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Letter: To the St. Thomas LGBT community

By , Jess Novak and Nick Kor  |  Wednesday, October 6, 2010 1:24 PM

To You:
We are writing this letter to tell you three simple things. We hope that you read carefully and can find it in yourselves to trust us. Know that we are being real; we know how you feel and know how difficult it can be.

You’re cared about.

We know, it sounds silly and super vague, but we’re being honest. You are cared about- right now, in this very moment. And we aren’t just speaking for ourselves. Of course we care about you, but so do many other people. Your dad, your brother or your sister, your pets and your baby cousins. Your peers. Your best friend. The advisers of your clubs. Your high school English teacher. Your RA. Your significant other. Your mom. The kids you babysit for. Maybe you know that all of these people care about you. Maybe you picked out one or two. But the point is that you matter and you are loved. Your very existence is powerful and means something. It means that right now you are exactly who you are meant to be.

You have somewhere to go and are supported.

There are places on this very campus. There is Allies. A club on campus that exists to support LGBTQA students; to give you a place to feel safe and accepted and at home. This is a place to express yourself, to be who you are, to become a family. We meet every single week in the same place, at the same time, Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in OEC 212. Maybe that’s not your thing, or it seems a bit overwhelming right now, like something you aren’t quite sure if you’re comfortable with. There is still a place for you and it’s called The Space. This is a place for students who identify as queer or questioning. It’s anonymous and confidential, a place that is unknown by anyone but the people who are in it . Please contact one of us for more information –  just send an e-mail. This is a place, or a space, to figure out who you are, where you can be surrounded by people who not only support you but understand you.
Seek out these places. They’re here just for you.

It gets better.

Maybe it seems like you have nowhere to go. Or maybe it feels like you’re stuck and completely isolated. Or maybe it feels like you just can’t handle everything you’re thinking and feeling.
But this is a process. A tough one. It takes strength, courage and other people. It takes seeking out those places and recognizing the love that exists. It takes knowing that you matter and that you are worth it. And knowing that you can do it.
And remember, it gets better. We promise.

Love,
Jess Novak & Nick Kor
Nova6191@stthomas.edu
nnkor@stthomas.edu

This item was posted in Letters From Readers, Opinions and has 28 comments so far.

28 Comments

  1. Kate Stattmiller
    Oct. 6, 2010 2:10 PM

    Thank you for doing this. It is very important to get the word out that even though this is a Catholic school and some in the Catholic community have been less than welcoming to the LGBTQA community, UST is welcoming to all people. UST also has many amazing LGBTQA staff, professors and students. Our world is a better place for our differences and eventually everyone else will catch up with that, including the policy makers.
    Often it is easy to feel alone, even on a big campus, and sometimes it is helpful to talk to someone who has an outsiders view and can help give you a different perspective on things.
    There are resources on the St. Paul campus for counseling or referrals to off campus counseling services in room 356 of Murray Herrick Student Center, and on the MPLS campus in the Life/Work Center, Suite 110, Terrance Murphy Hall. Appointments can be scheduled at 651-962-6780, and this number also takes crisis calls for individuals or those concerned about friends. MN also has a 24/7 crisis line staffed by paid staff and trained volunteers at 612-379-6363, or toll free at 1-866-379-6363. MN has lots of quality, free services for people needing help and support, no one is really alone, even when it feels like like you are.

  2. James Heaney
    Oct. 6, 2010 4:14 PM

    To those to whom this letter is directed: it’s all true.  You are loved — by your friends, your family, your community, and by Christ, who loves you so much he laid down his life for you.  Please remember that you are never truly alone, and that you are, indeed, “worth it.”  You were created for perfect happiness and eternal glory, and, though you walk in a vale of tears and trials, *no one* can *ever* take that away from you.

    To the letter-writers: thank you, Allies, for all you do to fulfill St. Thomas’s mission of loving the outcast and the unjustly persecuted.  Thank you for your diligent work to prevent tragedies — like the ones in Indiana, at Rutgers, and elsewhere — from happening here.

