National Coming Out Day and the Complexities of Catholic Higher Education

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 11, 2016

Today is National Coming Out Day, celebrating the ongoing process of coming out that is a part of many LGBT people’s journeys. Catholic colleges have in recent years marked this day with educational programs and celebrations, but recent events at Boston College reveal the challenges that still exist even at Catholic schools considered LGBT supportive.

Boston College students at the march

Nearly 200 students and faculty marched through Boston College’s campus last week, a move to “break the silence” that LGBTQ people alongside communities of color and people with disabilities experience on campus, reported campus newspaper The Heights. [Disclosure: I am a graduate student at Boston College, a Jesuit university.]

Graduate Pride Alliance president Dylan Lang explained in a statement, “We are here and we will not be silent, so it is time to make changes to better the lives of LGBTQ+ students at Boston College NOW.”

The march directly responded to a gay slur written on a campus sign and the perceived silence of administrators about the incident. It was also tied to larger issues identified by many students relating to LGBT identities, racial justice, and people with disabilities. Dean of Students Tom Mogan did release a statement saying the College “does not tolerate acts of hate, bias and prejudice on our campus such as this.”

Marchers ended with a rally near where the slur had appeared, and students shared their experiences on campus of being excluded. Zoe Mathison, an affiliate campus minister, attended the event and acknowledged Campus Ministry does not do enough on these issues, telling The Heights:

“There is this confusion that Jesus does not care about these issues and that he would not stand up for queer lives or black lives.”

There are, however, some positive developments at Boston College. This week, the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) is hosting its first Pride Week that expands on National Coming Out Day to celebrate LGBT identities and educate allies. The focus this year is on intersectionality, explained GLC chair Anne Williams, and will address “how sexual orientation and gender identity intersect with race, class, ability, etc.”

Last week, the Episcopalian Chaplaincy hosted openly transgender priest Rev. Cameron Partridge for a lecture.  Additionally, the student government passed a resolution calling on College administrators to establish an LGBTQ center.

But the contrast between many students’ experience and some LGBT supports reveals how complex LGBT issues in Catholic higher education can be. An editorial in The Heights described this challenge well:

“The vandalized sign should stand as a reminder that issues of prejudice and LGBTQ rights have not been solved on this campus. There are still problems, and LGBTQ students deserve support from the administration. Queer Peers [a mentoring program], while it was shut down for a while, is back in a larger context, which is one step in the right direction. But to fully support LGBTQ students, the administration should support efforts that LGBTQ students have expressed the need for, like Ignatian Q and an LGBTQ resource center.”

Student Christian Cho forcefully appealed to the College’s Catholic identity as the basis for not only allowing existing programs, but intentionally enacting more supports:

“BC can and should fully support LGBT students and their allies in their journeys to live the gospels of love and justice by actively financing LGBT-led initiatives like Ignatian Q and Queer Peers. Homophobia that lurks within the minds of bigots can be replaced with love, but only if the environment encourages that kind of conversion. I have seen love manifest itself through that kind of enlightenment, but it will take courageous leadership from an administration not afraid to boldly follow Pope Francis into the new paradigm he has set for us.”

Catholic colleges and universities in the United States have been institutions at the forefront of promoting LGBT inclusion in the church, but as National Coming Out Day is celebrated, it should not be forgotten there is still much work to do.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

Related Article

The Boston Globe, “Protest denounces BC’s response to gay slur on campus


University of Notre Dame Reportedly Denies Safe Housing to Transgender Student

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Eve on Notre Dame’s campus

The University of Notre Dame reportedly failed to provide a transgender student with housing, the latest incident as many Catholic colleges and universities grapple with gender identity issues.

Ronan Farrow of NBC’s “Today Show” reported in June about Eve, a transgender Notre Dame student, in a segment following up the show’s 2015 report about her.

Eve, who just finished her junior year at the South Bend, Indiana, school, began transitioning while in college. This positive step in her life has made campus life difficult for her when it comes to housing, restrooms, and other issues.

