Respect Life Month inclusive of LGBTQ rights

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The LGBTQ+ Resource Center supports the new group “Coming Out to God.” Marquette Wire Stock Photo

Eric Rorholm, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, had not been called a homophobic slur since grade school. This changed when he arrived on Marquette University’s campus fall of 2017.

“I have gotten my fair share of homophobic slurs and comments,” Rorholm said. “I would say about three quarters of the students and faculty are very accepting, and then a fourth are completely not.”

The month of October is Respect Life Month for the Catholic Church, Steve Blaha, assistant director of Campus Ministry, said. He added that the suicide rates of LGBTQ teens is higher than those of their heterosexual peers.

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under 25.  The project reports that LBG youth are five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.

Helping LGBTQ individuals is one of Respect Life month’s main focuses, Blaha said. 

Kaela Beugnet, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and the head of Marquette For Life, which advocates against abortion, said that all life is important and should be treated as such.

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, LGBTQ persons are sacred gifts of God, Blaha added. 

“However you identify and whatever makes up who you are, you have value,” Beugnet said.  

While there is still room to grow, Rorholm said he has grown to feel accepted, despite the fair share of homophobic slurs yelled at him on Marquette’s campus.

Justyn Spann, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that he felt Marquette has been accepting towards him as a member of the LGBTQ community.

“A lot of my close friends are LGBTQ as well,” Spann said. “I have had no incidences at all with discrimination.”

Nick Ansay, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the adversity that some LGBTQ individuals face on campus stems from the Marquette affiliation with the Catholic Church. 

He added that many people in the LGBTQ community feel they are being persecuted by the Church. 

“I feel as a student, Marquette has not done enough to make people in the LGBTQ community … feel included,” Ansay said in an email.

To end the stigma, Ansay called for people affiliated with religion to stop preaching hate about people in the LGBTQ community, especially transgender brothers and sisters.

Ansay said the adversity the LGBTQ community face is the fact that Marquette University is affiliated with the Catholic Church and said many feel abandoned and are being persecuted by the church.

He added that he hopes more can be done on campus to combat the stigma of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.

The adversity LGBTQ individuals face on campus comes from the ignorance of other students, Jayla Hill, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a volunteer at the LGBTQ+ resource center, said. She added that God calls us to love each other regardless of our differences.

“There has … been sinful actions by the Church-its members-that have deeply harmed LGBTQ persons,” Blaha said. “We really need to be truthful and honest about that.”

Campus ministry is looking to have mass once a month for LGBTQ+ students, but does not have a date to start.

The goal of the campus ministry office is to give all students the opportunity to grow in their faith, Blaha said.

“(We must remember) this person in front of me is a unrepeatable gift to our world, and I have the opportunity, the grace and the gift to be able to encounter them,” Blaha said.

Rorholm said he felt like Marquette is making steps in the right direction to be more inclusive.

“For the most part, I actually feel really really safe and normal and welcome,” Rorholm said. “The Jesuit mission is definitely kind to the LGBTQ community.”

Hill said that if someone in the LGBTQ community is struggling, they should reach out to the LGBTQ+ resource center, Marquette University Police Department, the Office of Residence Life, or the Marquette Counseling Center.

“To be more inclusive, students can take the time to understand the discrimination and systemic injustices that people in the LGBTQ community face,” Hill said in an email.