By Ashley Katusa
Over the years, Fordham has made continued efforts to be inclusive towards all, and one way it does so is by promoting clubs to help raise awareness for those of all sexualities and all genders.
Kathe Rockelein, FCRH ’17, spoke as a member of the Pride Alliance. Rockelein refers to it as an all-inclusive environment that helps many students feel safe and at home at Fordham.
The Pride Alliance hosts many events, such as the Vigil for Change and Coming Out Week. These events are supported not only by those belonging to the LGBT community, but also by cisgender and hetrosexual students interested in learning more about other genders and identities and supporting those who are a part of the LGBT community.
Aside from the Pride Alliance, Fordham also has a Women’s Empowerment club. Although the name may sound misleading, this club welcomes and encourages all genders to join, and strives to recognize the fluidity of gender, often thought of as a very rigid term. The club also uses very deliberate language, meant to reiterate this fluidity.
“Though this may seem small, intentional things like language and representation are at the core of Women’s Empowerment. and strengthen our commitment to recognizing the intricacies of gender and sexual orientation,” said Rachel Dougherty, FCRH ’15.
Regarding gender identity, Dougherty identifies as genderqueer. Genderqueer, a term that is synonymous with non-binary, refers to any gender identity that is neither woman nor man. This consequently lies outside the realm of the gender-binary terms “man” and “woman.”
Women’s Empowerment strives to be inclusive to everyone, and with their fights against prejudice nearly everyone in the group has been inadvertently taught this lesson.
“We have a set of community standards that foster a safe and accepting environment, such as confidentiality, respect, honesty and various other guidelines for discussion in our meetings,” said Nadine Santoro, FCRH ’18.
Santoro understands that some people may not be well-versed in some terms used during these meetings, and if someone happens to use cisnormative or heteronormative language, they are quickly and respectfully corrected and their mistake is turned into a learning opportunity for all.
While groups like the PRIDE Alliance and Women’s Empowerment are safe havens for people to be open about their gender and sexuality, there are still situations in which people may feel uncomfortable.
Santoro believes that simple things, such as changes to our everyday language, are things everyone should work on. This language is even promoted in the classroom, where Santoro said, “many professors will not accept papers which use singular ‘they’ instead of terms like ‘he or she,’ even though many people who do not accept the gender binary use pronouns such as ‘they’ to refer to themselves.”
Rockelein also refers to the issue of Fordham’s lack of housing policy for transgender students, Many of Rockelein’s transgender friends have moved off-campus, as they were uncomfortable with how they were placed.
However, Rockelein believes that, all things considered, Fordham does an outstanding job of creating a safe, inclusive environment for everyone. PRISM, a LGBT spirituality retreat, is an incredibly popular event.
Over the years, Fordham has incorporated sexual orientation and gender identity into diversity activities that are related to leadership on campus. Fordham also has many individuals trained in LGBT sensitivity and acceptance.
Aside from the gender binary and heteronormative language, queer individuals hope to break down more stereotypes. Rockelein states, “the biggest misunderstanding of LGBT people that bleeds into the LGBT community sometimes too is the assumption that everyone is super liberal.”
Quite the contrary: just like cisgender and heterosexual people, queer individuals come in all shapes and sizes. They also represent a range of political ideologies.
Santoro stresses the inaccuracy of stereotypes attributed to bisexual individuals: “they are not ‘greedy,’ ‘indecisive’ or ‘more likely to cheat.’ Overall, if students and professors alike work together to educate themselves on diversity, we can soon foster a more empowering home for all.”