Dear President Garvey,
From 1988 to 2002 The Catholic University of America provided a welcoming and affirming official organization for LGBT and ally students. For 14 years this organization provided LGBT and ally students with a network of support. However, The Organization for Lesbian and Gay Student Rights, unfortunately, evolved into a strict participant in political advocacy. Understandably, conflicts with Church teaching led to the University disbanding the group. Yet in spite of this history, Mr. President, I write to you today as means of starting anew– these 10 years later.
I often hear my peers reluctantly express a grim forecast on the possibility of establishing an official LGBT organization at CUA. As a sophomore at the Catholic University, as a gay student at the Catholic University, and as a friend of other LGBT and ally students at the Catholic University, I am hopeful. Hopeful for affirmation of our dignity. Hopeful for acceptance as equal members of the University. Hopeful for your support.
The journey of coming out to friends and family was difficult for me. It weighed on me for days, months, and years. Growing up in a French-Catholic family, the struggle to come out was just as tiring as those Sunday French-spoken masses that my grandparents dragged me to as a child. Yet, even today, I can still feel that long embrace and the warmth of my mom’s words when I told her that I was gay. Unlike many other LGBT students, I have a great deal of support from family and friends. While my story did not include disbandment, exclusion, fighting, and the like, others face these very struggles.
Through my experiences and interactions with the LGBT community here at CUA and abroad, I have heard gut-wrenching stories of intolerance and the absence of love. Catholic University’s LGBT students are not immune. Day in and day out, students–some friends and many neighbors at CUA–battle the social onslaught that accompanies gay or lesbian identity. Many LGBT students, including myself, have encountered the question, “Why attend the official university of the Catholic Church in the United States, knowing the obstacles placed in front of gay students?” The answer remains simply this, “I’m gay and I’m Catholic.” These two things are not mutually exclusive. As a delegate to the Student Association General Assembly and the
Vice-Chairman of College Democrats, I know the friendships and close-knit networks that a CUA organization can create. If a LGBT organization existed at CUA, these same friendships and close-knit networks of support can be harvested, not in spite of our Catholic faith, but in conjunction with our Catholic faith.
With each story I encounter, with each national statistic I hear, with each passing day, I am reminded of why this University–my University–needs an official LGBT organization. A LGBT organization that promotes affirmation and safety is a clear and succinct expression of promoting the dignity of everyone at The Catholic University of America. Mr. President, we are not asking for an organization with politically charged motivations. We are not asking for an organization that receives a dime of University funds. We are not asking for an organization that undermines the teachings of the Church that many of us attend.
We are asking for the recognition of love and acceptance as persons, and as members of this University. We are asking for an organization that brings together LGBT and ally students. We are asking for hope.
On February 20, 2012, an organization request will be sent to the Office of Campus of Activities. I hope you will encourage the support of this request. As LGBT and ally students, we hope that with your support a new page can be turned at CUA.
Sincerely and humbly submitted,
Ryan Fecteau, Class of 2014