Regarding housing, Notre Dame has only single-sex dormitories. The news piece claimed the University has not supported Eve as she seeks to move from the all-male dorm in which she had lived to an all-female dorm.

Eve said in the 2015 report that, for the most part, other residents referred to her by her new name and “treated [her] exactly the same as before.” Still, the all-male dorm is not ideal for her. Her former Resident Assistant said compassion is many people’s priority.  Still some residents had come to him with questions about a woman living in their dorm.  Some saw Eve as simply a man dressing as a woman who was living in their dorm. As for the administration’s response, Eve told NBC:

“I expect, honestly, that the University is hoping that as soon as I leave, no one will ever try this again.”

Eve’s mother, Teresa, like many parents of LGBT children, said she simply wants “what’s best for” her child. And an all-female dorm would be significantly safer.

Safety is a question, too, when it comes to restroom use. Eve stated, “I am safer using a women’s restroom.” But beginning to use women’s restrooms has been”really scary,” she told NBC, because if she is reported, she could be expelled. But, Eve said, “people don’t even consider the safety of the [transgender] individuals.”

Eve said socializing is incredibly difficult, and, with no support system on campus, she has caused experienced depression. She told NBC in the 2015 report, “being trans is a small part of who I am” and there is far more to her life.

Eve will be entering her senior year this fall, finishing her degree in math and aspiring to be a teacher. After repeated requests for safer housing were ignored, she will be living off campus. According to NBC, officials at Notre Dame declined to comment,which host Matt Lauer said was a surprising response. But the University of Notre Dame is not the first, nor the only Catholic institution responding to increased transgender visibility and awareness.

A number of Catholic schools refuse to support LGBT students and even oppose protections for them. At least five Catholic schools have sought religious exemptions from federal Title IX protections which ban LGBT discrimination. Colleges approved for exemptions by the Department of Education are  Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, St. Gregory’s University, Oklahoma, and John Paul the Great Catholic University, California. The University of Dallas, Texas, has a pending application.

On the positive side, as Bondings 2.0 has reported in the past, many schools have proactively sought to support transgender students. Gender-neutral housing options have been implemented at some schools, such as the College of the Holy Cross , Massachusetts. Gender-neutral restrooms exist at some schools, such as Fordham University, New York. And transgender student Lexi Dever said that even though the Catholic Church nearly killed her, Georgetown University had saved her.

Greater awareness and more legal protections mean gender identity issues on Catholic campuses will not be going away any time soon. Education officials should not ignore or oppose the well-being of transgender students. All students in Catholic education deserve to feel safe, welcomed, and affirmed.

Know of more news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Westboro Baptist Church Targets Catholic University; More LGBT Campus News

Students gathered at Loyola University Maryland

Graduation ceremonies concluded and degrees conferred, it is time for the final “Campus Chronicles” of this spring semester.

Below are several of many LGBT-related happenings in Catholic higher education. These testify, once again, to the good work that ensures campuses are safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ students and staff, and also serve as a model for the rest of our church.

Westboro Baptist Church Pickets Jesuit Campus

Protests by the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) led to unity at Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, where community members rallied in support of LGBTQ members.  WBC is a Topeka, Kansas-based church, founded by Rev. Fred Phelps, whose members travel across the nation with vile messages on their signs to protest LGBTQ equality.

Only three WBC members were actually present at the April protest, reported the Baltimore Post-Examiner. They were met by many more counter-protesters, including alumni, and at least one hundred current students. University officials barred WBC from campus, with University spokesperson Nick Alexopulos saying the school celebrated diversity and would “remain united. . .as One Loyola.”

WBC had targeted Loyola Maryland in part because of its two LGBT student organizations, reported The Baltimore Sun. Student Kelly Mueller defended these organizations in advance of the protests, writing in The Odyssey:

“When you attacked the Jesuits, the Theology Club, Spectrum, and OUT Loyola, you attacked our entire community, and we will not stand for it. . .If you come to campus, I hope you can see past your bigotry and recognize the true spirit of God’s love present on our campus.”