  3. Dick Houck, ’51
    Oct. 6, 2010 9:27 PM

    Thank you Mr. Heany for introducing Christ’s love into the list that Mr. Novak and Mr. Kor missed but should have included it at the top. Also missing is any mention of the Church’s approved professional Catholic support program for those of homosexual persuasion which I believe is called Courage. That is the program that Allies should be referring Catholics to and there probably is a similar program for non-catholics. I would think that there would be an active Courage program on the UST campus, and if not, there should be.

  4. Stefan Wolf
    Oct. 6, 2010 10:25 PM

    Thank you guys for writing this letter.  This is something that needed to be said on this campus.  To Mr. Houck: the Courage program you speak of treats homosexuality as a problem, a disorder that must be controlled.  In reality, homosexuality is a part of a person just as heterosexuality is.  It is not a disorder, it is not a problem.  It is part of God’s work.  It is not something to be “treated” and repressed.  

  5. James Heaney
    Oct. 7, 2010 1:21 AM

    Mr. Wolf, Mr. Houck: the conversation about homosexuality’s innate orderedness or disorderedness is an important one, and no one would dispute the fact that you are both skilled and intelligent conversants on the topic. We’ve talked about it before on TommieMedia, and I’m sure we will again.

    But today… Today we face a series of tragic suicides brought about by what can only be characterized as real, potent, and evil homophobia — irrational fear, loathing, and persecution of homosexuals. This is horrible, evil thing, and it reminds us that those who identify as homosexual need to have their humanity affirmed, protected, supported, and loved, right here, right now. That’s something everyone from John Paul II to the Human Rights Campaign can agree on. And, whatever its flaws may be, UST Allies is the organization on campus that is best suited to this task, and which has done the most to accomplish it.

    So, just for today, just for this moment, let’s put down the pitchforks, set our deep and legitimate concerns aside, and get behind Allies to proclaim something that is worth saying loud and strong:

    God loves gays.

    Please, let’s let this one thread be about that, and that alone. Thank you.

  6. Cory Gagne
    Oct. 7, 2010 7:10 AM

    Thank you both for writing this letter. I think it is so important on a campus like ours to reach out to those who may not always feel like they fit in. The national trends in our country lately have been startling, yet still seem to be swept under the rug. I was so glad to see someone acted upon them in a forum like this.

  7. Sarah Schmalenberger
    Oct. 7, 2010 8:26 AM

    Words cannot express how much I admire you, Jess and Nick, and all those whom you and others have supported in the challenge to be brave, optimistic, and authentic.    Dr. S

  8. Mark Furniss
    Oct. 7, 2010 9:04 AM

    Thanks guys for stepping up to the plate on this one.  After what’s been happening at other colleges I’m glad to know we have students willing to tackle these issues for our community.  Everything they said is true.  By the way, did anybody see Glee this week? They actually had an enlightening discussion about religion and homosexuality.

  9. Dick Houck, ’51
    Oct. 7, 2010 11:43 AM

    I’m sorry Mr. Heany. I missed the pitch fork in my message that you mentioned. I spoke of God’s love and a Catholic program that is designed to assist homosexuals. Which one of those do you term a pitch fork?

  10. James Heaney
    Oct. 7, 2010 12:17 PM

    Mr. Houck, I get the sense that we could have a long and (hopefully) productive conversation here.  Feel free to email me at jjheaney@stthomas.edu.  That way, we can talk privately, without moderators or a per-post character limit.

    At any rate, I intended no offense by my comment.

  11. Steven Broszko
    Oct. 7, 2010 12:41 PM

    Jess and Nick, it is so important (especially based on those tragic recent events) that you have opened yourselves up and created awareness for others who may be having feelings of alienation and loneliness. You have shown othere that there IS support, whether they are a religious person or not. And more importantly, you have shown them that they are not alone. Jess and Nick, thank you for continuing to be shining examples and positive influences on this campus.

