Article Reveals Mixed Response to LGBTQ+ Issues in Sacramento’s Catholic Schools

Queer alumni of Catholic schools throughout the Sacramento, California area recently described varying experiences about how administrators and teachers handled sexual education, according to the Sacramento News & Review. The article profiled three high schools, each of which approached sex ed and LGBTQ+ inclusion in a different way.

St. Francis High School

Queer students at St. Francis described a variety of struggles for young people questioning their gender or sexuality. Ryan Baker, a bisexual trans male, described how the school’s sex-ed curriculum made him feel unsupported:

“‘The thing that they’re harping on the most, the thing that they’re trying to drill in our education is “don’t be a slut” [and] “don’t be gay.”‘”

He recalls his sex ed class focusing on what is not permitted under current Catholic teaching about sexuality, rather than on student safety. As a trans man who attended the school, which serves students assigned female at birth, Baker also described the struggles of disclosing that he attended St. Francis:

“‘Me saying I went to St. Francis like immediately outs me. It’s my choice to disclose that I went to an all-girls school, but some guys that have transitioned have to work super hard to make sure that people don’t know, not because of their own shame, but because of repercussions from the public or their community or their work.'”

Baker described a culture of strictly enforced gender roles, including students not being allowed in the school yearbook for refusing to wear clothing which did not make them feel comfortable. He underscored that queer people are an important part of the St. Francis community, but are not highlighted or empowered in the same way:

“‘I think, culturally, at the high school when I was there, the most beloved and most admired students were gay or trans. The difference is that we couldn’t be recorded in our school’s history, let alone receive awards, unless we were in the closet.'”

Christian Brothers High School

Michael Mucheru, an alum of Christian Brothers High School, described his experiences as a gay student there. While no sex ed pertaining to queer students was provided, Mucheru was a part of the school’s LGBTQ+ students club. Initially called “Dignity Club” or “Diversity Club,” the club eventually was re-titled as “Pride Club.” But Seth Scott, a genderfluid alum, said that when parents and some administrators opposed the club:

“‘[The school said] “OK, we’re gonna allow this but it still needs to be under the wraps.” It was more so parents wouldn’t fear this, see this, freak out and attack the school.'”

In addition, the student population was not always affirming of queer students. Scott described how they were treated when promoting the Pride Club at student events:

“‘The jocks on campus, the sports guys, they would be huddled towards the front of my table and scope out anyone who’s watching to deter anyone from signing up.'”

Jesuit High School

Jesuit High is an all-male school as well. Given the relative openness with which Jesuit leaders have engaged with queer people in the past several years, it is no surprise that the school is home to an All Love Alliance club which welcomes queer and ally students. According to the school’s website, the club:

“[Serves] to promote an understanding and acceptance of each individual student at Jesuit High as a unique person created in the image of God, an acceptance which includes an open dialogue about being gay, bisexual, trans, or questioning at Jesuit.”

While no queer alums of Jesuit were profiled within the Bee article, alum Iain Murphy described the sex ed program as a non-comprehensive process which emphasized abstinence:

“[Murphy] said his sexual education curriculum mostly consisted of missing band class to go see the school nurse one day, watch a video and answer a questionnaire to prove he was paying attention…He said he could not recall if there was LGBTQIA+ representation in the curriculum.”

These vignettes reveal both the positive steps Catholic schools are taking, like forming LGBTQ+ clubs, while making clear there is still much improvement needed, including for sex education that is comprehensive of sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 5, 2022

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