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The need for LGBT spaces in ALL Universities: Religious or not!

by Antón Castellanos Usigli, December 26, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I finished my Undergraduate Studies in Psychology at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.  I spent four years studying at the Ibero, which is a Jesuit University. Throughout these four years, I never saw any real efforts at the University to visibilize LGBT population, until one student belonging to the Textile Design Student Association invited me to co-organize the First Sexual Diversity Week. In the past,  I had heard that two students had the intention of organizing an LGBT week, however, their intentions lack determination and never translated into actions. What I liked about Alonso Murillo (the Textile Design student that made me the invitation) was his determination. According to Alonso, the Head of the University, Father José Morales Orozco, supported the idea of having a Sexual Diversity Week, and institutional support had been granted. Thus, the agreement that Alonso and I reached was that he was going to be in charge of the cultural program and I would be responsible for the academic program, comprised of different Forums with specialists and LGBT advocates. At the end, the Week had seven Forums about the following topics: Diverse Families; Transgender testimonies; Bisexualities; LGBT youth; Lesbianism; Judaism, Christianism & Homosexuality; Transgenderism and pathologization.

Although the Ibero gave us permission to organize the Week, I was disappointed to witness the lack of dissemination that the project had among the student community. Maybe it was because of the publicity campaign, maybe it was because the Department of Institutional Communication did not promote the project, maybe it was because the Professors were not properly invited to participate. I personally invited some Professors to the Forums, and while some of them did take their groups to the Forums, some others were rude or apathetic. Talking with one Professor who was very much involved in the Week, she told me that machismo and double standards are still very pervasive among the Faculty of the University. It’s horrible to think that there still are Professors who teach about Human Rights and Social Justice and do not dare to speak about LGBT rights, but  it’s definitely a reality that we have to confront and change…

Inspite of the lack of dissemination that the Sexual Diversity Week had, I was proud to see that there were many things that the project started to move towards more positive directions: there were some LGBT students who became genuinly involved and who are interested in co-organizing future Sexual Diversity Weeks, there were some ex-alumni who heard about the project and participated (we had, for instance, the participation of a former transgender student from the Ibero), we had a good Facebook impact and, most importantly, the Sexual Diversity Week at the Ibero represented the first LGBT space in a catholic inspired Mexican University! There have been LGBT Forums in other public and private Universities in Mexico (such as the ITAM and the UNAM), but never in a Jesuit University! Thus, the challenge for LGBT students in other religious universities is to open more spaces and gain visibiltiy! I recently read that Notre Dame University, a prominent US Catholic University, will allow the existence of its first LGBT student group! Religious or not religious, a University has the responsibility of supporting a sexually diverse student community. It is very unfortunate to hear stories of closeted LGBT students at religious schools that live with fear, through lies and double lifes. At the Universidad Iberoamericana, my boyfriend and I are the first gay couple to openly hold hands, and that is not because there are no other gay students (there are plenty, belive me!), but because visibility and support are to yet be achieved…



Antón Castellanos Usigli with transgender activists who participated at the Sexual Diversity Week at the Ibero.

Antón Castellanos Usigli with transgender activists who participated at the Sexual Diversity Week at the Ibero.