Alumni, families, and students of a Catholic school in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, are demanding more support for LGBTQ+ students after the diocese imposed a set of anti-transgender policies.
Alumni of St. Thomas More Catholic High School (STM) formed an advocacy group called We Demand More and posted a letter on the school doors calling on the school and the diocese to “revisit the policy with Christlike compassion” out of grave concern for the health, safety, and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ students. The statement said, in part:
“The organization does not wish to challenge the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. We Demand More is not requesting education on LGBTQ+ identities beyond the church’s beliefs, nor do we wish to disrupt or distract the educational environment. Nevertheless, we implore the diocese to revisit the policy with Christlike compassion and love.
“A policy that condemns, silences, and shames students effectively isolates those that are different. By policing any potential safe, accepting spaces for these students, the policy has one clear message: LGBTQ+ students are not welcome.”
We Demand More published an impassioned video on TikTok, echoing the concerns in their letter and underpinning the grave realities facing LGBTQ+ youth.
The organizers warn that the policy will cause irreversible harm for students, who will no longer feel safe to be themselves. Drawing upon research from the Trevor Project, organizers highlighted that “45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide” and warn that the lack of safe spaces at STM and throughout the Diocese of Lafayette will only further harm students.
The alumni are not alone in their demands for fostering a more safe and inclusive policy. A parent group has also built a coalition against the discriminatory policy. The group, St. Thomas More Parents for All St. Thomas More Students, denounced the diocesan guidelines and encouraged We Demand More to expand their passion to the entire diocese. An article in The Acadiana Advocate, Lafayette’s local newspaper, reported:
“The parents group appealed through its statement to We Demand More to ‘redirect the obvious wealth of dedication, passion, compassion and resources’ found in the group ‘toward the goal of establishing a dialogue with Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel that will hopefully lead to the development of substantive and effective support structures for LGBTQIA+ students in all diocesan schools.'”
In an interview with The Acadiana Advocate, Thomas Luke, who is an openly gay 2016 alumnus of STM and organizer for We Demand More, shared that their goal is to not only change the policy but to establish a supportive presence for the LGBTQ+ community:
“We also wanted a social media presence. We wanted to show students that there is hope on the other side. All of our alumni made it through high school and are on the other side, happily and visibly queer, successfully leading our lives.”
Rooted in Jesus Christ’s radical love, tenderness, and mercy to all people, We Demand More speaks at the heart of Catholic values recognizing, as Pope Francis wrote in a letter to LGBT Catholics, that God “does not disown any of his children.” In this light, we applaud the efforts of We Demand More and stand united with their appeal to all Catholic schools to foster loving, inclusive, and safe spaces for all people.
—Bobby Nichols (he/him), New Ways Ministry, August 23, 2022