Graduation Gown for Transgender Student Becomes an Issue at Catholic H.S.

A Catholic high school in Albuquerque is insisting that a male transgender student wear a girl’s graduation robe at the school’s commencement ceremonies next week.

Damian Garcia

Damian Garcia

Damian Garcia transitioned last year and changed his name from Brandi Garcia, which is the name on his birth certificate.  KQRE-TV reports that St. Pius High School, which requires male graduates to wear black robes and female graduates to wear white robes, is insisting that Damian wear a white robe.  Damian stated:

“I just want to walk in my black robe, nice and proud and have that memory to look back on with my family and friends. I would rather not walk than to embarrass myself by wearing a female robe.”

The teachers and students at the school all refer to him as “Damian,” and his parents support his gender transition and wearing a black robe.

The television statement captured the remarks of Damian’s father, Luis Garcia:

“I look at him and I call him my son. That’s how he wishes to be acknowledged is as a male. . . All you want in life is to see your kids happy and healthy. You never want to see them suffer or being ridiculed or be made fun of.”

School officials say that if there is a question about which color robe to wear, they are guided by the information on a student’s birth certificate, and Damian’s birth certificate says “female.”

The school’s reasoning shows the problems that can occur when rules become more important than human beings and human reality.  For officials to say that they cede all of their ability to make a judicious decision based on the birth certificate, and not the human and social reality with which they are faced,  is ignorant and insensitive.

This situation highlights another important issue:  why are graduation robes “gendered” in the the first place?  Why must boys wear one color and girls another color?  A simple solution would be to eliminate the color distinction, since it serves no meaningful purpose anyway.

An important lesson to be learned from this story, too, is that parental love for a child can often lead the way for the rest of the church to learn how to love and accept transgender people and other sexual and gender minorities.   The love of Damian’s parents, expressed by his father, is awe-inspiring, and reminds us of the unconditional love that God has for each of us.  So often our Catholic faith reminds us that God loves each of us as a parent.  It would be well for the officials at this Catholic school to learn a lesson from Damian’s parents on how to love and accept and treasure each student.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

6 replies
  1. Babs
    Babs says:

    OMG, I grew up in Catholic Schools and we could Never Step Outside the BOX so as not to set a precedent.
    These are Trying Times for Everyone and the Church needs to deal with it. Who cares what color gown the child wears, we are charged to Bless the Peacemakers.

    In the Gospels in my Bible I believe Jesus stepped outside the Box on many occasions, who else are we supposed to follow? I live in the belief that Jesus lived in The Big Tent and the Church should as well.

  2. Terri Hemker
    Terri Hemker says:

    I think it would be so cool if his classmates, male and female, should purposely switch gowns on graduation day just before the ceremony (so as not to tip off the Powers That Be) in solidarity!

  3. Bill Welch
    Bill Welch says:

    Why the need for different color graduation robes to distinguish sexual identity is also a valid question.

  4. Tim
    Tim says:

    When we were graduating back in 1987 we had a student that didn’t pass final exams and he couldn’t be part of ceremonies. We were all together since kindergarten in our small town. We told the school board that if he couldn’t be part of graduation that we weren’t showing up. They included him. Though this maybe a different story its very similar. God bless her family for honoring him as who he is on the inside. May God help the school to make a correct decision.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Garcia and his supporters hoped St. Pius X High School would let him walk outfitted in graduation robes fitting his male gender during graduation this past week . However, Damian refused to participate in the ceremonies last […]

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