A Window Into BC’s GLBTQ Past

Last Thursday, the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) hosted a panel of GLBTQ alumni from the past six decades to speak about their experiences as GLBTQ students at Boston College and how BC policy has changed over the years. The panelist from the ’60s described his sexuality as “leprosy.” He went to therapy for 20 years to deal with his “maturational arrest” (that’s what all the kids were calling homosexuality in those days). The panelist from the ’70s, when asked what the gay life at BC was like, replied, “There was no gay life.” The panelist from the ’80s called his portion of the talk “The Closet Continues” and spoke about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to homosexuality at BC. While there was at least a GLBTQ presence on campus, it was an extremely isolated one. The representative from the ’90s was the only female panelist present. She had joined the GLBTQ group on campus, informally called “The Thursday Group” or the “McGuinn 3rd Floor Group.” During her time at BC, GLC was formally incorporated into UGBC and was funded by BC for the first time, and students organized a march on the house of University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., to protest the lack of a policy protecting GLBTQ students from discrimination. This fight continued in the 2000s, when the next panelist said that GLBTQ students on campus became very politicized. During that decade, it became unconstitutional to have anti-sodomy laws, and Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, yet, there was still no anti-discrimination policy at BC protecting GLBTQ students. He said that, when trying to meet with people to change this, there was never opposition from any individual administrator—the problem seemed to be the conglomerate of “The Administration” itself, and he could never figure out how to get past that to effect change.

I have met very few people at BC who are openly unaccepting of GLBTQ students. Yet, the panelist from the 2000s said that, if he had not come out in high school, he doesn’t think he would have at BC, which tells me that the alienating atmosphere of GLBTQ students at BC is coming from something bigger than any group of individuals. The panelist from the 2000s said that the administration did not allow GLC to put “gay” in the title of their events. The annual GLC gala cannot be called a dance. Offensive language is used by BC officials. The roommates of a friend of mine were leaving their Mod to go out one night when they were stopped by a BC police officer, and when they asked if there was a problem, he replied, “I thought you guys were having a party, but now I see it was just a bunch of f—gs.” BC includes sexual orientation (though not gender identity) in its anti-discrimination policies, but how it treats GLBTQ groups on campus does not reflect this.

BC sanctions those anti-discrimination policies with “Jesuit, Catholic principles that sustain its mission and heritage.” I am not Catholic. The only way I have ever been taught to interpret the Bible was from my BC classes. I learned that the most important reflection of holiness was that one stood with marginalized groups. Jesus hung out with the lepers, the prostitutes, and the poor. I learned that social justice, doing service, and being a man or woman for others meant emulating him in that way. I never learned that gay was not okay. In fact, according to Catholic social teachings, we should be doing everything we can to support the gay agenda, as it is a marginalized group. So, if the panelist who graduated from BC in the ’60s felt like homosexuality was like leprosy, then I don’t see a more perfect allegory for social justice than to stand with him and ease his suffering.

You know the feeling you get when coming back to BC after the summer? Remember the first home football game of the season and walking down Campanella Way with alumni and their families sprawled all over campus offering burgers and beer to passersby? There are generations of BC alumni that have never experienced this because they felt so alienated in light of their sexual preference while here. The panelist from the ’80s told us that the night of the panel was the first time he had felt really welcomed back to BC. Every panelist expressed feeling disconnected from BC since graduation. Think of how many more families would be formed by BC alumni if it felt more acceptable to be visible as GLBTQ students.

But none of those things really matters to The Administration when it comes down to it. So, let me start speaking its language: every single one of the panelists said that he or she has not donated to BC since graduating because of the administration’s attitude toward GLBTQ issues. Leahy (because I think you are at the center of the issue here, as the head of “The Administration”): Think of all the funding BC is missing out on because of the way its policies (or lack thereof) shape the GLBTQ student experience at BC. I can’t give you the exact percentage of endowment you could have potentially received by now, because GLC is not allowed to reach out explicitly to GLBTQ alumni. The panelists themselves were people reached by hearsay. So, Father, it’s time to put aside whatever it is that is used to justify excluding GLBTQ students, because there is a huge chunk of BC love missing from our community, and it is no one’s fault but our own.

Featured Image by Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Editor

About Eleanor Sciannella 5 Articles
Eleanor Sciannella is a staff Opinions columnist for The Heights. She is from Silver Spring, Maryland and is a member of the Class of 2015 in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in sociology and minoring in faith, peace, and justice. She is a member of the BC women's rugby football club and has been writing for The Heights since January 2013.