‘Wonderfully Made’ series overviews LGBTQ+ history on Saint Mary’s campus
Crystal Ramirez | Wednesday, September 22, 2021
The Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO), Campus Ministry and the Department of Religious Studies hosted the second installment of this semester’s lecture series “Wonderfully Made” on Tuesday evening in Stapleton Lounge.
The second installment, titled “God is PROUD of You: LGBTQ+ Catholicism,” looked at the history of LGBTQ+ at Saint Mary’s and discussed the issues of Catholicism and transgendered persons. The series looks at what Catholic theology says about transgendered persons and gender expression and identity.
Saint Mary’s LGBTQ+ History
Professor of religious studies and gender woman’s studies Stacy Davis opened up the night with a brief recount of Saint Mary’s LGBTQ+ history.
“I have been here since 2003, and so my working thesis is that the history of LGBTQIA+ issues at saint Mary’s is relatively multisided, and how do I know… I.m go[ing] to focus on a few things,” Davis said. “The first is what use to be SAGA, which is the Gay and Straight Alliance, which was created way back in about 2004.”
Davis spoke about the roots of SAGA, and noted that SAGA was created through what was know as the “sexuality cult.” This was a collaborative learning team, consisting of groups of students, faculty and staff who got together to determine whether there should be some sort of alliance for LGBTQ+ students at Saint Mary’s.
“To give you a sense of that history, I was asked to be on that [the sexuality collaborative team] as a first-year faculty member because of my experience with campus ministry and LGBTQ+ students,” Davis said. “I wrote my piece, I submitted it, and with a bunch of other people — some of whom are still here — [and] we ended up with that group.”
In the years following the creation and establishment of SAGA, the group has been able to host and sponsor a variety of LGTBQ+ programs. SAGA sponsored a coming out day in 2005, a national day of silence in 2008 and pride week.
“Slowly but surely they were able to do that work,” Davis said.
The second point Davis made was the importance of a course on the topic of gender expression and identity being slowly introduced into the Saint Mary’s course curriculum.
“We have on campus, an introduction to LGBTQ+ studies course. And that was taught basically for the first time around 2011-2010 or so,” Davis said. “And it was that course 10 years ago, that made the first call for what became what is about to become the LGBTQ+ center.”
Davis acknowledged that it was those students, from the first LGBTQ+ course back in the 2010-11 academic year, who took data, put together a report with findings and ultimately brought attention to the lack of representation and the need for more spaces and resources on campus for students, faculty and staff. The findings concluded that these measures were necessary and crucial for providing an inclusive education and experience.
“Eventually, the group transitioned, SAGA played out and it transitioned into SAGE [Sexuality and Gender Equity],” Davis said. “And what is really cool about SAGE, besides the fact that it exists, is that y’all went national.”
Davis highlighted the recent publicity SAGE has gained and referenced an article published by New Ways Ministry — designed to help and support LGBTQ+ Catholics — in one of their daily newsletters. The article speaks to the accomplishment SAGE has already made by being an acknowledged and established club on a Catholic college campus.
“Catholic schools must be responsive to the needs of students, families and communities as well as to changes in a larger socio-political landscape. LGBTQ people, whether students, parents, teachers or administrators, exist in Catholic educational institutions,” Davis quoted from the initial proposal made by the collaborative Saint Mary’s sexuality groups ten years ago, as a reason for the crucial need for an LGBTQ center.
“I’ve been here long enough to see students put themselves out there, for a cause that they weren’t gonna be here long enough to see,” Davis said. “Change is slow, but it happens. I hope we all — you all — recognize that for better or for worse, we are all in the same community and we have to work together.”
‘What — if anything — does Catholic theology have to say?:’ Catholicism and Transgender Persons
Following the presentation by Davis on the College’s history, director of the center for spirituality Fr. Daniel P. Horan spoke on Catholic theology and the ongoing discussion, insights and conversations that need to be had within and outside of the Catholic church.
“One of the things that we’ve seen a lot of, disturbingly, — and these are just headlines from the last couple months — are the ways in which there have been increased transphobic movements, energy, legal practices, legislatures, and various state who have sought to discriminate and harm,” Horan said. “The question that really gets to me, and that I am interested in, and the only thing I can really talk somewhat authoritatively about is: What — if anything — does Catholic theology have to say in response?”
Horan acknowledged that when people think Catholic and transgender, good feelings do not arise. However, he believes Catholic theology has a lot to say, and not in the way the loudest voices and the most critical and harmful voices present. Rather, he said the majority of resources used and pointed to from Catholic theology, tradition, philosophy and scripture tend to be selectively chosen.
“Just like there is a diversity of identity and gender expression and sexual orientation… there is a diversity of orthodox, legitimate, Catholic thinking, thought and resources,” Horan said.
He noted that this, referring to the conversation of Catholicism and LGBTQ+, is a topic of great importance because it is such a pressing social issue.
“This is important, at present there is no universal magisterial teaching on this topic,” Horan said. “It is important fo ruse to realize that the conversation is not over, it’s, in my opinion, barely begun, and I think that is important for you as students and us as a community to realize this is an ongoing thing with a deep history.”
He continued discussing the progress made and current changes in the Catholic Church that — while slowly — show progress.
“It’s a reality now that has a future,” Horan said.
Horan ended by telling guests that the Church is now at a point it has never been at, with the new generation of leaders and activists and the new generation being more self-aware and conscious that things will get done.
“We need to have more conversations, socially, politically and ecclesial [conversations] — meaning in the church — and there are more insights, resources and conversation that we need to have and that’s what this is all about,” Horan said.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article included a misspelled word. The Observer deeply regrets this error.