Update on DeSales Homophobia

I first want to thank Elizabeth Rich for commenting on my previous post and highlighting her article on the topic, which I would like to respond to here.

It’s interesting to see DeSales’ view on the matter. We could boil the argument down to whether it is indeed hypocritical for a Christian institute to not openly condemn LGBT students. From all of my research, Jesus emphasized loving your neighbor despite their ‘sins’ and not to judge yourself as better than your neighbor. However, this isn’t just a spiritual argument. This article highlights graffiti of the word “Fag” that was spray painted in one of the dorms on campus. No one was reprimanded or punished for this. It was simply glossed over.

This sort of overt hatred from one student to another should be a red flag to administrators. First off, if someone is bold enough to directly deface an LGBT student’s door, it is not a far leap before they are attacking that student in other ways. To gloss over this issue is to put the student in jeopardy of more attacks, that can very easily escalate. Besides the physical danger to the student, this sort of isolation and dehumanization of LGBT students lead to increased rates of lower grades, depression, and even suicide. If you would like to learn more about discrimination in schools and its effects, I recommend reading some resources including GLSEN’s National School Climate survey from 2009. While the focus is on K-12, the statistics show where these students may be coming from as they enter college, and why such bullying can have such terrible consequences for any LGBT students.

I also want to highlight an Op-Ed penned by a friend of mine, Adrian Shanker, President of the Board of Directors for Equality Pennsylvania. This article talks about how GSA’s are just one part of what makes an inclusive campus, and talks about the many steps a campus actually can take to be inclusive and supportive to their LGBT students. In particular, Adrian highlights that  “graffiti with the word “fag” carries no more a punishment than the word ‘frog’, when the former is a hateful epithet and the latter is not.” I have talked about how powerful the word “Fag” can be, but suffice to say, DeSales failed utterly to do so much as protect the safety of one of their own students by ignoring this.

While a GSA would not, in any way, make DeSales an inclusive campus, it would allow any queer students at the college at least one safe space they can go to and not feel in danger, not feel isolated. Several people have talked about this with me and suggested the LGBT students shouldn’t attend that college at all then. Unfortunately, from my experience, parents can often influence or directly decide what university their child attends. Most 18 year olds right out of high school cannot afford college on their own, so their parents’ often have a strong say where their child goes. I would not be at all surprised to find a fair number of students at DeSales sent their specifically by their Catholic parents in an effort to “fix” or “cure” the child. The students may have little or no say where they go.

I don’t realistically expect DeSales to suddenly turn around and support a GSA. However, I think this is the perfect opportunity for students at DeSales and local allies to highlight that the university is actively and publicly condemning it’s own students; that the university would rather keep to its “antiquated church doctrine” (which actually talks about love and acceptance despite sin, not condemnation) than protect the lives and safety of its own students. If they want to allow physical, verbal, and emotional violence from their students and staff to other students, make that publicly known. As for the students at DeSales, regardless of the outcome, I encourage all of you to get together and create a carpool to visit other campus GSA’s, attend their meetings as guests, and overall just ensure some sort of safe space for the students who need it.

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