As I watch Audrey Lindemann’s powerful performance of “There’s Queer Blood on Homophobic Hands,” I am struck by the response. The negative comments on her video are nothing new to LGBTQ activists, but the publishing of a similarly-styled Letter to the Editor by The Observer shifts the attention away from the original issue in favor of last week’s Respect Life theme.
I am stunned by the theft of structure. I am angry about the content of the responding letter. And yet, I am silent about the issue.
The thing is: how angry can I—a cis, straight female—be about the two articles?
And the answer is: very angry, as a trans student on a campus with strained relations with the LGBTQ community.
I’m here with my gender on my sleeve
My identity as a queer Notre Dame student is something I struggle with every moment on campus. I love this school and all it has to offer me: a great education, lifelong friends and special opportunities to grow as a human being. During my four years here, I hope I can give something back to this university. I want to continue educating my classmates about how to be an ally to their LGBTQ friends and acquaintances.
My previous life in a metropolitan area allowed me to express my trans identity more freely. Individuals who came out were generally accepted with open arms and were given the freedom to express themselves however they chose. However, the conversations on campus make me more hesitant to be out and proud in South Bend.
Notre Dame and LBGTQ efforts
The university has not had the best relationship with students who don’t identify as cisgender or heterosexual. Single-sex housing alienates trans students, including those who have a non-binary identity. The new university incentives for living on-campus all four years include the ban from dorm events for off-campus seniors, which avoids the topic of students who move off-campus for gender issues, amongst other reasons. The school invited Vice President Mike Pence, a man fully in support of conversion therapy, to speak at the 2017 Commencement. Personal accounts in The Observer discuss the queerphobic attitude held by some students, leading to physical and verbal harassment.
However, for each action that distances the university from its students, there are groups who are trying to reconnect the two populations. The Gender Relations Center is acknowledging October as LGBTQ History Month for the first time this year. They are using their position to engage with students, with events such as LGBTQ 101 and informal activities such as giveaways outside dining halls to open dialogue about issues on campus and in the real world. PrismND, the first and only LGBTQ student organization, is dedicated to fostering the campus LGBTQ community by raising awareness about student issues.
But will these two groups be enough to sew up the divide between the university and some of its most vulnerable students? Efforts by the current student government are attempting to manage the divide, but it is hard to picture when, if ever, LGBTQ students will have an equal experience on campus as their straight and cis counterparts.
National Coming Out Day
For me, this Friday will be like any other Friday on campus. I’ll get out of my classes in the early afternoon and do some homework before our football team takes on USC this weekend. I hear a dorm is planning on making rainbow cupcakes, so I may steal one for myself.
In the comfort of my room, I’ll read countless posts on social media of coming out stories as many partake in National Coming Out Day. I’ll smile when I read happy stories with unconditional acceptance from friends and family. I’ll cry when I read about rejection and heartbreak. Above all, I’ll be proud of any individual who chooses to share their identity with the world.
I am proud to be ND. I am proud to be a trans person. But as I’ve realized, I don’t need to combine the two identities just yet.