First Queer Student Retreat Welcomes LGBTQ Community

A number of students from the Class of 2021 kicked off their time on The Hilltop by attending the first ever Queer Student Retreat at Camp Buckner in Burnet, Texas.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion along with the Equity and Justice Council helped organize the retreat, or Queer Camp, for a group of 16 students that partook in various team building exercises and trainings Sept. 8 and 9. The weekend venture allowed the EJC to complete activities missed due to the university’s closure during Anchors.

Freshman Marcus Kearns said the camp connected him with upperclassmen and students from other Living Learning Communities, allowing him to build a bigger support system and become integrated with campus.

“I really loved being able to sit in a big circle and get to know these people that I had never met before but still had these common connections with,” Kearns said.

Greater outreach to the community has been in the works since an LGBTQ coordinator was introduced to the EJC, formerly the Multicultural Leadership Board, in 2015.

Still, some associate the Catholic Church with homophobia since the sacrament of marriage is only between a man and a woman, among other reasons.

“I definitely had people that didn’t even want me to go to St. Edward’s because they knew it was a Catholic University,” Kearns said. “They were like, ‘how do you know you’re gonna be safe there? How do you know you’re gonna be treated well there?’ So I had a lot of expectations riding on this trip.”

Executive Director of EJC Melina Bravo aimed to alleviate that concern through the retreat.

“Even though we go to a university that is affiliated with the Catholic Church, we are essentially part of the Holy Cross tradition. That speaks volumes more than anything,” Bravo said. “So, we wanted to make it aware, if they had not known yet, that this is a welcoming environment and we want everyone to feel like they can be open here.”

Bravo also recruited student leaders from various parts of campus such as campus ministry or peer health educators to assist in the retreat.

“We just wanted to get a really diverse group of students and diverse group of ideas and involvement so that our underclassmen can see there’s not just one path that you can find your way, there’s different outlets for different people,” Bravo said.

Kearns might join the ranks of those students someday, as he plans to help organize Queer Camp in later years. Kearns said, “I really hope to be part of the organization next year and actually get to do for other students what the queer retreat did for me.”