Students should use the “preferred pronouns” of other students who are not female, according to an all-girls Catholic school in England, in yet another step forward for Catholic education and LGBT issues.
Sacred Heart High School in the borough of Hammersmith, London, sent a letter from headteacher Marian Doyle to parents about the new initiative, saying “as a Catholic school. . .[we] must promote greater wholeness for transgender individuals.”
Doyle said this effort was to follow the guidelines of the United Kingdom’s Equality Act 2010, and also to promote wholeness and eliminate discrimination. She explained:
“[U]sing the young person’s preferred pronoun and addressing them. . . with their preferred name, recognising their intent to live as the person they believe God created them to be, and refraining from any judgement.”
Doyle released a public statement defending her initial letter, having faced feedback from at least one parent, according to the Catholic Herald. The statement said, in part:
“Every child at our school is made in the image of God and is nurtured and supported to know who they are and how best to make use of their talents. We are proud of them all.
“Our community not only has a duty to uphold and maintain its charism but also to operate within the law, and as a Catholic school we must look to ensure we respond to different situations for young people, whatever they may be, with compassion, dignity and respect. In this, we seek the guidance of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels to support us in our response.”
Sacred Heart’s move to be more inclusive of trans students is the latest step to improve Catholic education when it comes to LGBT students. Earlier this year, the English bishops released an anti-bullying guide for Catholic schools, “Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic Schools.” In February, a school in Manchester, England began staff trainings on LGBT issues, though only after a student shot a trans classmate with a BB gun. Last year, a Catholic school in Kent, England apologized to a trans student for suspending the student because that student sought to wear a uniform and use the restroom which were consistent with the student’s gender.
Headteacher Doyle’s comments strike the core of why these forward steps are so necessary, namely the need for schools to recognize students as beloved children of God who are created by God to live authentically and to do so without the judgment of others. Helping foster students to live such a life, hopefully as mature and faithful Christians, is precisely why Catholic education’s mission differs from other schools in that Catholic schools strive for, not just intellectual growth but human formation. Using a person’s name and pronouns is an essential step along the way.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 5, 2017