  12. Stefan Wolf
    Oct. 7, 2010 12:41 PM

    James,
    Thanks for the comment. What you said is obviously at the heart of this issue, and was essentially what I was trying to get at…I echo all of your sentiments that here, now, we must be a supporting community and, as Jesus taught, love everyone, unconditionally. (No offense taken, by the way:))

  13. Michael Blissenbach
    Oct. 7, 2010 1:08 PM

    The Catholic bishops of Minnesota released a statement today on marriage, explaining why the Church feels that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. The link to the document is here: http://thecatholicspirit.com/faith/the-lesson-plan/minnesota-bishops-issue-brief-catechesis-on-marriage/
    However, there is a relevant excerpt to this article that I wish to share with you all here
    “Authentic human rights make powerful moral demands on us, so the appeal to human rights in order to legitimize same-sex relationships appears persuasive to many. All persons, regardless of sexual orientation, do have rights to common, basic relational needs, rights that correspond to the duties imposed on us by our nature and knowable by faith and reason. The strongest such duty is love itself, which is the call to give oneself freely to another, a gift of self that is by no means limited to sexual expression.

    Persons with same-sex attractions are our sisters and brothers, and their same-sex attraction does not define them as persons nor deprive them of their authentic human rights, including the most fundamental rights of all — the right to life and the right to love. Consequently, we oppose any discrimination against persons based on their having a same-sex attraction.”

  14. Michael Blissenbach
    Oct. 7, 2010 1:31 PM

    Pope Benedict XVI also stated in his inaugural homily that
    “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
    This includes people that experience same-sex attractions. Same-sex sexual acts, as the Church teaches, are morally wrong, and can never under any circumstances be approved. However, that doesn’t mean that people who are attracted to people of the same-sex are any less deserving of our love or respect, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same human dignity that is innate to the rest of us. I may be saddened or concerned about what someone is doing with their life, but that gives me no excuse to bully, harass, or harm that person. What happened to the student at Rutger’s and to people like Matthew Shepard, as well as what Westboro Baptist Church is doing is insidiously evil. While we are to hate the sin, we are also obligated to love the sinner, and I think we need to remember to do the latter as well as the former.

  15. Jesse Hughey
    Oct. 7, 2010 3:18 PM

    This letter was not written to raise awareness of any spiritual value of gays and lesbians converting to be straight by a courage retreat, it was merely written to show homage towards a group of people that are so pressured in our society that it leads them to kill themselves. I have yet to hear about someone that killed themselves because they identified as christian. This has less to do with religion and more to do with individuals and the love each of us needs to show for everyone in our communities.

  16. Jesse Hughey
    Oct. 7, 2010 3:23 PM

    In response to “Dick Houck, ‘51″, it is not the homosexuals that need the “assistance” but our culture and some in the Catholic church that need to better understand their brothers and sisters. I would like to propose that if things were reversed, heterosexuality being a sin, and there were a gay conversion camp. Would you, “Dick Houck, ‘51″ consider yourself to be “converted” to be something other than your current sexuality? It isn’t that easy, and therefore it isn’t a choice, and therefore it isn’t a problem.

  17. Michael Blissenbach
    Oct. 7, 2010 4:26 PM

    Mr. Hughey,
    I agree that violence, bullying, and otherwise causing harm to men and woman who experience same-sex attractions, and that we should seek to be loving and compassionate towards our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attractions. However, Courage advocates nothing along those lines. In fact, it helps people experiencing same-sex attractions who believe that giving in and acting upon those attractions is immoral lead chaste, celibate lives, and it’s a support network they can draw upon to help them succeed in that endeavour.
    Courage is not a “gay conversion” camp, but a support network for men who, of their own free will, are seeking to live chaste, celibate lives in accordance with what the Catholic Church teaches.
    A local priest involved with Courage talks a bit about it in this article from The Catholic Spirit
    http://archive.thecatholicspirit.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4065&Itemid=50
    They also have a website which can be found here:
    http://www.couragerc.net/

    If people believe that giving in to inclinations they struggle with is immoral, shouldn’t they have the right to seek out assistance to help them lead chaste lives in accordance with their religious beliefs? That’s all that Courage does, it’s not “conversion…

  18. Michael Blissenbach
    Oct. 7, 2010 4:28 PM

    My last post got cut off. Here’s the last part:

    If people believe that giving in to inclinations they struggle with is immoral, shouldn’t they have the right to seek out assistance to help them lead chaste lives in accordance with their religious beliefs? That’s all that Courage does, it’s not “conversion therapy”, it’s a support network for people struggling with same-sex attractions that are seeking to lead chaste, celibate lives in accordance with their religious beliefs.