Sign used for WBC counter-protests

Spectrum, LGBT and Allies group,  said on Facebook that the counter-protest meant “the message of love prevailed.” WBC’s protests coincided with the University’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Awareness Week, which reports on social media said was quite successful. WBC had also planned to picket Archbishop Curley High School and Catholic High School of Baltimore, too, but there are no reports that they actually showed up at either school.

Other Notable Happenings

The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA will begin offering gender-neutral housing options next year to accommodate trans* students and those students seeking a more affirming LGBTQ living environment.

Marquette University, Milwaukee, announced the new LGBT+ Alumni Council which will expand development outreach to LGBT alumni and raise scholarship funds designated for LGBT students at the University.

Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA hosted its first LGBTQ Awareness Week in March, reported student newspaper The Troubador. Aimed at fostering a respect for everyone consistent with the school’s Franciscan mission, the week’s programming featured panel discussions, a film screening, and faculty lectures.

USA Today’s recent article exploring college athletics and Title IX religious exemptions positively featured the inclusive policies of two Catholic colleges: the University of Notre Dame and Fordham University. While a number of Catholic institutions have sought to exempt themselves from LGBT protections on religious grounds, this article reveals the positive steps which other Catholic schools have taken to protect all students in advance of new regulations.

Know more good news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: IgnatianQ Again Gathers Jesuit Students for LGBTQ Solidarity–And Other Campus News

12771924_1081553981909058_7175108364027864592_oIt should be surprising to regular readers of Bondings 2.0 to learn that Catholic higher education is leading our church towards more supportive and affirming LGBT practices. Today’s post highlights several developments concerning LGBTQ issues which happened this spring across the U.S.

Jesuit Students Again Gather for LGBT Conference

Students, faculty, and staff from Jesuit colleges gathered in April for the third annual IgnatianQ conference, organized under the theme “Celebrating Identities: Queer Solidarity at Jesuit Schools.”

The conference, facilitated this year by students at Seattle University, received support from many offices and organizations on campus including Campus Ministry, reported student newspaper The Spectator. Keynote speaker Kathy Talvacchia, a religion scholar who is Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science, spoke about the influence Ignatian spirituality has had in her life as a lesbian Catholic woman. Workshop presenters included staff members at Jesuit institutions and outside LGBT organizations.

The annual conference aims to “promote LGBTQ solidarity, leadership & advocacy among US Jesuit institutions and the larger church. This year’s conference included more programming related to transgender issues and intersectional identities.  The 2015 conference took place at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Lavender Graduations Increase at Catholic Campuses

Lavender graduation ceremonies, which celebrate LGBTQ graduates and their allies, are happening at Catholic colleges across the U.S. this spring. Ceremonies will be held at:

The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY; DePaul University in Chicago, IL; Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA; Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, CA; Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA; Seattle University in Seattle, WA; University of San Francisco in San Francisco, CA.   If you know of a Catholic campus that is hosting a lavendr graduation ceremony, please share that information in the “Comments” section of this post.

Drag Shows Premiere on More Campuses

Drag performances hosted on Catholic campuses are increasing, too. Gonzaga University in Washington State hosted its first ever drag performance as part of LGBT+ Pride Week festivities. Other Catholic schools continued performances, including the fifth annual show at the University of San Diego, the seventh annual show at DePaul University in Chicago, and the tenth annual show at Seattle University.

Ending Commencement Controversies

Finally, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese questions whether controversies about commencement speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges are finally ending. Many times these controversies are tied to a speaker’s support for LGBT equality and provoked by forces in the church which seek to ban free inquiry and dissent. Reese wrote in the National Catholic Reporter:

“It is time to admit that these policies were foolish from the beginning and ought to be a dead letter today. Colleges and universities in good conscience can ignore these failed rules and use their own judgment in the selection of commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients. If their judgment is faulty, they can certainly be criticized, but not simply because they broke an inappropriate rule.”

