University celebrates LGBTQ awareness week

Caroline Hroncich

What does it feel like to be an LGBTQ student on Villanova University’s campus? 

This is a question that the Villanova Gay-Straight Coalition is hoping students have been considering. 

This week, the organization hosted LGBT Awareness Week. A four-day event organized by the nearly ninety-person coalition, filled with events meant to educate students about what it means to be an LGBT student or ally on the University’s campus. 

This is the second annual LGBT Awareness Week for the Gay-Straight Coalition, and Kathy Byrnes, associate vice president for student life, as well as the club’s advisor, says that it hopes to raise “awareness and sensitivity” to these issues on campus. 

“As a Catholic school and a school that’s founded on a Christian message that we should love one another,” Byrnes said. “It’s really important to acknowledge, but more important celebrate our LGBTQ students because we love them, they’re valuable. I think that’s kind of what we’re on this planet for is to care for one another, and love one another and so I think this is a great way to put this into practice.” 

The week started on Monday, Oct. 27 with a four-day information session at the Oreo. LGBTQ students and allies who stopped by the table were encouraged to sign rainbow colored notes saying why they support the GSC. 

Rainbow colored bracelets were also handed out to students in support of the organization. 

The week continued on Tuesday, Oct. 28, with a student panel in Tolentine, entitled “That’s So Gay!” at which Byrnes said, LGBTQ students and allies gave very “real” accounts of both positive and negative experiences they’ve had on Villanova’s campus. She continued to say that these panels raise important discussions among Villanova students, because “we think that everyone is accepting, but that is not always people’s experience.” 

On Wednesday, Oct. 29 a lecture entitled “Moving Beyond the Gender Binary: What We Need to Know About Gender Expression” was given by Villanova Professor, Katina Sawyer. Byrnes said this lecture discussed the spectrum of gender and how individuals engage in different kinds of gender expression. LGBT Awareness Week will end this evening with a vigil held at the Oreo. 

The planning for Awareness week was overseen by a six-student steering committee, which has worked all semester to make sure this week was a success. For steering committee member Michael Kaufman, Awareness week provided an opportunity to shine light on issues that are frequently ignored.  

“For me, there’re several parts of the week that are important,” Kaufman said. “First off, the week is to inform and educate the Villanova Community about the LGBTQ population in general, and in particular the members of the Villanova Community that identify as such. This week is also critical because it gives visibility to a group of people that’s often hidden or marginalized. To people struggling with their identity or afraid to come out, it’s a way to say that we are here, we are your allies and that we are working to make this campus a more welcoming place.”

Kaufman continued to say that he hopes the week will allow students to “break down barriers,” and to teach others about the struggles that are unique to the LGBTQ community. 

For Villanova University, he says that this week provides an opportunity for students to “stand up and make a difference.” 

The Gay Straight Coalition provides a variety of resources for LGBTQ students and allies on campus. In the past, the organization has held “Hot Wings and Hot Topics” an opportunity for students to get together and discuss issues related to the LGBT community. 

hey also participate in “Day of Silence,” a one-day vow of silence to protest bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students and supporters. 

The Gay Straight Coalition also offers resources for students who seek a more private atmosphere in which to share their experiences. 

OASIS is a confidential student organization that meets bi-weekly to discuss experiences that affect LGBTQ students on campus. 

The group provides an opportunity for students to share their journeys with others while forming a tight-knit community. If students wish to join OASIS, they can email [email protected] for information about future meetings. 

For Kathy Byrnes, the most important takeaway from LGBTQ Awareness Week is a continuation of mutual love and respect of all different kinds of people both on and off the Villanova campus. 

“My view is that Villanova’s mission says mutual love and respect should emanate from every part of University life, that’s as important for LGBT students as it is for anyone else,” Byrnes said. “Villanova can maybe be a beacon of light in modeling of how people can stay faithful, be faithful and still celebrate whether they’re LGBT themselves, or celebrate their LGBT brothers and sisters.”