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 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