Prefrosh Preview: LGBTQ on the Hilltop
For those of you who have been living under a rock, LGBTQ, as the Georgetown LGTBQ Resource Center defines it, stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning.
Georgetown has come a long way from its cisgendered, anti-gay rhetoric of decades-past, but it should come as no surprise that Catholicism, Georgetown, and the LGBTQ community have an immensely complex relationship. Despite Pope Francis‘ progressivism (by Catholic Church standards, anyway), the Catholic Church still does hold that homosexual acts are gravely sinful.
For much of its history, Georgetown generally adhered to those discriminatory Catholic doctrines in both rules and rhetoric, but the past five years, especially since the founding of the LGBTQ Resource Center, have been very progressive. Still, however, despite what The New York Times might have you think, more well-connected publications know that there is still much room for progress, especially for trans* rights. What follows in this post is a part history, part current state of LGBTQ at Georgetown.
For a long time, LGBTQ (but primarily LGB at that point, according to most interviews conducted by the Voice) students barely had a foothold at Georgetown. In the early ’70s, however, LGBTQ students began being a vocal, on-campus presence. This change was headlined when the 1973 American Psychiatric Association’s entry on homosexuality changed dramatically, which opened the doors to widespread LGBTQ acceptance. (For more, check out the “This American Life” episode “81 Words.”)
In 1973, the Gay Georgetown Students group applied to SAC (Student Activities Commission) for a charter in 1973 but were, surprise, turned down. Again, in 1979, the newly established Gay People of Georgetown University applied for and received a SAC charter—until it was overturned four days later.
GPGU and another gay student group sued the university for violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 (for more on the university’s specific violations, see Part 2, Part B, § 2-1401.11). In 1987, the D.C. court overturned Georgetown’s decision and ruled that the University must recognize gay students groups from there on.
Campus LGBTQ groups got begrudging official recognition, eventually morphing into GUPride by 2002. That year, students petitioned for a resource center with a full staff, a permanent on-campus space, and funding. At first, a Student Affairs administrator, Chuck Van Sant, served as an interim coordinator until Bill McCoy replaced him, while also serving double duty.
After a string of hate crimes against LGBTQ students and faculty (see here, here, here, here and here), protest rallies, and an immense amount of negative media attention, the university gave in. On October 24, 2007, President John DeGioia pledged to open a fully-staffed and funded resource center for LGBTQ students within the year. Since August 26, 2008, Georgetown has led Catholic higher education’s stance on LGBTQ rights and support.
The LGBTQ Resource Center (325 Leavey Center)
The Resource Center celebrates National Coming Out Week (surrounding the October 11 “National Coming Out Day”), Gender Liberation Week (more on this below), Pride Week, and Lavender Graduation.
On-campus groups include GU Pride, GradPride (for graduate students), the Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the M.B.A. program, and P-POUT in the Public Policy Institute.
The Campus Ministry holds a weekly LGBTQ Catholic prayer group on mondays at 7:30 p.m., for which information can be found through the Resource Center.
For gender- or sexuality-related counseling and support, the Women’s Center in 327 Leavey Center provides workshops and community, and CAPS (Counseling and Psychiatric Services) offers an LGBTQI Affirmative Therapy Group
It’s not perfect
In addition to the Resource Center and its programs, you can submit a Bias Report to GUPD (most students still refer to them as DPS) or the Resource Center. Bias Reports are to protect against hate/bias behavior and, at worst, crimes of any kind. Please speak up if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or otherwise compromised. You can find more information here.
The IDEAA office also exists. They’re a great way to get involved in promoting diversity on campus at an adminstrative level.
Gender identity at Georgetown
Being at a Catholic university, you probably will encounter people who are uncomfortable with LGBTQ identities. Vox cannot speak to what your personal experience will be, but the U.S. is increasingly moving towards embracing the LGBTQ community. There will be ignorant, uninformed, and frustrating people everywhere, the Hilltop included.
Good ol’ Georgetown everyman Jack Hoya and everywoman Jane Hoya supposedly embody not only all of its students, but also the clear cis-bias that exists on the Hilltop. In a September, 2013, feature in the Voice, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson was quoted supporting the view that gender is binary. “There is an emerging view that gender identity is sort of something you play with,” he said. “I think that is quite a different view than the Catholic view of identity and of human sexuality.”
In an open letter to Olson, gender non-conforming student J Capecchi expressed frustration at the University’s “ignorant” stance. Capecchi followed this up with a Voices piece in which Capecchi discussed Capecchi’s views on gender identity.
With that being said, the article is almost a year old. Each new year brings a new class to the Hilltop, and you have the power to craft Georgetown and its culture to one of which you can be proud.
Photo: Kevin Goebel