Letter from the Chair
Jack Bergen ‘77
Summer is now a distant memory. Here in Boston we had three heat waves of 90+ degree weather, the latest one in September! Many of you have also felt the effects of a fierce summer with record heat, summer thunderstorms and terrible forest fires. As I put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad), today marks the 30 day “birthday” of my first grandchild Lucy born mid August. It has been so much fun holding and feeding our “little domer” over the past few weeks (notice I didn’t include changing). Aside from that, a number of things have transpired since our last newsletter.
At the national level we have seen the momentous Supreme Court decision. Congrat’s to all ND and SMC alum’s who can now get married in their home state. In a less visible ruling, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission used existing federal laws on discrimination to rule in favor of a sexual orientation discrimination case. This could pave the way for LGBT workplace protections without the need for additional federal legislation.
Also new since May are several interesting articles in the recent edition of Notre Dame Magazine. The first is a “shout out” to Kerry O’Conner, ND law school grad, who was one of several alums featured as a member of the NYC police dept. Kerry is an out lesbian NYC police sergeant working in Manhattan.
The second in an article entitled Family Counseling. This piece talks about the upcoming general synod taking place in October. The article suggests there may be opportunity to be more supportive of committed same-sex relationships and has strong support from Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich. Let’s hope with the Pope’s visit to the US in the fall, that progress can be made for stronger language and direction for same sex relationships, especially now that so many countries have passed marriage rights, including most recently in Ireland by an overwhelming public referendum.
On the campus front, the recipient of GALA’s scholarship to Camp Pride’s LGBT Leadership Week Eve Morrigan was featured in a piece by the Today Show. In the wake of all the press around Caitlyn Jenner, the segment showed Eve as a transgender college student at ND. Eve displayed great courage and determination in her ability to just “be herself” on campus.
My next visit to campus will be for the ND/Georgia Tech home game on Saturday September 19th along with a few other officers. I hope to see you there. Also, if anyone is planning on attending the ND/Boston College game at Fenway Park on November 21st let me know and we can do a mini tailgater prior to the game.
Fall Tailgate on September 19th
ND’s football season has started off with a great win against Texas and GALA will be on campus to welcome back all alums. This year the GALA tailgater will be held prior to the game against Georgia Tech on Saturday September 19th starting around 10:00AM. Similar to last year, the tailgate will be located in the “S” parking lot which is just south of the stadium and adjacent to Legends. Look for the rainbow colored balloons to find us. We are hoping the South Bend weather gods will provide us with favorable sunshine and warm temperatures for the event. Come and join fellow ND/SMC alums, students, faculty, friends and members of the South Bend LGBT community for some food and beverages.
This year, we have set a goal to raise $10,000. Reaching this goal will allow us to continue to fund the new LGBTQ Student Scholarship as well as provide continued funding to sponsor and host events that benefit LGBTQ Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alum of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College for various events throughout the year. In doing this, we also hope to form a stronger community for LGBTQ Alum and Allies and create networking and social opportunities for years to come!
Thank you to everyone who came to the panels GALA ND/SMC sponsored this year for the Reunion- they were both a great success! We had approximately 30-40 audience members at both the Notre Dame panel and the Saint Mary’s panel. Our panelists included GALA ND/SMC members and current students who shared about their experiences on each campus. The experiences of our panelists ranged in era from the 1950s to our current students. Needless to say, we had dynamic and engaging dialogue about the issues that face the LGBTQ communities on both campuses. Feedback from the audience members was positive, supportive, and they were eager to help advance the mission of GALA ND/SMC and support the current students. We look forward to continuing these important conversations and to sponsoring another panel next year!
Every year GALA member donations help to sponsor a Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s student participate in Camp Pride Leadership Week. This year ND student Eve Morrigan ‘17 attended. Here are her reflections:
My time with Campus Pride was one unique and invaluable. I would go again in a heartbeat. I reveled in the opportunity to move freely amongst other individuals queer or trans, but I found repugnant the pronounced pressure to conform to a certain ideology.
In informal contexts, I could experience others relatively unadulterated: they shared themselves as they wished, and I was given a glimpse into their unique lives. I, however, did not appreciate the explicit value placed on only certain types of diversity and dignity, and experiencing this contrast so much more sharply left me more disillusioned with the current modes of thought within the general LGBTQA community, and with my place within it.
I am taking back to campus some new directions to pursue in queer theology – A pity there were so few present at that session! – connections with peers, and a renewed sense of urgency to compose a rival approach to identity, personhood, etc., than that promoted at Campus Pride – a large and foreboding feat that I doubt I can accomplish but must attempt. Honestly, I have gained very little directly from the programming of Campus Pride: either I was already quite familiar with what was shared, or I found myself forced to make sharper my own ideas against what was presented.
