On Saturday, Club Q opened its doors to Colorado Spring’s queer community. What was supposed to be a night defined by community and fun soon turned into a night of horror. Around 11:50 p.m., Anderson Aldrich allegedly opened fire into a crowd of queer folk, injuring 25, and leaving at least five dead before two patrons repossessed the firearm to disarm the shooter. The shooter took on the role of God to execute an immense act of hate that left five families without their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
Let that sit with you for a moment. Five people were killed after a gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ+ nightclub.
This shooting is just one example of growing violent hate crimes targeted at members of our country’s LGBTQ+ community. According to the FBI’s Hate Crime Database, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ Americans have gone up by the hundreds in the last five years. This increase in hate has left queer folks around the country reeling from trauma. Our campus is not immune to this trauma. “No one understands that I feel my life has been deemed worth less than my cisgender counterparts by not only this shooter but by the wider political context,” Morgan, a first-year at Notre Dame who identifies as nonbinary, says.
It shouldn’t be contested that queerness is under attack by national political figures; With Congresswoman Boebert arguing that LGBTQ+ people should not come out until they are 21, Republican talk show hosts like Tucker Carlson decrying drag brunches and state legislatures like Ohio and Texas introducing legislation to limit accessibility to gender-affirming medical care, queer Americans are left feeling voiceless, vulnerable and threatened by those in power.
This alone should warrant a response from the University. A statement affirming the queer community at Notre Dame that they stand in solidarity with those whose fundamental identity is under attack, a statement that queerness at Notre Dame is valued, a statement that the University seeks to protect its queer students from the violence in Colorado and the hateful, emotionally damaging rhetoric spewed in our country’s democratic institutions.
But, being queer at Notre Dame means living in constant exposure to this hateful violence. Everyone remembers the Rover article last year that decried University attempts at inclusion. Myler claimed that extending employment benefits to married same-sex couples, including affirming pronouns in student news and instructions to use inclusive language during Welcome Weekend are damaging to Notre Dame’s Catholic character, making the University inclusive of a “secular agenda” that is “in direct opposition to the Church.” And it’s not just the Rover that forces queer students to live in perpetual exposure to hate and loneliness: PrismND, Notre Dame’s queer-allyship group can’t come out in direct support of LGBTQ+ equality, trans students are left without a dorm community and the University has effectively placed a gag-order on student groups vocally supporting queer rights.
“It’s not just the Rover or the University that makes me feel unsafe as a queer person on this campus. It’s the students. We don’t learn about queer issues in Moreau and, in our theology classes, I haven’t heard of one professor ever promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity,” Morgan adds.
The institution of Notre Dame is clear in its opposition to queer identity. In its pastoral plan, “Beloved Friends and Allies,” the University emphasizes its commitment to acting “consonant with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.” It is true that the Church orders human sexuality to be the conjugal love of man and woman, and those within the Catholic hierarchy certainly have promoted anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes: In 2019, Rhode Island’s Bishop tweeted, “A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events.” But, I ask the University: what is the central teaching of the Church and of Christ?
Not the gilded love of having a queer-ally group that can’t support queer rights or the gilded love of merely admitting queer students. Christ’s love is radical because of its acceptance; it’s an affirming love for the vulnerable. In fact, the Catholic Social Teaching of Solidarity demands Catholics to give “greater attention to the vulnerable,” reminding us that “there are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide.” The University cannot hide behind the political barriers of our conservative climate or the social barriers of our traditional alumni and campus network. The University must fully open its arms to the vulnerable. Clearly, the queer experience at Notre Dame is defined by vulnerability.
Pope Benedict XVI echoes my definition of Christ’s love: “To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it.” To love a queer person, fully, as Christ loved Mary Magdelene or Zacchaeus, is to give them a home, a recuse from the hateful violence experienced by queer folks around the world.
The “effective steps” the University can take to secure love are simple: a statement of affirmation and safety, a reformation of our dorm community to include queer identities and an overhaul of campus culture to make queer students feel welcome.
Solidarity and love are not “vague compassion or shallow distresses at the misfortunes of so many people.” (St. John Paul II’s words, not mine.) On the contrary, the very love of Christ Notre Dame hopes to dedicate itself to is an endless determination to improve the lives of queer students. Queer students can hear in the University’s silence Notre Dame’s disregard for the needed pastoral care of LGBTQ+ folks. Queer students feel pain as the University we love acts as an extension of growing indifference towards queer folk.
Love is a challenge. Look at what Christ’s love cost Him. But, love, especially at Mother Mary’s University, is required. The gilded love the University has been expressing is not enough, especially as homophobia is welcomed in American democracy, and especially as five patrons of an LGBTQ+ nightclub were stripped of their God-given dignity.
The University must embrace the radical love of Christ by fully accepting its queer students if it truly wants to call itself Catholic.
The views expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.