The words I would use to describe the LGBTQ community at Villanova would be non-existent, quiet, subdued and unidentified. When I decided to write about the state of this populace on campus, I reached out to some well-connected Nationers and generally, I was given the names of the same three people who were openly gay or lesbian and willing to talk about it.
Otherwise, they told me the people they did know of who were gay were either uncomfortable talking about it, or they were uncomfortable revealing the name of their friend.
Think about that for a second. The LGBTQ community here is small enough as is, but only three names? I know I am asking a lot of a person to sit down with me and talk about the overwhelming pressures of heternormativity and let 6,500 students, faculty and staff know that you are not a part of the predominantly heterosexual culture. After all, I am not seeking out heterosexual students to detail their struggles here because it has become abundantly clear that the LGBT community has no voice
When is the last time you had a friend bring a date of the same sex to Grab-A-Date? When you think about getting married in the Villanova church someday, have you ever thought about the fact that a gay or lesbian couple cannot do so? What is it about Villanova that makes it difficult to be a part of this minority?
For starters, it is undoubtedly linked with being a Catholic university. Depending on one’s interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality itself is either viewed as a sin or it is said that the historical context or connotation may not allude to homosexuality. Either way, the stance of the Catholic church and many other sects of Christianity is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And although there are many other struggles pitted against this community, this is part in parcel of the problem we face at Villanova.
Something tells me it has something to do with being ensconced in the middle of the Main Line and with the demographics that comprise our student body. Take Yale University for instance. The students there often say, “one in four or more” about the LGBTQ community, which is far from the case here.
Junior Steph Bartikoski is a lesbian enrolled in ROTC, one of the more homophobic institutions in American society.
“There are definitely groups of people I am much quieter around regarding my sexuality,” she says. “Although the military is becoming more accepting, there is still a lot of military personnel rooted in tradition, so my personal life is basically non-existent.”
The military, of course, is not the only place in which she must hold back different parts of herself. Even when meeting a new person, she must compartmentalize one of the biggest aspects of herself.
“There are a lot of kids here that are not out and not comfortable,” Bartikoski says. “Before coming here, I knew that Villanova was a Catholic school and it was something I took into consideration. But the LGBT community as a whole has not felt welcomed in the church.”
Nonetheless, Villanova has allowed her to get back in touch with her faith.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about love and accepting, especially those who are exiled.”
Senior Tommy Monks says, “We have all the ingredients here for people to want to keep it to themselves. I’m always the first openly gay guy people have met here and it’s weird to know that you’re part of one of the smallest minorities on campus. Most people here don’t know a single gay person on campus.”
The interesting thing about the LGBTQ community is that their kryptonite is invisible, until certain situations arise. He continued, “I’m in the business school and when I think about if I’m successful one day and I get invited to a gala, who do I bring?”Bartikoski and Monks have not faced extensive animosity from parents and close friends, but Ashish Kalani, has not been so fortunate.
“My mother is still in denial about it,” he says. “Indian culture is very against acts of homosexuality.”
Furthermore, the performance of masculinity in American culture does not endorse homosexuality, as the idea of the manly man is the epitome of dominant male culture.
Despite priding ourselves on community, Kalani says, “the gender binary here is so massive and I’ve never felt fully accepted here because my sexuality is always associated. I’m also in fraternity and I think my brothers accept me but the amount of homophobic language I hear every day drives me insane.”
In my experience here at Villanova, I have not personally faced outward displays of homophobia. However, there is something different going on here.
Whether it is due to our religious ties or to our cultural backgrounds, there is indeed a different environment here that is closed off to the LGBTQ community. The tumult of adjusting to the college environment is already an overwhelming process and we do not make it any easier for homosexual brothers and sisters.
So why should we bother worrying about the one percent of students here who are not heterosexuals? Why bother making them feel welcome? We make them feel welcomed because they are a part of us. It is not just about being an ally of that community; it is living out the mission of acceptance as one community. Saying it in your head does nothing to improve the status quo.
Be an ally and remember that not everyone on this campus gets to feel comfortable holding the hand of their significant other or giving them a kiss before class starts. And remember that, conversely, some of our fellow classmates are petrified to even be out at all and it is not a reflection of their timidity, but rather of our failure.