Has Campus Pride has made me a stronger leader? I have never really considered myself a leader or an activist. But I can say that I have emerged an even stronger individual: I have been able to relate to others as individuals – new things are always learned from others – and in the alienation I often felt there without real retreat, I needed to become more sure of my sense of self. I have not learned much more about myself qua myself, but I have learned more about the experiences and lives of other queer or trans individuals, something I have never been able to do really at Notre Dame. I do have more well-defined LGBTQA goals for the university, but they are less political and more social, relating to the integration of the community into the larger campus whole.
What change would I very much like to see within the LGBTQA community back on campus? I would have to say either a greater openness to religion, or the deconstruction of the cliquish atmosphere. The latter tends to alienate not just folk who are not queer or trans, but – perhaps more importantly – those who would be included within the community but are otherwise intimidated by such an atmosphere, as I myself have felt.
With Campus Pride I have had several issues, but I do not regret it in the least: the opportunity to come together with and to communicate so freely with so many of my queer or trans peers has been such a blessing, and I intend to see whether the organization would in the future have me back as a Pride Leader. I have found myself inspired.
I am Karen, the first transgender ND grad to come out. At my 50th reunion, I called ahead to the alum reunion office to discuss my coming with my wife (spouse) and my nametag. And, I contacted Sister Susan Dunn, OSB, the administrative assistant for the gay-lesbian group for a meeting.
On our first day staying at the femme friendly St. Mary’s Inn, the shuttle driver asked us “OK, which of you is the alum?” I replied “I am”. She said “What class?” I answered “Class of 1960”. She said “I didn’t know there were any girls that that class.”
There were 387 of my classmates and I was the only girl in my class photo. My wife was among the wives watching and heard the comment “Look there’s a girl up there.” My wife chimed in and said “That’s my husband.” And immediately she had lots of questions.
Meeting at the bookstore with Sister Sue Dunn, OP, assistant VP for student affairs at the bookstore; and, later Elizabeth Moriarity at the Student Center’s office of student abuse issues, I asked how many transgender students or alums had “outed” themselves. What a surprise to learn that I was the first. And, I was shocked at the archaic procedures to “find yourself” on campus. So, when I was shook hands with Father Jenkins for my 50 Year Club photo, I said “Thank you Father for Sister Sue Dunn and your gay-lesbian support on campus.” And, Sister Sue did send us “Stand Against Hate” T-shirts from campus the next year.
My childhood was very traditional. I was a high mass altar boy in the Latin Rite days and later a lector. One of my father’s cousins was Bishop Eugene Gerber of Wichita and another Monsignor Edgar Kurt of Dubuque. Two of my mother’s aunts were Benedictine nuns and a cousin of her mother’s mother had baptized her.
In that era of the Christine Jorgensen sex change operation there was literally no other news and no internet. So, my curiosity to find out why I wanted to dress in my sister’s and mother’s clothes when they were out shopping was unanswered. When I was at ND I participated in the YCS (Young Christian Students) support mentored by Father Louis Putz, CSC, for Martin Luther King. My father died at age 52 in the first week of my senior year and I had to step in helping my mother manage her affairs with his estate manager. Then in medical school there was literally nothing about transvestitism as it was called then in the Index Medicus; and, being immersed in 24/7 studies, my girl self was suppressed in a mental closet. I was terribly frightened to discuss my feelings.
Fast forward to 1991 when after 20 years of marriage and 3 daughters, my oldest opened my briefcase on our entry stairs out of curiosity and brought to the kitchen, where my wife and I were standing, a pair of ladies shoes. She said, “Dad these aren’t Mom’s size, what are they?” I confessed on the spot that I was a “crossdresser” and my heart sank, because 8 years of blame, shame, guilt, denial and depression followed. “Expert” counselors recommended to us found our family more of a curiosity. Just as my wife and I were each speaking to divorce attorneys, we found an experienced sexual education counselor who literally turned our lives around.
Where am I now? Retired to our former vacation Aspen home with my wife. Besides my regular semi-retired medical activities, I’m also a member of WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgendered Health, member of GLMA (Gay Lesbian Medical Association) and, secretary of AspenOUT that puts on Aspen Gay Ski Week. I’ve had facial feminization surgery (FFS), electrolysis (yes, it’s painful) and take low dose cross hormones. People know me as the Caitlyn Jenner of Aspen: after all I’ve climbed all 54 of the Colorado 14,000 foot peaks, trekked to Everest base camp, done the tour of Mont Blanc, etc. And, I also lead a femme life with my zumba and booty bar classes with other girls.
Life, though, is not a bed of roses. Although I pass well, I continue to encounter circumstances of discrimination. On the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) we light candles for my more than 30 transgender sisters who’ve been murdered each year in hate crimes. I envy my gay and lesbian friends who haven’t had to change their names and all IDs and certificates, get a completely new wardrobe, have painful and expensive surgery and electrolysis, but I apologize. This is all about “finding yourself” and your brain will not let you rest until your “self” is expressed.
Passing of Prof. Hoffman
We’d like to lend our condolences to the family, friends, and students of Prof. Hoffman. A profound educator and immense personality, we hope that his legacy continues on at Notre Dame and that those who have been influenced by his commitment to education can share his spirit with others.