Pro-Queer Life: Youth Suicide Crisis, Catholic Education, and the Souls of LGBTQ People

Union Theological Seminary
Event:  Saturday, October 1, 2011, 10:00am-7:30pm

As a response to the suffering of LGBTQ people under homophobia, “Pro-Queer Life: Youth Suicide Crisis, Catholic Education, and the Souls of LGBTQ People” will call upon the Catholic Church, as a significant provider of education and producer of culture, to seek the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.  The Church should be a source of liberation and a contributor to the flourishing of LGBTQ people within and outside of Catholicism.  One important way in which the Church ought to, and in some settings does, contribute positively to queer life is by actively working towards the best practices of LGBTQ student empowerment and sexual diversity inclusion in school settings. This one-day conference will focus on high school and collegiate education curricula, administrative practices, student groups, and the fostering of a pro-queer life student/educational culture.

In describing the “Pro-Queer Life” conference, Kelby Harrison, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Social Ethics, (Sexual and LGBTQ Ethics) at the Union Theological Seminary stated:


In the United States, the Catholic Church is the number one provider of private education. The cultural and personal influence that it maintains over its students — intellectually, spiritually, and morally — is profound. The recent wave of teenage and young adult suicides by those who are, or who are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is only new in its large-scale media coverage. The bullying and mistreatment of students based on perceived sexual orientation or gender expression, and the negative messaging all students receive about sexual diversity have been too long with us.  All young people deserve empowering educations to know their full value as human beings.

Educational institutions must take responsibility for protecting against the culture and attitudes that contribute to LGBTQ suicide. The “Pro-Queer Life” conference will focus attention on where Catholic educational institutions are getting it right, where they need to be better, and where their complicity in the wounding of young LGBTQ persons is unacceptable.



Conference Schedule:

10:00 – 10:30 AM registration, coffee and bagels

All Day  “Do This in Memory of Me”  (Reflection, Memorial, and Prayer) video, prayer space, and chaplain resource. Lampman Chapel, Union.

10:30 – 11:50 AM  “Lord, I Am Not Worthy to Receive You” (Academic Panel Discussion on the current state of queer theology and the Catholic Church)

Confirmed speakers

    • Patrick Cheng, Assistant Professor of Historic and Systematic Theology, Episcopal Divinity School
    • Fred Roden, Associate Professor of English, University of Connecticut
    • Winnie Varghese, Episcopal priest and former Chaplain, Columbia University

12:00 – 12:45 PM  “CatholiQ Mass,” James Chapel  (Inclusive Worship Service)

12:45 – 2:15 PM  Lunchtime Keynote
Robert Goss, queer theologian and author of Jesus ACTED UP: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto
Refectory, Union

2:30 – 3:20 PM
“Lord, Hear Our Prayer”: GLSEN Talks to teenagers
“And I Shall Be Healed”:  Brendan Fay talks to administrators

3:30 – 4:20 PM
“Lord, Hear Our Prayer”: Brendan Fey talks to teenagers
“And I Shall Be Healed”: GLSEN talks to administrators

4:30 – 5:00 PM “Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord”
Conference Community Workshop, lead by the voices of LGBTQA teens in Catholic education

5:00 – 8:00 PM Headliner Keynote (Doors Open at 5:00 p.m., Keynote begins at 6:00 p.m.)
Dan Savage, sex advice columnist and founder of the “It gets better” Campaign



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