Unveiling a mirror: Malvern celebrates LGBTQIA+ History Month

For the first time in the school’s 179 year history, students are exposed to and have the ability to learn about an ever-present community.


By Noah Buscaglia

Matt Hess, Editor-in-Chief

During a Malvern open house, Head of School Father Donald Reilly faced a belligerent prospective parent that was astounded at the promotion of LGBTQIA+ History Month. 

“Malvern isn’t for everybody,” Reilly responded. 

Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ms. Danielle Suber believes recognizing the history month was a much needed addition at Malvern. 

“I felt like LGBTQ+ issues and concerns had not been properly addressed at Malvern, and it was an opportunity for us to really continue to educate our students,” Suber said. 

Over the summer, there was a national spotlight on Malvern alumnus Carl Nassib ‘11 after he came out, making him the only active openly gay player in the National Football Leage (NFL). 

“When Carl Nassib came out, it was almost as if it was a confirmation of what we were supposed to do,” Suber said. “We say ‘Friar brotherhood’ around here a lot, so it’s important that we actually live by that.”

Dr. James Fry, Director of Student Life and Marine Biology Instructor, notes the importance of the new tradition.

“Statistics would support that there is 10% of our community that identifies as LGBTQ+, so it’s more detrimental to those students not being able to see themselves in what’s happening in the community,” Fry said. “It’s time to allow those students to be able to be comfortable with who they are.”

Additionally, nourishing a safe environment for all types of students is integral for productive learning.

“It is a fact that the safer students feel on campus the better they learn,” Reilly said. “There are members of our community who feel unsafe because of their identity. If a student feels unsafe, he is consciously or unconsciously vigilant for the words and actions that may be harmful. This vigilance distracts from the process of listening and learning. Every Malvern student should have the assurance that he can safely focus his full attention to his studies regardless of how he self-identifies.”

Suber organized three events to promote continued education and exposure. The first was a movie night featuring The Saint of 9/11

“It’s about Mychal Judge, who was the New York Fire Department Chaplain, but he was an openly gay father,” Suber said. “He was very open about his sexuality and his struggles. He actually reminds me a lot of St. Augustine as he was talking about his struggles.”

According to Suber, there is a push to canonize Mychal Judge.

“If that were to happen, he would be, to my knowledge, the first openly gay saint,” she said. 

Suber used the tried and true Malvern motivator for the second event, food. 

“We had cake pops courtesy of a local baker, which were in all the colors of the LGBTQ+ flag,” she said. “You could grab a cake pop and learn a little bit more and enjoy that as a free treat.”

For the third and final event, Suber hosted a bingo game.

“We had a themed bingo with the rainbow representations. We talked about what each color means, but we really just played bingo and enjoyed ourselves. There were some prizes to LGBTQ friendly places like Apple and Dunkin and a few others.”

With the help of some faculty members, a group of students created a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club. It allows students to express their true identity with complete safety and confidentiality.

“Under the large umbrella of [diversity, equity, and inclusion], there are other affinity group organizations where the students can come together and be in a space where they see themselves in other people,” Fry said. “I thought it was appropriate that we could do the same thing [at Malvern] with a GSA.”

Photo R. Colameco

A member of the GSA club, whose name will remain anonymous, values and appreciates the club’s existence. 

“Being involved in the GSA has been an amazing experience. I am grateful to finally have active support and representation on campus for a group that has been nearly silent for far too long,” Anonymous said. 

To celebrate the history month, the members of the GSA club created a gallery in Duffy. It featured a timeline of recognizable historical figures who were, and are, an instrumental part of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about some people on the wall that may have surprised you,” Suber said. “It starts with Alexander the Great all the way to [Lady Gaga].”

Reilly understood the impact that the gallery created. 

The exhibit in the Gallery signaled to the community that members of the LGBTQIA+ are among our number,” he said. “The student project also intended to expand the circle of safety for everyone in our community.”

Originally, the timeline ended with American rapper Lil Nas X. In a music video for a recent single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, there were promiscuous scenes with him and a devil-like figure. Reilly received copious backlash directed at the artist’s existence in the gallery. 

“One part of the exhibit was removed, a video that was deemed misaligned with the purpose of the project,” Reilly said. “While a valid point was made by the video, the means to that end overshadowed that point.”

An educational slideshow for the history month played on the television in Duffy and the main floor CSI. The anonymous student believes that the gallery is an important space on campus and provides many advantages. 

“Bringing the LGBTQ+ History Month Gallery to the Duffy Arts Center and to screens across the entire school is a huge step in building awareness, understanding, and empathy,” Anonymous said. “Not only is it educational, it’s just fun.”

As an arguably controversial space on campus, the gallery has garnered an array of reactions. Reilly was confident that people would see its worth.

Photo R. Colameco

“I realize the exhibit would be controversial,” he said. “Faculty guidance and support gave the students who planned and executed the exhibit the freedom to express their feelings and concerns through the project. I hoped the endeavor would heighten our awareness that while we are a community, we are different from one another and this difference is a source of strength and knowledge of how God is among us.”

On October first, the Gallery was unveiled during a faculty breakfast. 

“I heard from a lot of faculty that were so excited during the day of the unveiling,” Fry said. “I had one faculty member ask if they could bring their class into the gallery to have a conversation or Q&A in a small group format.”

Having to suppress their identity for four years, many Malvern alumni are ecstatic about the strides being made at Malvern. 

“There are many alumni that I have been in contact with that are blown away that [Malvern] is taking this step. It’s been very much a positive response from alumni that are so happy that Malvern is creating this space.”

One weekend, Fry was at Malvern for the middle school musical auditions. One of the mothers of a daughter auditioning saw the gallery.

“She told me how she started to cry because she was so happy that her daughter could see herself in the gallery space that was there,” he said.

As an issue that has long been controversial in the Catholic Church, some people wonder how incorporating these celebrations fits with Malvern’s Catholic mission.

“Nowhere in the Bible does it say ‘love your straight neighbor,’” Fry said. “I feel like we should be able to allow everyone to be who they are, and not talking about it is more contradictory to what our mission is all about.”

Suber also faced some curious reactions about the history month aligning with the Malvern mission.

“It falls into our mission because, in the Catholic faith, we are [commanded] to love everyone,” she said. “As a Catholic school, this is an opportunity for us to show that we all love one another and care about the lives of all people.”

Photo R. Colameco

On a broader scale, Reilly notes that accepting the LGTBQIA+ community is mission consistent. 

“What would St. Augustine say about the exhibit?  Again and again, St. Augustine expresses the need for self-knowing in order to know God,” Reilly said. 

Suber will continue to celebrate LGBTQIA+ History Month next year and hopes to see enduring change.

“Your brother is still your brother no matter how they identify sexually, and we are compelled to treat them as such,” she said.

The anonymous student wants Malvern to continue to grow as an LGBTQIA+ friendly environment. 

“I think the school has made significant progress, especially this year, in its recognition of LGBTQ+ history and presence on campus, but we have a long way to go. I would love to see even more progress when I come back to visit after I graduate.”