Reese noted that “censorship is an admission of failure” that church leaders have not convinced Catholics of their positions. Regardless, he continued, the era of banning persons who question church teaching or advocate positions at odds with the bishops is dead. Whether this will be true is unknown, but the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner with minimal criticism is certainly progress for LGBT advocates and for the church.

Know more good news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Title IX LGBT Exemptions Will Not Disqualify Catholic Colleges from NCAA

campusprideshamelistThe National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will not disassociate from religiously-affiliated colleges, including some Catholic ones, that have requested Title IX waivers. Such waivers would allow schools to discriminate against someone based on the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

LGBT organizations Campus Pride and Soulforce requested, in a letter to NCAA officials, that the NCAA disqualify schools which fail to protect LGBT students by seeking such exemptions. NCAA Chief Inclusion Officer Bernard Franklin responded in his own letter, defending the Association’s record on LGBT issues and deferring the matter of Title IX waivers to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination, has been interpreted recently to include LGBT protections. While religious exemptions are not new, application of these provisions has risen sharply as civil rights based on sexual and gender identity have expanded. 43 colleges requested exemptions in 2015 compared to just one college in 2013.

At least five Catholic colleges are among those who have requested such exemptions, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign. These include Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, John Paul the Great University in Wyoming, St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma, and the University of Dallas in Texas.

Schools which receive exemptions are essentially enabled to discriminate at will on the basis of sexual and gender identity. Jocelyn Sun of Soulforce, writing at Believe Out Loud, explained further why such exemptions are so deeply problematic:

“Title IX isn’t just about LGBTQI students in faith-based institutions. . .It’s about debunking the myth that you have to choose between being a Christian and all the other identities God gave you. It’s about educators not having to pick between investing in and building trust with students and making a living. It’s about holding our universities accountable to be the community we’ve dreamed of and are working hard to create.”

The NCAA’s decision not to sanction colleges which have sought Title IX exemptions is puzzling because it seems wrong to include schools in its athletics programs that institutionally advance prejudice. These exemptions also highlight the difference between the many Catholic colleges supportive of LGBT students and the five schools seeking exemptions. While there is a lot of progress to celebrate, there is much work to be done in college athletics and in Catholic higher education.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Transgender Digital Archive Opens at Holy Cross

digital-trans-archiveThe Digital Transgender Archive was launched at the Jesuit-Sponsored College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, last week. Below, Bondings 2.0 highlights this and other developments in Catholic higher education related to LGBT issues as part of our “Campus Chronicles” series.

Transgender Archive at Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross launched the Digital Transgender Archive last week, the first of its kind organizers say. The archive will include “a compendium of historic documents, oral-history transcripts, photographs, and newsletters” about transgender people and issues, reported The Boston Globe.

The archive is the idea of English professor K.J. Rawson, who now directs it, after Rawson was challenged finding accessible transgender materials during doctoral research. 21 institutions and organizations will ultimately contribute materials to the archive. It is being well received according to Rawson, meeting needs beyond simple academic research:

” ‘A number of transgender individuals have already reached out with gratitude to find a history they weren’t able to find and read about before. . .To know that they’re not alone in this, and it’s not the first time someone is experiencing what they’re experiencing. That this has been happening for a really long time.’ “

You can visit the Digital Transgender Archive by clicking here.

La Salle Students Back Gender-Neutral Housing

Four-fifths of participating students in a student referendum at La Salle University voted to back a gender-neutral housing proposal by sophomore Nicholas Lario. The proposed policy would apply to the Philadelphia-area University’s townhouses and allow LGBTQ students to access safe and more comfortable housing options.

La Salle’s administration has no position on the issue, though president Colleen Hanycz said it would receive “careful and thoughtful consideration,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Campus Pride reports 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. provide gender-neutral housing, but La Salle University would be a trendsetter in Catholic higher education if the proposal moves forward.

