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I turned on the news two nights ago and found myself listening to a San Diego 7 News report titled, “A Campus Divided” (click here) that reported on the supposed division among students on the PRIDE groups’ decision to sponsor a Drag show designed to educate the campus community about trans community and gender identity. PRIDE has worked diligently to navigate the considerable number of bureaucratic hoops and hurdles placed in front of them. The irony of this report is that it constructs upheaval among students, when in fact, it’s off campus individuals and organizations creating the upheaval through their hate infused messages and harassment.
The response from those ‘concerned’ about “Catholic Identity” has been a litany of hate mail directed at the students, their organization, and University administration. While part of me wanted to laugh when I saw that someone said that the University of San Diego stood for “Undeniable Satanic Destruction” –I found myself saddened (not surprised) by the level of intolerance and vitriol aimed at students trying to honor and celebrate individuals who face discrimination and prejudice everyday. Just as frustrating and saddening is listening to the type of hate being aimed at these college students in the name of religion. I fully respect the right of every individual to freedom and religion –but wonder what religion, god, gods, goddesses, or deities preach hate as an acceptable form of behavior and social interaction. It seems antithetical to any form of religion.
Many of us were reminded when reading an autobiographical article written by the late Dr. Joseph Columbo,, who taught in the Theology and Religious Studies Department, that it wasn’t that long ago that this community and their allies had to meet in secret –in fact professors had to keep their gender and sexual identity in the closet. While the university has come a long way since that time, my hope, is that we remind ourselves that this is not the time to take a step backwards. For five years, I’ve watched as too many students have struggled to live their lives out loud and be respected for who they are regardless of their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, or class status. The LGBTQQ community has become the target of religious zealots who claim to stand for all Catholics and Christians –when in fact, we know there is great variation in the ways in which different parts of the Catholic Church and denominations within Christianity view same sex partnerships and unions. In truth, I might have a lot more respect for those sending hate mail, emails, and comments on Facebook pages and blogs if they stepped out from behind their keyboards and actually opened themselves up to a public and meaningful conversations. Hate thrives in silence and anonymity –so it’s time for us to combat this bigotry by taking a stand against homophobia and hate.
I stand with PRIDE and celebrate the strength, tenacity, and perseverance of the students who are working hard to educate the campus community and combat hate. I thank USD for standing behind them too.