Bellarmine extends Pride celebrations throughout the year

June 27, 2022

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Happy Pride Month!

For more than 50 years, the U.S. has celebrated Pride in June, recognizing the impact LGBTQIA+ individuals have had on society.

Bellarmine University, however, is typically quieter in summer months as many students are off campus, working, traveling or completing internships. Therefore, campus has traditionally celebrated Pride in October or January, when the community is more present to observe it.

This year, following a successful year of events, activities and awareness-building, BUKnighted, Bellarmine’s student LGBTQIA+ identity group, is planning to hold campus Pride celebrations in October.

The date naturally coalesced around larger events the group had planned and coincides with LGBT History Month, the national observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history and the history of the gay rights movement.

Lily Miller, a junior Psychology major and president of BUKnighted, said the month will culminate in a shadow-cast showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A shadow cast is an ensemble of artists who act out the movie as it’s playing. Lily said the audience is invited to dress up and participate in what promises to be an immersive experience Oct. 29 in Frazier Hall.

BUKnighted’s leadership also plans to attend the 30th annual Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 21-23. Past BUKnighted student leaders have attended the conference to connect and learn more about gender and sexuality.

They’re also working to recreate a successful fundraiser they held this past November. BUKnighted hosted a pop-up thrift store on campus, where students were invited to shop for donated items. The event raised nearly $900 for Louisville Youth Group, a nonprofit serving LGBTQIA+ youth in the region. Leftover clothing was placed in Louisville Youth Group's trans closet, a space where youth can access clothing that expresses their identity.

"I am so impressed by the welcoming community BUKnighted has created,” said Katie Kelty, director of Strategic Communications at Bellarmine and advisor for the group. “We talk a lot about hospitality on campus, about seeing the whole person and exercising compassion. BUKnighted is an excellent example of our values in action, and I could not be prouder of all that they have achieved."

Lily said BUKnighted now has over 80 members who form a supportive, inclusive community.

“We’re here to make a loving place for students to exist,” Lily said. “I’ve personally found a lot of happiness and solace in our group.”

Kelty was the keynote speaker at the spring Lavender Graduation, an annual ceremony that honors the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ students face while working toward their degrees as it also celebrates their contributions and achievements.

“The challenges we face as a nation and as members of the LGBTQIA+ community are great, but they are not large enough to hinder progress; they are not large enough to hinder you. Because you are a Bellarmine Knight…and you are ready,” Kelty shared in her remarks.

Nearly 20 students received a certificate and their cords and joined a network of proud LGBTQIA+ Bellarmine alumni who’ve made tremendous contributions to society.

For example, this June marks the 7th anniversary of alum Michael De Leon’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court’s equality decision. De Leon, a 2001 graduate, was legally married to his longtime partner, Greg Bourke in Ontario, Canada, in 2004. They were the named plaintiffs in the challenge to Kentucky’s ban on marriage equality (Bourke vs. Beshear) that was merged with Obergefell vs. Hodges at the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the marriage equality decision in June 2015.

Because of their fight for equality, they were named the 2015 Persons of the Year by the National Catholic Reporter. The two came to Bellarmine last fall for a special signing and reception for Bourke’s book, Gay, Catholic and American: My Legal Battle for Marriage Equality and Inclusion.

In 2020, Bellarmine earned four out of five stars in the Campus Pride Index, a national metric that rates the university’s support for the LGBTQIA+ community through policies and practices in student life, health, residence life, safety, academics, recruitment and retention. It was the highest rating given to any private liberal arts institution in Kentucky. 

Staff and faculty are also invited to participate in Gender and Sexuality Ally Training being offered this summer. Participants will review terminology, reflect upon challenges facing LGBTQIA+ students within higher education, and learn and brainstorm ways to create a more inclusive environment at Bellarmine.

Anderson Reeves, assistant director of Campus Ministry and co-chair of the Assisi Pride Network for faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQIA+, said he believes Bellarmine has made great progress in cultivating a campus climate that is welcoming for students and employees.

The Assisi Pride Network offers opportunities for LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff to connect socially and professionally on campus and in the community.

“I feel immensely proud to work at an institution, especially one with a religious affiliation, that creates space for queer students and professional colleagues to connect and create community with each other,” Reeves said.


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