Note to GALA ND/SMC Community From Liam Dacey – December 2019

Dear GALA-ND/SMC community,

I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and family. Thanksgiving, or the National Day of Mourning, is a time for reflection and a time to stand in solidarity with the people we love and issues we care about. It’s also a chance to express gratitude to one another, which is one of the most important things we can do to form deeper, more meaningful bonds.

This year, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about something I care very much about: my Notre Dame family. Earlier in November, I was on campus to give two presentations. The first talk was given to the Notre Dame LGBT Law Forum and was about my current development work at Lambda Legal. The second talk was more personal and walked attendees through the “Past Present, and Future” of LGBTQ issues at Notre Dame. You can read more about the discussion from The Observer here.

During my presentations, I stressed the importance of building coalitions and finding ways to bring progressive voices together. Tracing through Notre Dame’s own history, it has only been through bridging similarities and overcoming differences that we have achieved lasting progress. In 2004, the Notre Dame Queer Film Festival was the end result of a year of planning between GALA-ND/SMC, five academic departments and the Gender Studies Program in the College of Arts and Letters (most notably, the Department of Film, Television, and Theater, who was the first to sign on), student organizers, unapproved student organizations like OutreachND, the Counseling Center, and the Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs, which became the CORE Council and eventually Prism. Indeed, the approval of Prism itself as an official student organization can be traced back decades to each year students went through the club approval process only to be shot down by the Student Activities Office. The eventual approval, however, was spurred on from a visit that PA State Rep. Brian Sims had to campus, a trip that was co-sponsored by GALA-ND/SMC and the College of Arts and Letters. “4 out of 5 college students across the country support LGBTQ rights,” Sims told students. From there, the “4 to 5 Movement” was born – a coalition led by Alex Coccia, the Progressive Student’s Alliance, Outreach, GALA-ND/SMC, and many others. The movement circulated the petition calling for an officially approved LGBTQ student group that, in dramatic fashion, was marched to Father Jenkins’ office. Out of this moment, but also the collective moments that came before, Prism was born.

Jump ahead to the commencement walkout on Vice President Pence and you can follow the same type of coalition building and organization that Bryan Ricketts’ did such a good job of coordinating and leading.

Marketing guru Seth Godin writes: “We’re surrounded by injustice, and yesterday was even worse. It’s so easy to find things that are imperfect and criticize them or worse, shame them. Better, I think, to find glimmers of good and seek to amplify them. Mistakes can be seen, errors can be improved upon, progress can be made. But only if we embrace the chance for good. The imperfect is an opportunity for better.”

For those who have been following the recent challenges facing GALA-ND/SMC, we are in a time of transition. For those of us like me working in the LGBTQ movement on a daily basis, these difficulties strike a familiar cord. As we continue to progress in the movement, we must work to protect, defend, and fight for the rights of all, even the most marginalized and silenced voices in our community. Sometimes, there are bumps in the road, particularly when certain voices are overlooked, either intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless the intention, mistakes happen, feelings get hurt, and difficult questions must be asked.

For my part, I would like to apologize for some of my actions during this time of change for GALA-ND/SMC. I would like to particularly apologize to the officers: Ram, Morgan, Andrea, and Bryan, whom I know have only had GALA-ND/SMC in their best interests. Also, I am extremely sorry to any current students who inadvertently may have been caught in the middle of something that they shouldn’t have had to worry about in the first place. I have privately spoken to the Prism board to address this, but would like to extend this apology to all. All of us on the GALA-ND/SMC board are particularly committed to students and want to do more to find ways to connect with you. I think that there have been certain roadblocks along the way, but it is certainly not from a lack of desire. I welcome any students to email me at LDacey82@gmail.com if you have any ideas of ways that you’d like to connect with GALA-ND/SMC or have any ideas of things that we could do better to help you.

I know I speak for the entire board and officers alike when I say that we are all striving for inclusivity. It should not be overlooked that Morgan is the first openly trans officer of GALA-ND/SMC, and this is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to think of ways to make the organization a place where trans members have a voice.

I would to call for the formation of an Inclusivity Task Force composed of current students, staff, and alumni from different decades, to specifically address these challenges head on.

In the meantime, I hope that you will accept my apology. Always remember that we are a movement with a spine. And we will prevail – together.

In Notre Dame,

Liam

PS Thanks to those in our community who have privately supported me throughout this crisis. You know who you are and I’ll forever be grateful.