Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

LGBTQ Demonstration Promotes Tolerance

VIEWPOINT LGBTQ Demonstration Promotes Tolerance By Noah Riseman

As I was leaving my cozy job in ICC on Thursday night, I saw a number of students chalking Red Square. I assumed they were members of the unrecognized fraternities, but you can imagine my surprise when I saw the statement “Gay Hoyas welcome you to GU.” It shocked me and most other Hoyas because the gay community here is, for the most part, quiet and unnoticed. We have heard the petitions for a resource center recently, and we have seen GU Pride table in Red Square before. However, this was the first time I had ever seen homosexual students take such a visible action to gain recognition. I figured there would be uproar among some students, and even some childish counter-displays. However, the gay students never devalued Georgetown nor called it a horrible school. In fact, the display was more of an exercise of pride in the fact that Georgetown has a gay population. Although the exhibition seemed a bit extreme, it was necessary to prove a point.

The hubbub that has emerged is not whether or not LGBTQ students had a right to chalk Red Square and to flyer for GAAP weekend, but rather whether or not the displays were offensive. Whom did they offend? Straight people? GAAP students? All that the signs did was welcome GAAP pre-freshmen to Georgetown on behalf of the LGBTQ populace. In addition, they sent a message that there is a LGBTQ community at Georgetown, so if any prospective student were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, he or she would be welcome here. So who does that disrespect?

It does not offend anyone – it scares people. It worries administrators, strict Catholic fundamentalists and homophobic individuals because LGBTQ people exist and are not going to hide in the closet anymore. But why do people fear homosexuality so much? What has a gay person ever done to deserve scorn? Unfortunately, the American media and Hollywood tend to promote a heterosexist image (heterosexism – the assumption that everyone is, or should be, attracted to members of the opposite sex). However, homophobia stems beyond heterosexism; the roots of homophobia emerged from the Judeo-Christian history of our nation and our world.

Let me preface with a disclaimer: I am not a theologian, Catholic, Protestant or Muslim. I am actually Jewish, though not practicing. So I am not an expert on Judeo-Christian teachings, but I do know what impression I gather based on conversations with others. I understand that somewhere in Leviticus, the Lord decried homosexual acts (“sodomy,” they call it). From that passage the theocratic societies that reigned over the world until recent centuries outlawed, condemned and persecuted homosexuals.

Let’s return to the LGBTQ issue at Georgetown, though. The LGBTQ display in Red Square served to protest Juan Gonzalez’s refusal to create a LGBTQ resource center. I say that he declined even to contemplate the construction because, as far as I am concerned, stalling for months before giving an unequivocal “no” equates with deeming the proposal a waste of attention. Statistics show, though, that the LGBTQ concerns do warrant interest. For instance, studies show that gay youth are more likely to develop eating disorders, alcoholism, depression and to commit suicide (several studies are in School Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Youth: The Invisible Minority, ed. Mary B. Harris). Given this data, it is imperative that the needs of students be the priority of administrators. Gonzalez is vice president for Student Affairs, which means that he should advocate students’ issues, not hinder them. GUSA as well as numerous other clubs pledged support for the resource center, but Gonzalez decided to ignore the petition.

Now to revisit the chalk and signs in Red Square. Not only did it send a message to GAAP students, but it also communicated to the administration that LGBTQ students are not going to disappear because the bureaucrats discount them. I say more power to them – quite honestly, if a prospective student chooses not to enroll at Georgetown because there are gay students, than I would rather that intolerant person attend another university. Tolerance, education and understanding are founding principles of the Jesuit identity. Promoting tolerance alone, though, is not enough; we must go a step beyond forbearance and support each other’s differences.

At the Catholic Georgetown University, we already have Protestant, Muslim and Jewish chaplains, a Center for Minority Educational Affairs and a Women’s Center. The only minority not represented here is the homosexual population. Some say they oppose the resource center because there is no complementary “straight student resource center.” I have got news for those critics – in the United States, everywhere is a straight person resource center and straight people do not experience discrimination based on sexual preference. Then there are the opponents, such as Gonzalez, who return to the argument of Georgetown’s Catholic identity. Maybe I do not take that argument so seriously because I am a Jew in a Catholic school. However, having listened to some of the proponents of the resource center, I have learned that the Church differentiates between homosexual identity and homosexual acts. Although the Church condemns the acts, the powers that be recognize that the thoughts are uncontrollable and are thus not sinful. This is the first step to reconciliation between homosexuals and Catholicism.

I am not advocating that we reform the Catholic Church, but that we modernize Georgetown to meet the needs of 10 percent of the population. If Georgetown can support students of non-Catholic faiths, then I see no reason why it cannot provide for homosexual students. Reform is a slow process, but progress usually begins at the bottom and slowly filters towards the top. So I say we can be Catholic and have homosexuals, too. If one thing is clear from last weekend, it is that we already are.

Noah Riseman is a sophomore in the College.

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