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Notre Dame to hold Ally Week

| Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The fifth-annual Ally Week began Monday with a new focus on intersectionality, in addition to encouraging engagement from students who want to be allies.

Director of the Gender Relations Center (GRC) Christine Caron Gebhardt said the focus on allies was intended to change University culture.

“We realized that for our students who are LGBTQ to have a sense of belonging, their peers have to be involved and understand the path they’re walking and participate in a way where we’re all doing this together. We’re a community together,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for allies to understand the complexity of issues, be able to participate with students and to stand in solidarity with them.

“Some students aren’t sure as to what it means to be an ally, and this helps to answer some questions as to how you can support students who are LGBTQ.”

Sara Agostinelli, who is in her first year as the assistant director for LGBTQ student initiatives at the GRC, said Ally Week sought to accomplish several goals.

“We’re looking for education, for opportunities to engage — to be social,” she said. “We’re looking for opportunities to pray and reflect together. We’re always striving to live up to that spirit of inclusion.”

A T-shirt giveaway started off Ally Week Monday morning, followed by “More Color, More Pride,” a talk by Amber Hikes, executive director of LGBT affairs for the city of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia pride flag includes black and brown stripes, in addition to the rainbow stripes, to encourage racial intersectionality.

“[Hikes is] going to talk about how marginalized people and communities be allies for one another and how we can do that work to be really intentionally welcoming and inclusive and being allies across that spectrum of social identities, of racial identities, of faith identities,” Agostinelli said.

Right to Life, one of Ally Week’s co-sponsors, is hosting a Transgender Day of Remembrance on Tuesday at the Grotto from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.; the event is also part of Right to Life’s You Are Loved Week.

Agostinelli said the event was a prayer service for “those who have been murdered because of their identity.”

On Wednesday night at 7 p.m., an interfaith LGBTQ and ally Mass will be held in Sorin College, followed by a reception.

Gebhardt said they tried to make the week more proactive and create opportunities for service, like Thursday’s event: assembling “Blessing Bags” to be donated to the Center for the Homeless in South Bend. Agostinelli said that because the rate of homelessness in the LGBT community is higher than average, the GRC wanted to assemble bags with various basic-needs items from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in 106 Duncan Student Center.

To close out the week, two events are planned for Friday: an ally social at noon at Fieldhouse Mall and Greendot bystander training at 5 p.m. in the Notre Dame Room in LaFortune Student Center.

The idea to deliver Greendot training with an LGBT perspective came from the GRC’s Firestarters.

“This idea came out of students who asked if we could do the training from the LGBTQ lens,” she said. “The examples and the training … will help our ally students realize that these situations exist in all communities but will help them see what they look like.”

Gebhardt said the GRC chose to do an Ally Week instead of a Pride Week because of the role allies play in shaping the community.

“One of the reasons why we do the Ally Week is we do have a sense of standing up for the LGBT community as part of Stand Against Hate Week. … We really are wanting an Ally Week because without allies, you can’t change the culture,” she said. “There’s an intentionally as to why it’s an Ally Week. There are different events during the year where we feel like we are bringing visibility to the LGBTQ community.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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