A Twitter thread recently emerged focusing on the harm done to LGBTQ church workers when toxic atmospheres regarding gender and sexuality exist at Catholic institutions. The conversation that has started is a call to action for Catholic campuses this spring.
The “Anonymous Professor” account on Twitter shared the story of an unnamed college professor teaching at a Catholic institution who was threatened by a student due to the professor’s LGBTQ identity. The professor shared in a series of tweets [Editor’s Note: language in the tweets may be offensive to some readers]:
“…A student just came into my office to complain about their grade from last semester. When I refused to just grant a higher mark, she dropped this:
“‘So you’re Catholic and gay? I mean, does the president and Dr. (Chair) know?’ . . .
“[Professor:] ‘Actually, that’s my private life, and it’s not their or your business.’
“‘But you are living in sin,’ she responded. ‘You can leave now, (name).'”
The student then used expletives to tell off the professor as a “sinner.” The professor said they reported the student’s conduct to administrators, and later received an apology from the student, who it seems was disciplined for threatening a teacher.
While the Catholic university appears to have handled this situation properly by disciplining the student for outrageous extortion, a deeper problem exists: this student felt enabled to exploit a gay employee at a Catholic institution because of the employee’s sexual identity. This situation may be due, in part, to the student’s own prejudices. But her use of religious language, “sinner,” also reflects lessons, implicit and explicit, that she learned about the Catholic Church and its treatment of LGBTQ people.
When it comes to employment issues, harmful doctrines that use dehumanizing language are matched with discriminatory practices. More than 100 LGBTQ-related employment disputes in which church workers lost their jobs have been made public in the last decade. Many church workers remain closeted and quiet about their identity and their relationships out of fears they could face similar discrimination. It is unfortunate that this overarching reality affects even institutions that may be inclusive (indeed, Catholic higher education is frequently a bright spot in the church for LGBTQ issues).
A new semester has begun on many Catholic campuses. The account posted by “Anonymous Professor” should motivate administrators at Catholic colleges and universities to not only respond appropriately when bias incidents occur, but to be proactive and public in making known their support for LGBTQ employees so such incidents do not occur. Possible actions could include adding LGBTQ-specific terminology to non-discrimination policies, sponsoring LGBTQ employee affinity groups, and hosting LGBTQ competency trainings. Whatever actions are taken, the end goal should be the same: no student (or staff member, alum, parent, etc.) should ever think blackmailing an LGBTQ teacher is acceptable, never mind possible.
Looking to help make your Catholic educational institution more LGBTQ inclusive? New Ways Ministry offers the “Creating a Spirit of Welcome” workshop that is designed to help participants develop LGBTQ initiatives that fit the unique character of your school community. Participants will acquire and understanding of relevant church teachings, formulate an action plan for their school, develop a framework and language for discussing LGBTQ issues, and more. For more information, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 13, 2019