Laverne Cox. Chaz Bono. And recently, Bruce Jenner identify as members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. The dialogue about LGBT support and awareness has increased in recent years with movements such as the pride parades and the legalization of gay marriage in certain states.However, how is the conversation represented at Seton Hall University? And what position does SHU take on such issues?
On May 15, it was revealed through Father Warren Hall’s Twitter that he was fired from SHU for posting a picture on Facebook supporting the LGBT community. As of now, this tweet has been taken down, but a snapshot was taken and has been posted on numerous Facebook groups started by students who are outraged about the decision to fire Father Hall.
According to the online petition to reinstate Father Hall, the Archdiocese of Newark made the decision to fire the priest. The petition has already been signed by over 115 people.
As of now, the LGBT community is recognized at SHU through the Allies club that is acknowledged through the Office of the Vice President, but it is not a Student Government Association (SGA) recognized club. In the last two years, no LGBT related group has applied to be an SGA recognized organization, according to Maggie Bach, the SGA advisor.
“There is a memorandum of understanding that delineates the relationship between Allies and the Office of the Vice President,” said Dr. Andrew Brereton, the Allies advisor in the division of student services. “That memorandum was negotiated and agreed to by student leaders and university officials about 10 years ago. The Allie e-board renews their commitment to that agreement each year. Under that agreement, Allies is advised by a representative of the Vice President’s office.”
Corina Hendren, a rising senior and diplomacy major, will be the secretary for the Allies club for the 2015-2016 school year. According to Hendren, the club hopes to get SGA recognition next year.
“I would definitely support giving SGA recognition to any LGBT club,” said Timothy Hoffman, the former SGA president of the 2014-2015 school year and 2015 graduate. “Our constitution has a strong anti-discrimination policy and as long as the club met the standards of all SGA recognized clubs, there would be no reason for them to be denied by SGA.”
As a non-conforming, androgynous, lesbian and pansexual member of the community, Hendren said SHU has some comfortable places for the LGBT students, but there are also some places that are uncomfortable.
“Just knowing that the University does not accept me because they believe that the way I was born is morally wrong just leaves a sour taste in my mouth sometimes” said Hendren. “I figured that the school would be more accepting.”
Marina Montenegro, a junior who is gender neutral and androsexual, doesn’t believe there is a lot of representation for the LGBT community outside the Allies club at SHU.
“I’ve never felt uncomfortable at Seton Hall because of my gender, but I also appear as female and people treat me as such” said Montenegro.
The LGBT community is receiving more media coverage due to Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer and the Bruce Jenner special appearing on E!
“I feel the LGBT community is under represented in the media” said Montenegro. “Specifically, I am tired of seeing cis-gender straight people playing gay or transgender characters on TV.”
Hendren agreed with Montenegro that the LGBT community is often portrayed in film and movies by people who are not a part of the LGBT community.
“This is especially the case for transgender representation,” said Hendren. “There are plenty of transgender actresses and actors that are more than capable of playing transgender roles that are oftentimes given to cis-gendered people.”
According to Hendren, it appears that the LGBT community has responded positively to the Bruce Jenner coverage.
“I think it is positive because it gives people who are unaware of transgender issues something to think about,” said Hendren. “People who are transgender require so much more representation in the media, as I feel that it could help people understand how they really are no different from someone who is cis.”
Hendren and Montenegro agree that creating a dialogue is the first step for SHU to create a place that is accepting of LGBT community members.
Father Hall tweeted, “Turn this into an opportunity for open/reasonable discussion on LGBT issues on a Cath Campus.”
Rebecca White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.