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Call queerphobia what it is

| Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dear Mr. Browne,

We write to you as students who read your letter in good faith, hopeful that the University would recognize the dignity of all students. We are glad that Notre Dame recognizes that “[r]acial epithets and other biased slurs are an anathema,” but we guess that’s because our University has set the bar so, so low.

Your letter was, quite frankly, inadequate. It was inadequate because, once again, the University of Notre Dame has refused to provide even the most basic recognition to queer students. Recognizing racism as wrong, you explicitly called the slur used against Savanna Morgan a “racial epithet.” But when it comes to queerphobic slurs, this institution covers up the truth of the incident, calling the slur “biased” rather than its true descriptor, “queerphobic.” 

Is queerphobia just “biased” to you? Do you think slurs like “d–e” are so insignificant that it’s not even worth mentioning who they target? Are we supposed to feel “valued” by your refusal to call queerphobia what it is?  

Those of us in the LGBTQ+ community find ourselves constantly begging for the most basic recognition. While the Catechism demands those in the LGBTQ+ community be treated with sensitivity, respect and compassion (CCC 2358), the incidents of homophobia on campus alienate us, and the University’s silence in our defense is deafening. The Catechism also demands that Catholics avoid unjust discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community (CCC 2358), but the University’s failure to directly call out queerphobia fails to convey solidarity with the community. We in the LGBTQ+ community are tired, and those of us in the allied community have no additional patience for this. 

It is exhausting to continually compromise the expectations we have of our own institution — an institution which actively recruited students like us. We love Notre Dame. We want to “feel welcome!” Many, many faculty and staff have made us feel so. They have gone out of their way to compensate for the administration’s ongoing ambivalence towards queerphobia. These people do what your letter did not: They put a name to the evil that is so pervasive at this institution. They call it queerphobia. 

We often hear our peers say things like, “Notre Dame won’t recognize queer students as valid because of wealthy alumni who would stop donating.” These refrains, which are used to justify the inadequacy of our policies, must end. We must prioritize the students who are actually at this University right now — those who are enduring hatred and bigotry daily. We’re at the point where we don’t even report these instances because we’ve become accustomed to anemic responses from the University.

But we won’t stand for it anymore. The End Hate at Notre Dame movement is committed to relieving the broad structural burdens that affect disadvantaged groups on Notre Dame’s campus. Although in this letter we are focused on the issues of the LGBTQ+ community, the movement stands for all racial and ethnic minority groups, low-income students and disabled students. After consulting with a broad collection of representatives of marginalized groups, we will be releasing an updated manifesto in January that outlines the goals of the movement. For any readers who want to help us make sure your voices are heard in this process, please email us or find us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. #EndHateatND 

Matthew Schoenbauer
senior
David Phillips
junior
Isaiah Murrell-Thomas
sophomore
Savanna Morgan
senior
Lorena Morejon
sophomore
Laura McKernan
senior
Drew Lischke
senior
Violeta Hernandez
sophomore
Katherine Fugate
senior
Alex Ford
sophomore
Duncan Donahue 
sophomore
Baxter Curry 
senior
William Clark
junior
Matthew Bisner
sophomore
Dec. 11

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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