John Cabot University Celebrates Pride Month

Many young people celebrating colorful Pride events and parades around the world this year may be only vaguely aware of the blazing trail set in the decades following the Stonewall riots of 1969. Since then, individuals and groups have continued campaigning tirelessly for greater recognition and inclusion of minority communities. The LGBT+ acronym expanded to include Queer, Intersex and Asexual; the 1978 rainbow flag became even more diverse with brown and black stripes; and the recognized list of orientations and identities now extends not only to allies but to Polyamory and Two-Spirit Pride. Yet discrimination and harassment, reaching back through the decades and sometimes even resulting in death, continue to undermine the progress made since homosexuality in the United States was decriminalized in 2003.

JCU’s Office of Health and Wellbeing hosted two events in June 2022 to highlight themes that remain relevant more than 50 years after the first march, and to offer community members the opportunity to share their experiences and views.

Documentary Screening
The Netflix documentary A Secret Love (by C. Bolan, 2020) is a poignant story about  former baseball player Terry Donahue and her lesbian relationship with Pat Henschel, which she kept hidden from her family for seven decades. Relatives share their responses to the revelation, varying between a renewed sense of love and affection for Terry, to a feeling of betrayal for having kept her secret for so long. The documentary prompts us to reflect upon the changing legislation that allows non-heterosexual couples to officially recognize their relationship in marriage, and the shift in public opinion that might now enable those of diverse sexualities to express themselves without fear of rejection or abuse.

Queer Chat: Celebrating Pride Month
In the past, the University’s emphasis has been on equipping young people with knowledge to safeguard against contracting and spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sharing resources for victims of sexual assault. Over time, our focus has shifted to discussing respect in relationships, fostering a University-wide culture of consent, and expressing emotions and experiences in a way that not only positively touches those around us but that reaffirms our respective diverse identities. If the Netflix documentary highlighted any element of suffering among the LGBTQIA+ community, it was the necessity to hide. With our Queer Chat, students, staff, and faculty members had the freedom to talk about their frustrations and fears, but also triumphs, joys and hopes for the future. This was the first in what we trust will become an ongoing series of conversations, pinpointing areas in which the University can offer its community members greater resources, encouragement, and creative outlets.

Compared to countries where individuals and collectives still risk retribution for openly expressing so-called non-conformist sexual orientations, Italy might appear accepting and benevolent. It is true that for those who come from cultures or families where the expression of diverse sexual orientations and non-hetero-affirming practices are invariably met with punishment or rejection, Rome offers an increasingly respectful welcome. A parallel reality, however, is that many of our students come from backgrounds much more attuned to their individual needs, where the support of entire communities helps create dedicated spaces for safe expression and the productive sharing of ideas. Our own efforts to resist and hold to account all forms of discrimination, harassment, and bullying at JCU are ongoing, and will be most fruitful when the entire community collaborates to make the University a happier and healthier place in which to study, work and socialize.

For more information, read the JCU Discrimination and Harassment Policy.
To connect with the Queer Alliance: [email protected]
For mental health support: [email protected]
To learn more about JCU’s resources relating to your health and wellbeing: [email protected]

(Office of Health & Wellbeing)