A Kentucky high school senior was recently forbidden to give his graduation speech at a Catholic high school, and his sexual and gender identity may have something to do with the decision to silence him.
According to the New York Times, Christian Bales, who is openly gay and also identifies as gender non-conforming, was chosen as the valedictorian for Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky. His valedictory speech was removed from the commencement program just days before graduation. The speech of student body president, Kathtrn Frantz, was also removed.
After the reading the speeches, the school sought guidance from the diocese about the content of the texts. The Diocese of Covington decided to ban the speeches because they were deemed to angry and confrontational. They also said that neither speech had been submitted “before the deadline,” though both students said they submitted the texts according to school procedures.
So, because they were not allowed to the ceremony, Bales delivered his speech outside the auditorium, using a bullhorn provided by his father, just moments after the graduation ceremony. Frantz wrote an op-ed in The River City News, explaining her confusion and dismay from the decision to ban the speeches. The paper also printed the text of her speech in its entirety. Bales’ speech can be read by clicking here.
WLWT-TV, Tim Fitzgerald, Director of Communications for the diocese, said in a statement that the speeches contained “elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church,” despite the fact that Bales’ speech mentioned faith in God several times, and even noted students’ participation in the March for Life. Principal Michael Holtz called the speeches “aggressive, angry, confrontational” and thus not appropriate for the ceremony.
Bales’ mother, Gillian Marksberry, also responded to the decision:
“Well, obviously, it’s gut wrenching, you know, just immediate sadness because, as a parent, when your child feels pain, you feel it as your own.”
The texts of both speeches seem to be quite consistent with a Catholic standard of ethics. In fact, Bales even credits this faith-based background for his class’s ability to stand up and use their voices, to fight alongside the marginalized. It’s quite ironic, then, that Bales was effectively silenced and has himself become a marginalized member of the church.
The redaction of his speech from the program is not officially linked to the fact that he is gay, but Bales had been told to conform to a certain standard of dress and gender presentation for graduation. Bales, who wore “high heels and a floral jumpsuit” to prom without any protest from the school, is comfortable in a flexible expression of his gender identity. But the diocese, however, made it a point to tell his parents that he had to dress a certain way for the ceremony: specifically “male,” with no makeup or other accessories.
“I honestly have no idea [if sexuality played a factor], because what I’ve been taught about the Catholic faith is that it’s about love and tolerance and acceptance of all people,” said Bales.
Regardless of whether or not his sexual orientation was part of the reason, the archdiocese seems unwilling to embrace students in their expression of gender and their views on poltical participation.This instance is another example of how some church officials repress the LGBTQ community by silencing them and demanding conformity..
Yet Bales wouldn’t have it, and made his voice known. Good for him! Good that both students resisted censorship!
Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, June 6, 2018