With the approaching May 1 deadline for high school seniors to decide whether or not to accept an offer of admission to Boston College, some students may find themselves wondering what navigating college life at a Catholic institution might be like. After nearly four years attending BC as an LGBTQ+ student, I feel it is my obligation to inform prospective students that, in 2021, BC remains a deeply homophobic institution.
Recent events—both at BC and in the world at large—have shown that BC is an institution living in the past, adhering to outdated, offensive conceptions about members of the LGBTQ+ community that are not acceptable at a top-tier institution of higher education.
The Vatican announced in a statement on March 15 that it will not bless the right of people to marry people of the same sex. The statement doubled down on the church’s position that homosexual activity is sinful, referred to gay people as “persons with homosexual inclinations,” and reiterated a previous statement that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
When faced with the choice to stand with its marginalized students, the BC administration chose to stay silent. BC’s silence on important issues of social justice, particularly when the issue is tangential to BC or its Catholic background, is something with which incoming students will soon become intimately familiar.
BC’s silence today is just another item on a long list of hypocrisies. To those who would claim that BC can’t go against the Vatican, I would direct you to when BC did exactly that last June. The Vatican called on Catholics to divest from fossil fuels, to which BC responded, in essence, that it can do whatever it wants.
“As a private university, Boston College’s decisions regarding investments and governance are made by University leadership, in concert with the Board of Trustees,” a University statement at the time read.
Contrast this with Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn’s defense of BC’s cancellation of the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council Ball in 2005.
“As a Catholic university, we cannot sanction an event that promotes a lifestyle that is in conflict with church teaching,” Dunn said in a University statement.
If you would like to consider other anti-LGBTQ+ institutional practices at BC, I would point you to the fact that BC still refuses to establish an LGBTQ+ resource center and does not hire as many full-time employees that deal solely with LGBTQ+ students (as opposed to full-time employees for students of color or students with disabilities).
In 2016, the University again argued that BC has to maintain tenets of its Christian faith, that a resource center wouldn’t be a panacea for LGBTQ+ issues on campus, and that administrators don’t really see any tension around sexual orientation at BC.
“From our perspective, there has always been a loving, welcoming, fully embracing relationship with our LGBTQ students,” the University said. “The tensions are often perceived on the student end more than they are on the administrative end.”
And thus BC has developed an institutional policy: Ignore the Vatican when it’s profitable, ignore LGBTQ+ students when it’s convenient, and pay no mind to issues of social justice.
In 2017, when incidents of on-campus racism rocked the BC community, thousands of students gathered to proclaim that “Silence is Still Violence.” Notably, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., was silent. Leahy’s silence then, and the administration’s silence now, make BC complicit in the discrimination that still pervades society today.
Lil Nas X, the gay rapper of “Old Town Road” notoriety, recently released a music video where he pole dances his way into hell, signaling that if hell is the price to pay for being unapologetically gay, it’s a price he will gladly pay. (Side note: If you were offended by his music video, I would reconsider calling yourself an LGBTQ+ ally). In light of BC’s institutional homophobia, Lil Nas X has more moral authority than Leahy ever will.
The administration’s silence permits and cultivates an atmosphere of homophobia on campus. This ranges from occasional incidents of explicit homophobia and transphobia—looking at you, College Republicans—to smaller, everyday acts of discrimination with which every member of the LGBTQ+ community is intimately familiar.
On March 29, BC College Republicans hosted notorious homophobe and transphobe Hadley Arkes, who gave a lecture that promoted conversion therapy, argued that homosexuality is a choice, and compared homosexuality to drug use and prostitution. At this point, after hosting a white supremacist last year, BC College Republicans should be considered a hate group and not an officially sanctioned student organization with University funding.
Take this into consideration for a moment: BC funds a group that invited someone preaching about conversion therapy, and yet can’t be bothered to fund an LGBTQ+ resource center or hire sufficient full-time staff dedicated solely to working with LGBTQ+ students.
Now, I want to make clear that I treasure my experience at BC. I have received a phenomenal education, made lifelong friends, and dealt with administrators who truly do want to make me feel welcome on campus. Even so, I wish someone had told me what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ at BC.
I’m sure BC is not the only college where I would be called “f****t” in the freshman lounges or overhear passing comments like “that’s so gay.” Homophobia is ever-present across all echelons of society in the United States. But the BC administration’s silence and even active antagonization of the LGBTQ+ community makes BC a uniquely homophobic university.
Featured Graphic by Meegan Minahan/ Heights Editor