Alumnae Protest Catholic School’s Censorship of LGBTQ Book Reviews

Alumnae of Ursuline Academy in Cincinnati have responded in protest to the Catholic school’s censorship of LGBTQ book reviews in the student newspaper. Over 1,000 graduates signed a petition in support of the newspaper after all copies of the issue containing the reviews were pulled by school officials.

Natalie Sayre, a student writer for the paper, had published a piece entitled “LGBT+ Book Master List,” intended for the reader “tired of the traditional storyline and heterosexual relationship” books.

A photo of the offending article. See link to the article in the text at left.

In the article, Sayre offered short reviews of a number of books featuring LGBTQ relationships, including:

        • “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan
        • “Of Fire and Stars” by Audrey Coulthurst
        • “Autoboyography” by Christina Lauren
        • “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
        • “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell
        • “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee

The administration of the all girls’ school removed all copies of the newspaper featuring the book list and issued a statement saying that the article had “stirred confusion and even questions about what Ursuline’s mission and values represent.”

Editors for the paper say school administrators told them the article was problematic because it was “overtly sexual.” As an example, the administrators pointed to Sayre’s use of the phrase “friends to lovers” when talking about the changing relationship between two characters.

As the censorship became a story in local media, a group of alumnae launched a petition in support of Sayre’s article and the paper’s independence. The petition says, in part:

“For student voices to be censored in such a way is wrong. It is against Ursuline’s stated mission of nurturing a young woman’s soul, intellect, heart and imagination. It is a statement that a young woman’s ideas can be silenced, at any time, by others who don’t value what she has​ ​to say.”

It goes on to say:

“For LGBTQ+ students currently attending the school to be made to feel unloved or dismissed is heartbreaking. It is also against Ursuline’s stated mission.

“The Ursuline we know celebrates the diversity of its student body, comprised of students of different backgrounds, faiths, and beliefs. It promotes Catholic values, such as a deep love and respect for all beings of God’s creation, for community and dignity among all humankind.”

In her article, Sayre laments that only two of her book selections focus on lesbian couples, “because there really aren’t that many [books featuring lesbian relationships] out there.” She then encourages the reader, “Maybe you can write some!”

Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, May 1, 2019

1 reply
  1. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    I love these stories because they show so clearly what a profound shift there has been in the culture and that you can’t silence, not Catholic youth, not girl Catholic youth. The conundrum for the administration is not some silly phrase–from “friends to lovers”–but the fact the reality that youth in lots of places in the world read LGBTQ literature. The admin simply hasn’t caught up. In fact, in Japan, there’s a long tradition of straight girls reading about boys having romantic relationships (and sometimes sex) and there is a steady stream of material to meet this demand. So it would be somewhat difficult for the administration to argue that such literature causes confusion around the types of relationships the Church sanctions, which we all know is limited to one narrow range.

    I personally related to the young writer’s opening remark, that many of us are tired of heterosexual tropes in heterosexual story lines, and I can tell you that millennials often discuss which kind of romantic/sexual interaction would they pick to watch or read about–straight, lesbian, or gay–and quite a few place male-female sex at the bottom of the list for various reasons (one being that it is often constructed from a male POV–a POV implicitly and explicitly upheld by the Church).

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