Nicole Patano ’22
We Are Here, and We Are Queer
Finding Our Purpose at an Institution That Rejects Our Identity
This week marks the fourth time that SHEPARD has held a week-long series of events to raise awareness about the LGBTQ+ community. It is no secret that making such a week possible was a Herculean feat, requiring grace, patience, and understanding from all those involved.
In my last editor’s column, I discussed the negative reception of coeducation and how women on campus can understand their purpose at a college not made for them. In light of this week and my personal research on how topics surrounding the LGBTQ+ community have been handled in The Cowl, I want to use this space to discuss what the existence of members of the LGBTQ+ community at Providence College means. Like women, this institution was not built with us in mind. And like women, we have had to consider what it would mean for our safety and comfort to come to PC. But, unlike women, we also have to consider what it would mean for our safety and comfort to come out at PC.
Luckily, I can pick and choose when and to whom I come out because of the nature of my identity. For most members of the LGBTQ+ community, however, to live authentically and genuinely necessitates some form of explicit or implicit coming out.
What, then, does it mean to be met with disgust or revulsion when you hold your partner’s hand (or even to just use the gender-neutral ‘partner’)? Or to be told by a professor that they will not respect your pronouns and will continually use your deadname despite you begging them to stop? Not to mention the fact that the College has limited resources, if any, for students who need specific mental health services or medical care as a result of their identities.
Being told that we are “intrinsically disordered” or that love looks like conversion therapy is a tale as old as time. We are taught that our identities are not something to be proud of. What of “Friar Pride”? “PC Pride”? To attract applicants, the Student Alumni Ambassadors asked in Morning Mail: “Do you love to wear your Friar pride on your sleeve?” I can firmly state that I am more proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community than I am to be a member of the Friar Family.
Yet, after nearly four years at the College, I chose to stay. I still do not believe that my transferring would have been the answer to the problems at this institution, even though it would have been easier on me. Even more bold of an assertion is that I do not believe LGBTQ+ identities are incompatible with Catholic teaching.
How do we best care for students who have likely doubted that God loves them? How do we achieve cura personalis, or care for the whole person, as other Catholic colleges like Georgetown University and Saint Peter’s University have? Rev. James Martin, S.J., offered 10 pieces of advice to college presidents at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 2, 2020. The College would do well to consider this advice: Begin with the God-given dignity of the human person; Never forget how much LGBTQ+ people have suffered; Welcome LGBTQ+ youth groups, programs, and centers; Bring together your entire school; Remember that words matter, and so do signs and symbols; Stand with the LGBTQ+ community; Work closely with your local bishop; Educate yourself and your school; Listen to transgender people in humility; During a crisis, discern and make a preferential option for the LGBTQ+ person.
Until the administration takes this advice, though, it is up to us to make the College a safe and welcoming place for all students, especially LGBTQ+ students. We should not pretend to be something we are not—like the infamous “LGBT? Choose PC!” video—but we can take simple steps to ensure the academic and emotional wellbeing of all community members. Whether that be dropping a class with a professor who offhandedly remarks that marriage is only between a man and a woman or dropping a friend group which uses the “f” slur, do whatever you need to do to survive at PC. Hopefully, one day, you will be allowed to thrive.