Coming Out at an All-Boys Catholic High School–And Getting a Standing Ovation

“Announcing yourself to the world is pretty terrifying,” said Finn Stannard, a gay Australian Catholic high school student, adding that it’s nerve-racking to think, “What if the world doesn’t like you?”

Finn Stannard delivering his coming out speech at school.

Stannard,  then a 17-year-old student at St. Ignatius College, an all-male Jesuit Catholic high school in Sydney, was giving a speech to 1,500 of his classmates, and in it announced that he was gay. In what could have been a moment of rejection, Stannard was instead greeted with a standing ovation from

students and staff, and the school community has since responded positively. (You can read his entire speech by clicking here.)

The announcement from Stannard occurred in the wake of Australia’s “yes” vote on marriage equality, a landmark decision – which two notable alumni from the school, former prime minister Tony Abbott and his former deputy Barnaby Joyce, opposed.

Yet, despite opposition from alumni in Australia’s public sphere, the school’s administration’s opinion on LGBTQ issues is quite different, according to principal Dr. Paul Hyne:

“I don’t think that anyone chooses their eyes, or their hair color, or how tall they are – I’m not sure anyone chooses their sexuality, that’s who they are. And therefore, we need to be open to that, and to accept it, and to make sure that we live in communities of inclusion.”

Finn Stannard, right, with his boyfriend Tom Moiso, at a school formal event.

While a supportive school community is essential for an LGBTQ-identifying student to feel comfortable and welcome, so is a supportive society as a whole. Stannard cited the “yes” vote in the plebiscite on marriage equality as a significant boost of confidence that helped him come out fully and publicly. He told SBS News:

“When the results of the plebiscite came out, that’s when I knew that I could do the speech and it would be alright in the end.”

When national governments make decisions that affirm the identities of LGBTQ people, it allows the greater public, including those in religious settings, to be more comfortable in their own skin. Immediate affirmation of Stannard’s sexuality by the entire school community is a sign of how some Catholic schools are changing.

While coming out may not seem very significant, it is. LGBT students and faculty at Catholic schools experience discrimination, oppression, and pressure to be invisible.  For an institution to model simple inclusion instead of raising a moral uproar over someone’s sexuality is a sure sign of progress — especially in a country that had recently experienced a contentious marriage equality debate. . May other Catholic schools follow suit, and embrace the difference of sexuality in community members with love and welcome.

Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, January 18, 2019

 

 

 

2 replies
  1. Barbara Karamon
    Barbara Karamon says:

    Both of my children went to all boy/girl Catholic high schools in Michigan. Just the other day we were having lunch with a former teacher at my son’s school. We attempted to address this issue and I asked the teacher, how is Catholic Central handling the issue of gay students. Since he had left the faculty, he really didn’t know. We touched on whether actively gay people are guilty of breaking God’s law. No resolution was even apparent. But, this article tells me that it IS being addressed around the world, and that is encouraging. How many gay men/women have suffered all their lives, some even committing suicide due to never being accepted. I am 82, a cradle Catholic, and learning every day. I don’t understand homosexuality, probably because I have always been ‘straight’, and because gays were addressed as perverts and to be repulsed. But, I do want to continue trying and improving my knowledge. I’ve been a homophobe most of my life and that needs changing. I’m still not there, however and need to pray and work much harder at being compassionate and in Jesus’ words ……. love unconditionally.

    Reply
  2. James McCrea
    James McCrea says:

    This is a partial redemption to the behavior of the young punks from Covington (KY) Catholic High School who harassed the people at Indigenous People’s Day in Washington, all dutifully wearing MAGA gear. So much for the value of a Catholic education!

    Reply

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