  19. Jill Manske
    Oct. 7, 2010 5:07 PM

    Thank you for posting this letter, Jess and Nick. I want to join with the voices that say you are welcome here, at least in my classroom and in my spaces. I am not so naive as to think that my GLBT friends and family feel safe and welcome everywhere, but if we can all work to make our own small spaces safe places, we can start to make a difference. I encourage all of you to read Dr. Corrine Carvalho’s article in Many Voices, which you can find on the website of the Luann Dummer Center for Women. Thanks again.

  20. Mike Klein
    Oct. 7, 2010 8:04 PM

    Thanks for your message of hope – like a candle in the darkness.

  21. sarah Tate
    Oct. 7, 2010 9:23 PM

    what a beautiful letter. There should be more of these letters in the world.

  22. Veronica G. Ochoa
    Oct. 8, 2010 1:07 AM

    Do we have to wait for tragedy to embrace the GLBT?Using a forum like this use language like “chaste and immoral” to the GLBT community’s lifestyle not to mention using the term homosexual is so passe. The latter term was coined by the when the American Psychiatric Association published its first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1952 and homosexuality was included as a disorder. We choose in our lack of tolerance and or empathy to understand this community needs our support and be spoken of in a respectful manner.

    The GLBT community have been a persecuted minority for years. Hitler’s Joy Division,Stonewall or as recent as the hate crimes blighting our headlines should be a call to action! No more Matthew Shephards! No more hopelessness! Our modern tolerant consciousness should be enough for us to collectively say regardless of our personal beliefs or “Christian beliefs” to advocate for the accountability of persons or systems who continue to subjugate and persecute this community. No one has a right to declare someone immoral or debase a person based on their lifestyle just because some theological component tells justifies them to! What would Jesus do? He would be wearing a rainbow pin, working at Clare House and administering HIV tests at the…

  23. Corey Dahl
    Oct. 8, 2010 2:27 AM

    First, I would like to thank Jess and Nick for their sincere message of love and support.  I know they mean each and every word of it.

    Second, I would like to posit that this particular letter is not, in my mind, a forum for the discussion of morality of same-sex attraction or relationships.  This is a letter is a reminder that EVERYONE matters and deserves to be loved, no exceptions.  Period.  When we use terms such as “homosexuals” or “those with same-sex attractions” or “inclinations,” we can forget that we are talking about people.  People with flesh, blood, and loving hearts.  This letter raises issues of the inherent dignity and worthiness of every person.  That’s it, end of story.

  24. Brett Brakefield
    Oct. 9, 2010 10:51 PM

    I agree with Corey and as such would like to remind everyone that there are heterosexuals present within Allies as well. No matter the sexual orientation it is a wonderful group with some amazing people. 

  25. Jackie Wylie
    Oct. 10, 2010 8:46 PM

    Very well said Corey!

    I also wanted to say to Jess and Nick, it took a lot of courage for you to write this and put it in such a public forum, which just shows what big and beautiful hearts you both have, my love and respect to you both.

    Secondly, I would like to say that everything that was said in this letter is so true! Do not forget that there are many ALLIES on this campus, and you all matter to us!

    Just a reminder to everyone that reads this, we are all or have all struggled with something in our life. You don’t always know what kind of struggle or turmoil is going on inside of any given person that you meet, so be respectful, be compassionate, and simply just be KIND.

  26. Kaitlin Rattigan
    Oct. 12, 2010 5:29 PM

    This is what humanity looks like.

  27. Lisa Johnson
    Oct. 13, 2010 1:50 AM

    @ Kaitlin Rattigan:

    Whoa. 

  28. Lance Peterson
    Oct. 14, 2010 4:44 PM

    In response to comments, I just want to mention that I think all potential support groups for Gays and Lesbians should be mentioned, including “Courage”. As a social worker, I have encountered someone who self-identified as Lesbian, but desired to follow the tenets of her faith and live a celibate lifestyle. Unfortunately, I worked for a small agency and was unable to provide all the services she needed (e.g., medication for depression), but she refused to get services from other counselors and psychiatrists because she had always been encouraged to embrace a Lesbian lifestyle. I have to believe there are more people like her, and they need to be able to get support as well.

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