me how to embrace those with lifestyles and views contrary to my own.

My grandmother does not need to worry about any uninvited advances by girls at Notre Dame. The societal preference towards heterosexual relationships is announced first at Frosh-O as the guys’ dorms run around serenading the girls’ dorms. Students made painfully aware their lack of tolerance and respect for the gay community at the pep rally by showing their distaste toward Zahm by calling it gay.

A gay or lesbian lifestyle may be tolerated, but perhaps not embraced and is certainly not a common sight on the Notre Dame campus. I have heard people joke that parietals encourage homosexuality, but I can testify that the orgies do not break out when the boys leave – at least not in my dorm.

But the University does make an effort to encourage its students to tolerate the alternative lifestyle. Like all freshman, I recently attended a presentation given by the Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs. Two students related their stories of how they “came out of the closet” and shared the experiences they have had as homosexual students at Notre Dame. I am sure that other homosexual students attend the university, and I hope that all students can work towards embracing these members of the ND family so we can move down from the No. 2 spot on The Princeton Review’s “Alternative Lifestyles Not an Alternative” List.

Perhaps one day Notre Dame will be comfortable with the situation my grandmother warned me of.