Christendom College Republicans Withdraw Over Gay Rights

College Republicans (CR) at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, withdrew from state and national affiliations because the College Republican Federation of Virginia added sexual orientation as a protected class within its policies, reported CrossMap. Representatives from the Christendom CR’s said they were concerned they would have to include LGB students in their organization and formed a new group, the Christendom College Political Action League.

Assumption College’s LGBTQ Group Profiled

A recent article in campus newspaper Le Provocateur profiled Assumption College’s LGBTQ group, AC Allies. Guided by Campus Ministry, whose director Paul Covino mentors the group, AC Allies hosts weekly meetings and partners with other campus organizations for education programs at the Worcester, Massachusetts, school. Covino said it is a “great consolation. . .the sentiment expressed by the students in the group that they feel accepted on our campus.”

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Transgender Support Growing in Catholic Higher Education

1375111113093Boston College students are advancing a trans-inclusive non-discrimination policy for their Jesuit-sponsored school. Below, Bondings 2.0 reports on this news and other LGBT developments, two of which reveal Catholic higher education’s growing commitment to support trans* community members.

Boston College May Include Trans* Nondiscrimination Protections

Boston College’s GLBTQ Leadership Council, a segment of student government, has prepared a report about adding gender identity and expression to the College’s non-discrimination policy. BC administrators will decide ultimately whether to insert new language or not, reported campus newspaper The Heights, which noted:

“Despite this, the proposal still remains a good first step toward its goals and, even if rejected, acts as a symbolic gesture declaring UGBC’s [Undergraduate Government of Boston College] stance when it comes to this issue.”

Widespread support among college students for more expansive LGBTQ protections will hopefully weigh on administrators’ response. Existing BC policies already include sexual orientation as a protected class. Among Catholic colleges, Georgetown University (GU)  has been the first to explicitly protect trans* students, faculty, and staff from discrimination, and the school has made some of the most progressive strides in this regard. The Heights article concluded that Boston College could, along with GU, help set a precedent for Catholic schools on trans* inclusion.

Georgetown University Hospital Dispute

A news story from The Georgetown Voice, the campus newspaper of the Washington, DC Jesuit university, highlighted difficulties that trans* students often face in receiving quality healthcare. Willem Miller, a trans junior, waited a week before going to the University’s health services because he felt uncomfortable seeking treatment there. About his hesitation, The Voice reported:

“This trepidation toward Georgetown’s health care institutions is common among the members of the small population of out transgender and gender nonconforming students. One member of this community, Lexi Dever (COL ‘16), a transgender woman and a Student Assistant for the LGBTQ Center, initially expressed her apprehension about these services in absolute terms “[I have] never [visited]the Student Health Center, I’ve never called GERMS, and I have no intention of those things changing,” she said. Dever, like Miller, attributes this steadfast hesitance to a belief that these institutions are not suited to meet the specific needs of transgender students.”

These students identified a lack of trans-specific resources or training as reasons why Georgetown University’s health services were inadequate. The article also noted a discrimination complaint against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights by a trans woman, Alexa Rodriguez, who was allegedly denied surgery last year because of her gender identity.

Systemic issues about inadequate healthcare for trans* communities are widespread, Since Georgetown University has made strong efforts to welcome openly trans* students, hopefully the school will address these healthcare challenges as part of the Jesuit model of caring for the whole person.

Loyola Marymount Provides Safe Space for LGBT Mormons

A weekend conference for an organization of LGBT/SSA [Same Sex Attracted] Mormons and families was hosted  recently by Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Entitled “Knit Together in Unity and Love,” the mid-January gathering aimed to support LGBT-affirming Mormons, provide an inclusive community, and encourage participants to “make valuable contributions” both inside and out of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Catholics and Mormons can celebrate that this collaboration not only advances LGBT equality, but ecumenical relations too.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry