LGBTQ Center Holds Retreat
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014 03:02
The LGBTQ Resource Center held its inaugural retreat for 23 students at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains over President’s Day Weekend.
Due to high interest in the retreat, the center increased the number of participants from the original cutoff number of 18.
“As the community has grown, part of our hope in doing this retreat was to figure out where we are as a community because we don’t get to see ourselves as a community very often,” LGBTQ Resource Center Director Shiva Subbaraman said.
Although the Calcagnini Contemplative Center hosts other retreats including ESCAPE and ministry events, the retreat is the first LGBTQ event to use the space.
“I think we built on and extended that retreat culture by bringing something like this to the LGBTQ community to provide a space that really was safe to open up and talk about all of those different aspects of being a student and also [the] LGBTQ identity,” LGBTQ Resource Center Special Projects Coordinator Bridget Sherry said.
The retreat, endowed with a “journeys” theme, consisted of a series of student reflections on their origins, current states and future hopes. The retreat also included small group and large group contemplation with the goal of engaging those attending in reflection. The retreat highlighted how being a member of the LGBTQ community affects a person’s identity.
“You’re recognizing that the LGBTQ identity is just one aspect of a person, how they experience that is part of a holistic approach to self,” Sherry said.
The students said that the dialogue that took place throughout the retreat served as a bonding mechanism.
“My favorite part of the retreat was staying up, a good three hours after we were supposed to go to bed, just talking,” ESCAPE leader and LGBTQ retreat organizer Eric Nevalsky (SFS ’16) said. “We started talking to each other about our lives and our stories and it was a great way for us to bond and bring our friendship to a deeper level.”
Throughout the course of the retreat, students celebrated diversity and discussed similar experiences.
“The LBGTQ communities have many different facades on campus and that’s not something I expected,” Patrick Bylis (COL ’17) said. “I expected everyone to be involved in Pride and really vocal about it, but that’s not the case.”
Participants also discussed how they could improve the LGBTQ community at Georgetown and continue to expand the community.
“The phrase that came up often at the retreat was ‘widening the welcome mat,’” Nevalsky said. “Everyone said that we need to make sure that we are welcoming and that we respect people’s differences because everybody was at that point in the process at some point.”
In order to organize the event, students attended retreat-oriented focus groups in November.
“It takes a while to know the students, to know the community and for myself to see what the needs of the students are,” Subbaraman said.
Participants in the overnight retreat included students involved in the LGBTQ community, unaffiliated students and both closeted and openly gay students.
“I think it was surprising how open people were because it was a very short amount of time,” Bylis said. “Hearing about their triumphs and struggles in all of their lives inspired me to be open and inspired me to get a lot out of the retreat.”
Martin Hussey (SFS ’14) reflected on the changes he has seen during his time at Georgetown. Although the LGBTQ community has grown in recent years in support and size, Hussey questioned whether the development was from the larger Georgetown community or simply his social circle.
“I think it’s difficult for me to separate Georgetown maturing as a community and myself and my friends maturing,” Hussey said. “I think freshman year it was much less stigmatized to say something homophobic.”
Despite its Jesuit identity, Georgetown has since aligned with the sentiments of society and its subsequent perception of the LGBTQ community.
“I think that the changes that have happened at Georgetown [are] parallel to what has changed in the country too,” Subbaraman said.
In the future, Subbaraman hopes to provide an LGBTQ-specific retreat at least once a year. For the immediate future, Subbaraman and Sherry both hope to find a way to sustain the conversations and connections students made on the retreat.