Response to Observer editorial
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 18, 2018
GALA ND/SMC, the LGBT Alumni/ae affinity group for Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, adds its voice in support of the Observer Editorial, “Don’t just include, protect.” Over the past year, a number of significant events at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and the broader Catholic Church have called into question their commitment to either inclusion or protection. Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s must take serious, meaningful action to end their backsliding on LGBTQ issues.
We were shocked and saddened by the December USCCB open letter regarding transgender individuals, which calls for “compassion” but denies that transgender people should be allowed to live their authentic lives. We found ourselves similarly disheartened by a recent speaker at Saint Mary’s, who compared the transgender experience to self-harming mental illness, rather than a part of personhood that can be authentically lived.
GALA-ND/SMC, representing Notre Dame’s LGBT alumni, is not officially recognized by the Notre Dame Alumni Association despite our formal request, but we feel that our mission compels us to speak up in support of LGBTQ students currently at the University. For a parent leaving their child in the care of the University, these developments would seriously call into question whether their student could actually be safe in a place that may not support them living openly in their identity.
Furthermore, we join the Editorial Board of The Observer in its concerns about the institutional framework that prevents change on campus. While GALA-ND/SMC has provided broad support over the past decade — for example, fundraising for last year’s flag drop, and providing a venue for an LGBTQ dance that PrismND had been discouraged from sponsoring — the inability of students to fund or organize for their own priorities, despite this being the express purpose of creating a student organization, calls into question the effectiveness of the University’s response.
These trends at Notre Dame and in the broader institutional Church are concerning. With the creation of the Pastoral Plan in 2013, Notre Dame committed itself to “an environment of welcome and mutual respect” where gays and lesbians “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Despite their omission in this section of the Pastoral Plan, we are certain this standard applies to transgender students as well.
Much has happened beyond the campus boundaries since the Pastoral Plan was created five years ago, but if anything, Notre Dame’s voice on LGBTQ issues has quieted. We support an institutional response that removes the de facto practice of restricting LGBTQ student voices and activism that ends the culture of silence or outright rejection from major academic departments that allows this to persist. Until then, we hope students know that generations of alumni stand together and say to every LGBTQ student that you are authentic and you are loved.
In Notre Dame,
The Officers of GALA ND/SMC
class of 2009
class of 2016
class of 2014
class of 2011
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.