Georgetown University Students to Anti-Trans Hate Group: Leave Now!

WASHINGTON — The only queer student organization on the Catholic University of America campus in northeast DC, CUAllies, is still fighting for official recognition.

Despite operating “underground,” the club’s approximately 10 members meet regularly to talk about issues facing LGBTQ students, build friendships, and connect LGBTQ students and allies with each other. Since the formation of CUAllies in 2009, the Catholic University administration, including President John Garvey, repeatedly refused official recognition of the club.

“Just getting recognized by the university would be a big step forward because people would feel a lot more welcome,” said CUAllies President Ash Samuels. “The nature of having a club that operates under the radar makes you feel like they have to operate under the radar and so just being recognized would make people feel a lot more welcome.”

Also, without recognition, CUAllies does not have access to the same resources as official student organizations. For example, they cannot rent halls on campus for meetings, receive funds for events, and they are prohibited from advertising club meetings or events on campus flyers. According to Samuels, the club uses the Center’s space for cultural engagement, where manager Javier Bustamante allows the club to meet and advertise events.

According to Samuels, CUAllies was advised by the dean’s office to wait until next year to reapply when a new college president replaces Garvey. Until then, Samuels said the group still plans to hold in-person meetings, and he hopes to bring in speakers to speak to members about mental health and the issues facing LGBTQ students.

CUAllies’ last attempt to gain recognition was in March 2021, when the Catholic University Student Government Association passed a resolution after hours of public student comment supporting a resolution allowing the club to apply for official status. . The request, however, was denied by Garvey.

“It was an interesting SGA meeting,” Samuels said. “A lot of people came out to comment publicly and expressed their opinion. There was a lot of homophobia.

Catholic University is one of 180 campuses deemed unsafe for LGBTQ youth on Campus Pride’s”The worst list.” Campus Pride, an organization that advocates for safe and inclusive college campuses for LGBTQ students, said on its website that “The Catholic University of America has qualified for the worst life because it has a long history. and well-documented anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

In addition to repeatedly denying LGBTQ students the right to have an official student club, the university has also displayed its homophobic ideology by filing a lawsuit amicus brief in the 2019 U.S. Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County. In the brief, the university argued that campuses should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“This campus has proven time and time again that it does not support LGBTQ rights, LGBTQ equality,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride.

A Survey 2021 by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, an organization that promotes equity for LGBTQ students at Christian colleges, said Christian college students are 15 times more likely to say their gender or gender identity kept them from being accepted by others on campus compared to LGBTQ students at non-Christian colleges.

The pandemic has heightened this sense of isolation, as students have been forced to take classes online and lacked access to the same social networks that were once offered in person on many campuses. Although mental health issues have increased overall for university students throughout the pandemic, to research showed that LGBTQ people were more likely to have struggled with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts than people who identify as straight.

Attending a university that already has limited resources for its LGBTQ student population, combined with the isolating effects of the pandemic, makes Catholic University increasingly worrisome for LGBTQ students from a mental health perspective.

“It’s a pretty horrible environment from a mental health perspective if your campus didn’t have inclusion or had limited inclusion for LGBTQ policies, programs or practices before the pandemic, the pandemic has only done make it worse because of the isolation these students feel,” Windmeyer said.

Samuels said CUAllies has served as an important place for Catholic University students to meet other gay students, with many members making their first contact with other LGBTQ students through the club. However, Samuels said operating remotely during the pandemic made it difficult to feel the same level of connection, despite the group still meeting regularly on Zoom.

“The feeling of isolation is amplified for LGBTQ students, especially on this campus,” Samuels said. “You may not have any friends you go out with or you may not have any friends at all. If you have no [club meetings] in person to make those connections, and you’re already isolated, that makes it a lot more difficult.

Although it does not have an officially recognized LGBTQ student organization, Catholic University offers groups geared toward LGBTQ students through its counseling center and campus ministry.

The counseling center runs a weekly therapy group called MOSAIC, which “provides an environment where LGBT and straight students can come together to learn about available resources, discuss various topics related to personal well-being, and network. support with other students”, according to the Advice Center webpage.

Samuels, who is an active participant in MOSAIC, said the therapy group and counseling center is “very LGBTQ+ friendly.” Samuels said he regularly encourages CUAllies members to connect with the advice center at club meetings.

According to Samuels, therapists at the counseling center told him that they often receive students who identify as LGBTQ, but are hesitant to join CUAllies because they are perceived to be “too liberal or not Catholic enough” despite the lack of political or political organization. religious affiliation and being welcoming to people from all walks of life.

Additionally, Catholic University Campus Ministry offers a church group called “Beyond Labels” which defines itself as a ministry for LGBTQ students “to support each other in their Catholic Christian lives by forming holistic friendships.” , according to Campus Ministry website.

The group was formed last fall by Father Jude DeAngelo, director of Campus Ministry.

“Because we’re a Catholic school, I think there’s a population of students who are trying to integrate their faith with all the different labels they’ve chosen or people put on them,” DeAngelo told the Washington Blade. “I just want to have a place where students can come and they can be themselves and they can talk about their faith and their struggles to be Catholic Christians.”

On “Beyond the Labels”, Samuels said, “I think [DeAngelo] has the right intentions, but he always has this risk that people can turn him into something negative or misinterpret his words.

Samuels said CUAllies leaders have raised concerns with the counseling center that “Beyond Labels” could be potentially harmful to LGBTQ students. Samuels said he encouraged those in need to seek out the counseling center first.

DeAngelo did not comment to the blade on whether he thought CUAllies should be officially recognized by the university, however, according to Samuels, DeAngelo advocated for CUAllies to be officially recognized by the university.

Windmeyer said what Catholic University has done with its ministry has been replicated on other campuses with harmful policies against LGBTQ students to improve their public image.

He said these colleges are trying to “create a narrative that shows that [they] are compassionate, [they] recognize, under our ministry, our LGBTQ group, but [they] will not recognize them as student organizations, they must do so through the ministry. That in itself just tells me that they do just enough to appease their students, they don’t see Catholicism as giving LGBTQ people the human dignity and value they deserve.

Windmeyer noted that other Catholic universities, such as the University of Notre Dame — which has an official LGBTQ student organization — have made improvements over the years to be more inclusive of their LGBTQ student population.

The position of the Catholic Church on LGBTQ issues has also improved. Last year Pope Francis has said he supports civil unions. However, despite this progress, activists in conversation with the Blade have noticed that the church’s teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain largely unchanged.

Samuels said he hopes the DeAngelo-led LGBTQ faith group will be a step in helping the university champion the CUAllies for recognition. DeAngelo expressed that he wanted to involve more CUAllies members in ‘Beyond Labels’, in particular, he said he wanted to create one-day retreat programs with the club.

In the past, “Beyond the Labels” has partnered with CUAllies on a day-long forgiveness-focused retreat. Samuels, who was not a member of CUAllies at the Forgiveness Retreat, said he would be more interested in joining a team building retreat instead of focusing on Forgiveness as many CUAllies members are not Catholic.

“I hope that leads to him being a bigger defender for us to be a club in the future, but I’m also afraid they’ll just say ‘oh look, we already have this program, we don’t need you guys,'” Samuels said.

Catholic University did not return Blade’s request for comment for this story.

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