Student group focuses on LGBTQA issues at forum

The Gender Sexuality Alliance “brought the rainbow” to Marquette at a forum Thursday to discuss issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally community.

One of the most prominent topics of conversation focused on creating a more gender-neutral campus. Students also discussed the issues many members of the LGBTQA community face when identifying with some of the Catholic Church’s doctrines. Approximately 30 students attended.

Susannah Bartlow, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, moderated the event. Bartlow said she is working with the Office of the Registrar to add a preferred gender and preferred pronoun option on CheckMarq for those who identify with a gender not aligned with their birth sex.

Anna Olson, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, attended the event and advocated for a community welcoming those with transgender identities. Olson argued that Marquette faculty should include a “trans-individual” clause in their syllabus and take steps to be more sensitive toward transgender students, including using a sign-in sheet on the first day of classes instead of roll-call so any trans-individuals could identify their preferred genders without feeling uncomfortable.

Olson also advocated for a gender-identity and gender expression clause in the school’s discrimination policy and the promotion of trans-individual programming on campus.

According to the Transgender Law Institute, 623 colleges and universities have such a nondiscrimination policy, including other Jesuit universities such as Georgetown University.

“This is something that I don’t know will be accomplished in the next month, the next year, the next four years, but (these are) baby steps with the Marquette community,“ Olson said. “As long as we can get it to a conceivable goal where trans-individuals feel comfortable enough on campus and more trans-individuals coming into college would want to come to our campus, I think that is an achievable goal.”

The implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms in Marquette’s residence halls was also a major point of discussion. Though there are currently no designated gender-neutral bathrooms in residence halls, Bartlow said she could see the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms in four to five years.

“I feel very hopeful about trans-inclusion on campus,” Bartlow said. “I do think it takes a lot of work. Specifically what it takes from a student perspective, I think the more students that come together and voice really strong interest and investment in this issue, for people to see that this is a student-led project – I think that would be awesome.”

Bartlow said adherence to the Catholic Jesuit tradition of “cura personalis” – care for the whole person – has the potential to advance programs for individuals in the LGBTQA community. Bartlow said identifying with this tradition is key to moving Marquette’s LGBTQA community forward.

The Gender Sexuality Alliance’s panel attended the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference at Michigan State University in February and also used the forum to discuss campus climate. The issues discussed included the LGBTQA community in the ancient world, LGBTQA discrimination and LGBTQA labels and identities.

Ryan Pawlowski, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, said the conference had a welcoming and open atmosphere. Pawlowski said the lack of visibility of the LGBTQA community at Marquette is an area that needs work.

“On campus even a simple gesture of affection – like holding someone’s hand – you don’t feel comfortable doing it here,” Pawlowski said. “Marquette’s community needs to be a community in which I’m comfortable showing affection to someone I’m in a relationship with – and so are straight people.”

Bartlow urged those at the conference to use the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center’s resources and attend its sponsored events.

On April 10, the center will sponsor Mara Keisling, the founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, to talk about transgender equality. GSA President Emily Wright, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a reporter for the Marquette Tribune, said it will be the first time an openly transgender individual gives a lecture on campus.

Comments are closed