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Core Council sponsors LGBTQ awareness week

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Monday, April 15, 2013

The Core Council kicks off “StaND Against Hate Week” today, a week designed to spread awareness and to show support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community on campus with a lineup of events through Friday.

Tonight’s “How to Be an Ally” dinner brings together panelists from the Gender Relations Center (GRC) and student allies, sophomore Council member Maggie Waickman said (Editor’s note: Waickman writes for the Scene section of The Observer.). Three panelists will speak about what being an ally means to them, after which participants will form discussion groups to discuss how to be allies in the LGBTQ community, she said.

The primary topics covered will be what it means to be an ally, how it works at Notre Dame specifically and what the relationship between Catholicism and being an ally is, Waickman said.

“I’m particularly excited to hear people’s thoughts on whether individuals have to be outside the LGBTQ community to identify as an ally,” Waickman said. “There’s the question of whether someone who identifies as gay can be an ally to another gay person and how we see Notre Dame students who identify as straight acting as allies.

“There’s a lot of nuance to the label ‘ally,’ and there’s a lot we can learn from talking about it.”

Tuesday night’s event will be a screening of the movie “Bully” in room 101 of DeBartolo Hall at 9 p.m., council member Lauren Morisseau said. This will be followed by a prayer service held Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at the Grotto.

“I think [the prayer service] is great because there is definitely a spiritual side to what we do as a community and with solidarity work,” Morisseau said. “There are a lot of LGBTQ people on campus whose faith is important to them. It’s going to be a Catholic prayer service but we’ll shoot for a universal theme, open to people of all faiths.”

Waickman said the prayer service is a key part of the week, and she hopes next year’s LGBTQ student support organization will continue addressing the spiritual aspects of their mission.

“We chose to do a prayer service because we’ve talked for a long time about how there’s disconnect between the LGBTQ community and spirituality and faith life,” Waickman said. “I think there’s a specific struggle that many members of the community go through in regards to faith, and there’s no real good outlet [currently].”

Free t-shirts designed by sophomore Keri O’Mara will be distributed from 12 to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Fieldhouse Mall. A solidarity-themed Acousticafe will take place at 10 p.m. thanks to a collaborative effort by the Core Council and the Student Union Board (SUB), Morisseau said.

“[Acousticafe] will run as usual, but the performers will sing solidarity based songs … so the focus is on sharing music and sharing time together,” she said.

The final event of the week will be a “Day of Silence” on Friday, which is a nationwide tradition Morisseau described as “a real challenge.”

“People wear a sticker or have a card that says they’re not speaking for the day to try to honor the silence of people who really cannot be honest with who they are,” she said. “It’s relevant to everyone included in the ‘LGBTQ’ acronym.

“It is challenging, and I think it opens a lot of people’s minds because a lot of us have never felt that we’ve had to hide who we are,” she said.

Overall, “This week is about love, not politics,” Waickman said.

“StaND Against Hate Week expresses a sentiment the entire Notre Dame family can get behind,” she said. “Traditionally, the turnout for [the week’s events] has been mostly from the LGBTQ community on campus, so we wanted to make a big effort to broaden the target audience for StaND Against Hate Week.”

Morisseau said the collaborations with the GRC and SUB have been “one of the best experiences of this whole thing.”

“It’s great to work with administrators who really do care about student needs and who are committed to providing for students and encouraging growth on campus,” Morisseau said. “Between GRC and SUB, it’s been really positive this year. This is the last year that Core Council reasonably will be existing because of the [new] student organization, which will take responsibility for a lot of this planning [next year].”

The role of allies will be emphasized this week because their efforts are crucial elements of the LGBTQ community relations on campus, Morisseau said.

“We want to broaden the definition of ally, because a lot of people say ‘yeah, I’m an ally’ but then they don’t necessarily know what that means for them, what that means for their lives. I think some people incorporate it into their identity more than others,” she said. “On this campus, it’s not necessarily a given that you would be an ally, but significantly more people are allies than you might think. I’m very impressed by how many we have here.”

Waickman said the occasional tension on campus because of LGBTQ issues can be alleviated with more discussion and dialogue.

“Being an ally and walking with our brothers and sisters in Christ – that’s something that’s not divisive, and it can unify our campus,” Waickman said. “Bringing out that unity is what StaND Against Hate Week is all about.”