Pridefest kicks off with LGBTQ+ Student Experience Panel
Emma Duffy | Friday, March 25, 2022
In the final days of the Njomo-Bisner administration, the Notre Dame student government is putting on Pridefest: a tri-campus event to spread awareness and appreciation for LGBTQ+ students.
To kick off the weekend-long event, Pridefest featured an LGBTQ+ Student Experience Panel. Students from across the tri-campus came together for the panel to explain their experiences, struggles and opinions on how the tri-campus can provide a better future experience for queer students.
Students Amaya Medeiros and Sophia Sanchez discussed the struggles they had experienced beyond the tri-campus, specifically the attitudes and stereotypes in society that they said have made it harder for those in the LGBTQ+ community to embrace their identity.
“I think the term ‘lesbian’ has attached a very hyper-sexualized notion around that concept,” Medeiros said. “So, I would use ‘queer’ instead of ‘lesbian.’”
“I’ve definitely struggled with my identity only because my family is Catholic,” Sanchez said. “We’re a Latino/Latina household, so we don’t really talk about gender or sexuality.”
Sanchez and other panelists made an effort to discuss the challenges that arise as an LGBTQ+ student at a Catholic institution.
“Coming out to peers on campus was a little bit difficult for me,” Sanchez said. “I am Brown. I am gay. I’m a first-generation college student. I’m not the ideal Saint Mary’s woman.”
The panelists also explained the stigma attached to the dorm process at Notre Dame. Before their first year, incoming students are assigned to the single-sex Notre Dame residence halls based on their sex at birth, not taking gender into account.
“When you’re in the dorms and when everybody knows who’s gay, it’s like this red X on you,” Daniel Lau said.
“Me being the only guy living in a women’s dorm started to make women uncomfortable,” Sam Capodicci said.
The panelists detailed resources that have helped them through their experiences. The PrismND club and the Gender Relations Center (GRC) are both organizations that have impacted the time that students have spent on campus, helping them feel more comfortable being in this space. Other resources mentioned were shared about how the students found groups on social media.
They explained that there is a QueerND GroupMe that allows LGBTQ+ students in the tri-campus to connect with each other and form a sense of belonging.
The panelists expressed that they appreciate seeing broad student acceptance, but they also expressed ways in which they think tri-campus institutions can improve. One of the first issues discussed was the dorm system at Notre Dame.
“[The LGBTQ+ community] would very, very, very, very, very, very, very much like to see some better housing options for trans people on campus,” Capodicci said. “I was really out of place living in a women’s dorm, and I have absolutely no desire, of course, to make women living in a women’s only space uncomfortable, but I don’t really have a choice.”
Panelists also said that it would be helpful to have a better way to report instances of discrimination or microaggressions. Speakup already exists as a discrimination reporting platform, but Lau suggested that there may be a better way to handle these situations.
“There’s so many layers to [incidences of discrimination], whether it’s people not feeling safe enough to even report somebody, or just how do you decide what’s a microaggression. It’s such a tricky situation,” Lau said.
Saint Mary’s student government (SGA) has also expressed that they have many ideas to accommodate LGBTQ+ students. Sanchez said Saint Mary’s denied the opportunity to have their own Pridefest, but that she hopes to work toward hosting a similar event in the future.
Incoming Saint Mary’s student government president Angela Camacho said she would like to implement a mentoring program for queer students, including Holy Cross students. The mentoring program would help inform students who have questions about their sexuality or would like to know more about the sexual spectrum.
Panelists also spoke up on issues with the application process for Saint Mary’s students. Since it is an all women’s college, students are required to apply using their sex.
“I think not allowing women who identify as women to have the opportunity to go to an all women’s college, it just kind of sucks,” Sanchez said.
The students said they felt as though change does not just need to come from higher level officials and that they believe professors and other staff members also have an obligation to create an inclusive environment.
“Staff members have a responsibility to actively seek out student input to use to implement and make sure that they’re effectively catering to our needs,” Medeiros explained.
Several students on the panel expressed their exhaustion for the phrase that it is “too much, too soon,” saying it make it hard to maintain hope in the tri-campus community.
One student, Tilly Keeven, said they would like to see change at a faster rate because the lives of students are being disrupted and disheartened by the lack of progress.
“Based on my experiences, I don’t have hope for the institution,” Keeven said. “I don’t have hope for the structure.”
Despite this, students try to find hope wherever they can, saying that even the smallest of instances show them that they are accepted and that they belong.
Lau recounts a time in which the priest of his dorm suggested that the boys of the dorm bring their girlfriends or boyfriends to the dorm’s formal.
“That just felt kind of good, for that small little moment,” he said. “I find joy in just small little moments where you realize you’re being noticed.”
The panelists emphasized that students have the power to make the tri-campus more accepting.
“I’m sure there will be more good because every year more good students come, more accepting students come, more inclusive students come,” Keeven said. “I just hope that more and more students will tip the scales.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misattributed quotes from Angela Camacho and spelled Tilly Keeven’s surname wrong. The Observer regrets these errors.