Fordham Student's Coming Out Sparked by Nun's Anti-Gay Lecture



Connor Griffin

A new column in OutSports reveals the silver lining in one nun’s homophobic remarks, as well as the contrasts that remain in Catholic education when it comes to LGBT issues.

In the column, Connor Griffin explained his coming out during as a high school junior. His personal process was sparked by a homophobic lecture, given by Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel at Charlotte Catholic High School, North Carolina.  Sr. Laurel’s talk, which you can read about here, relied upon pseudo-science and prejudice. It understandably drew strong protests from the school community; nearly 1,000 parents attended a town hall to discuss the incident. The nun is a member of the Nashville Dominicans, a community of traditionalist members.

For Griffin, the talk had a personal effect.  He said that it forced him “to realize things about myself I was not ready to accept.” Griffin’s attention drifted during the lecture, but when he listened, what he heard was cruel:

 “Being gay was completely a choice, she said, and no one was born that wayYou have decided to be a victim of your parents’ abandonment and that is the reason you have made the conscious decision to be gay.

Distressed, Griffin recalled thinking “Could I be gay?” and realized:

“Yes. Yes, I could. It was in that moment, sitting in that assembly listening to that speaker, that I realized my own truth. I quietly got up from my seat, not to draw any attention, and walked out of the gym. I felt a rush of emotions hit me as if the gym was suffocating me.

“I erupted in tears. What made me cry that day I still don’t know. Maybe it was the fact that I believed what this woman was saying, or maybe it could have been the fear that I had after finally realizing that I am gay.”

The following days were, in Griffin’s word, the toughest of his life as he came out to friends and family while “not yet ready to accept being gay.” Eventually, he wrote:

” It became so empowering to share my truth with people in my life. I felt I was caged for so long, and every time I told someone I felt as if I was breaking a link in the chain that was holding me down.”

Griffin, then on his high school’s swim team, decided to remain closeted to his team and even considered not swimming in college. But after visiting New York’s  Fordham University, Griffin found a campus – and a swim team – that not only welcomed him but respected and support him. He even cited a recent comment by University President, Fr. Joseph McShane, in the Outsports essay:

” ‘I make no apologies for…homophobia, nor indeed any kind of bigotry nor act that devalues another person or group.’ “

Charlotte Catholic High School officials–and indeed all Catholic school administrators–should take follow Fr. McShane’s lead.

Thankfully, Connor Griffin has now found a Catholic campus that welcomes him as a gay student and athlete. He is no longer subjected to homophobia sanctioned by administrators, but many students in Catholic high schools still suffer. It should be a baseline principle in Catholic education that every student at every school feel safe and respected concerning their sexual and/or gender identity. While there is now a silver lining to celebrate regarding Sr. Laurel’s anti-gay address, the reality is it should have never happened in the first place.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

12 replies
  1. Sister Fran Gorsuch
    Sister Fran Gorsuch says:

    Thanks for sharing this story of a young man’s pain and his courage. However, I wish you had noted that Sister Laurel is a Nashville Dominican, a traditional order of Dominicans. I know many other Dominican orders whose members would totally disavow Laurel’s remarks! I believe that on the whole Catholic Sisters have not only supported LGBTQ individuals but have been out spoken advocates of their full human dignity and rights.

      • Friends
        Friends says:

        And the good news here is that the Jesuit Priest-President of Fordham University — one of the premier Catholic universities in the country — completely outranks this bizarre rogue nun in terms of both hierarchical status and academic credentials. The real question is: HOW and WHY does she keep getting these gigs which allow her to harangue and intimidate vulnerable young students? Are school officials inviting her to speak without properly understanding where she’s coming from — or is she being invited in spite of local school administrators’ clear prior knowledge of what she’s likely to say to the students? If the latter is the case, those school officials are totally complicit in what amounts to child abuse, and a public hue and cry needs to be raised about her academic malpractice.

    • Loretta Fitzgerald
      Loretta Fitzgerald says:

      Sr. Fran, indeed, that’s what makes her comments even more outrageous because we know how justice-oriented and well educated the sisters are. Many of us owe a great deal to the sisters for our faith and advocacy for the oppressed. Thank you for your authentic witness.

    FRANTHONY says:

    In my opinion we are children of our Creator God and that is all we need to say. We make too much of the sexuality thing. Time to move on and get back to Christs commandment to Love.

  3. Loretta Fitzgerald
    Loretta Fitzgerald says:

    I was teaching at Bishop McGuinness H.S. when all this went down. You are right, the backlash from parents, alums and others startled the powers that be. I’m told that at the meeting that the parents demanded, which the Bishop did not attend, the Vicar of Education and the school’s chaplain apologized. This was considered a significant admission given the tenor of this diocese. When Edwina Gately was here at the Jesuit run parish in Charlotte, the incident came up from parishioners who were visibly outraged at the lack of sensitivity and the position of the diocese for gay and lesbian children (sadly, transgender, queer are not even on the radar here). It seems to me that the diocese is a tad more reticent on related issues since the incident. The caveat is that this sister’s other speaking engagements in other areas were cancelled.

  4. Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
    Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

    Man, does she need to be educated on science and theology. Fortunately, it is my belief that few nuns are as dense as this sister!

  5. Sarah A. Dolan, Ph.D
    Sarah A. Dolan, Ph.D says:

    Sad to see how ill-informed that nun is. if she were able to see the Psychological literature which over the
    years has stated that one’s sexuality is determined by the last gene that comes down before the child
    is born. That specific gene does not express it self in a gay person. The research is 98% conclusive on
    this point.
    Sarah A. Dolan, Ph.D.
    Clinical Psychologist

  6. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    God bless Connor and all who just want to live with veracity to their own being – as God created them. It appears this educator needs up-to-date education plus a reality check. I wonder how many LGBTQ people she really knows.


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