Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 featured the story of a Catholic school that denied re-enrollment to transgender student. Today, there are two more stories of how Catholic schools are failing to provide for their LGBTQ students.
Catholic School Threatens to Expel Trans Students
Antonian College Preparatory High School, San Antonio, TX, has adopted a new policy which threatens to expel transgender students.
On Instagram, alum Gabi Antuna shared a screenshot from the 2021-2022 student handbook about the gender policy. The policy says students will be treated according to their “biological sex” when it comes to names, pronouns, restrooms, athletics, etc. The policy continues:
“If a student’s expression of gender, sexual identity, or sexuality should cause confusion or disruption at the school, or if it should mislead others, cause scandal, or have the potential for causing scandal, then the matter will first be discussed with the student and his/her parents. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of Antonian, whose primary goal is to always uphold Catholic truths and principles, then the student may be dismissed from the school, after the parents are first given the opportunity to withdraw the student from the school.”
The policy also states that students “may not advocate, celebrate or express same-sex attraction.”
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Antuna told MySA about why she chose to speak out:
“I remember what it was like to attend these faith-based institutions as an LGBTQIA+ member without these policies. I remember the constant harassment, inappropriate comments, and harmful teachings that I encountered. LGBTQIA+ students were outed to their parents by faculty when found holding hands in the halls and we constantly were taught that our identity was a ‘sin’. These schools were always openly homophobic and transphobic, but it was never written in policy until now.”
Antuna stressed the importance of protecting students’ mental health because “environments like this can be deeply detrimental at a crucial juncture of self discovery.” She believes schools can balance faith and inclusivity and pointed to another school’s support of a transgender student as an example.
Atuna has received both support and backlash. Some agree that the policy is harmful while others claim a religious institution has the right to uphold its beliefs. Atuna created a survey to gather signatures and feedback from students across the region to send to the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
A spokesperson for the archdiocese, Jordan Mcmorrough, told MySA that the social media conversation is not an accurate portrayal of the policy. The full version, which applies to all the diocesan schools, provides a section “prohibiting bullying based on a student’s perceived sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, in accordance with its commitment to providing a safe learning environment for all.” The segments shared by Atuna, however, are also part of the policy.
Grace Kemmy, another former Antonian student, said, “I hope and pray that leaders in the community realize the dangerous effects this has on so many students.” She believes Catholic teaching means to stand for the marginalized “as Jesus chose to do over and over yet the Archdiocese has decided to make a point to do the opposite.”
Catholic School Refuses to Use Students’ Proper Pronouns
St. Francis High School, Wheaton, IL has reversed its policy of addressing students by their proper pronouns, explaining to parents that the school is conforming to a diocesan policy.
After students had received a ‘get-to-know-you’ handout asking their preferred pronouns, the school followed up with an email to parents expressing its adherence to the Diocese of Joliet policy on gender identity. The email message stated:
“The diocesan school will interact with students according to their biological sex as based upon physical differences at birth. A member of the diocesan school community who wishes to express a gender other than his or her biological sex is understood as operating outside the ‘reality deeply inscribed’ within.”
Regan Kasprak, a parent, told ABC 7 Chicago that “The wording in their policy was really alarming to me.”
Jupiter Beck, a senior who has asked to be called by he/them pronouns, told ABC7, “It’s really upsetting as a student to have the most powerful people in the school ignore who I am.”
Junior Daniel O’Connell said, “I don’t have a problem with someone wanting to be called a different pronoun if that’s what they feel like.”
“I think we should just love them and respect their opinion of what they want for their own body,” said another junior, Carter Riggs.
McKenzie Missil, a former student, is helping to organize a protest, and has started an online petition. It states:
“As an alumni of this high school, I wish that students would be accepted, welcomed, and respected for how they identify and for who they are. This email is disgusting and more importantly, greatly transphobic. This type of behavior is not only concerning for the future of the school, but more importantly concerning for the students. I personally fear for the safety and well-being of Saint Francis students, as many who attend are typically white, cisgender, conservative, straight people who may harm and halter the education and safety of those who identify differently. Students should not be alienated by the school for being true to who they are and for being brave enough to come out. It is unacceptable and the school must take accountability for the email sent out.
“To any student reading this: You are loved. You are supported. You are not alone.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Joliet said in a statement, “The question of preferred pronouns does not conform with Catholic Social Teaching.”
What the spokesperson is wrong about is that Catholic Social Teaching does not explicitly state anything about the use of pronouns. It does, however, call us to recognize the life and dignity of all persons. It also promotes solidarity, which calls us to stand together as one human family despite differences and promote peace.
The courage of LGBTQ+ students, alumni, and their allies show us exactly what it means to stand for the marginalized despite their schools’ efforts in silencing them. They are examples of Catholic Social Teaching in practice because they recognize the dignity of those being pushed to the margins.
—Elise Dubravec, New Ways Ministry, September 1, 2021