Catholic School in England Appoints Transgender Teacher to Lead Inclusion Efforts

George White, front, with students in 2020

A Catholic school in England is taking steps to be LGBTQ+ inclusive by allowing an openly transgender teacher to work at the school.

George White, a former student at St. Paul’s Catholic School, Leicester, interviewed for a teaching job at his childhood academy. At the time, White, a trans man, was transitioning and had faced a negative employment experience. He told Schools Week some of his story:

“‘So, one day I was Miss White, then I was Mr White, then I was Miss White again,’ he says with frank openness. ‘But that was fine, because I knew I was going back.’

“White was moving partly because of an experience at a previous school, which he doesn’t wish to name, where two pupils had come out as transgender.

“‘The headteacher wrote this really accepting letter,’ smiles White. ‘But then there was a load of backlash from parents and from Catholic media. And I realised if I was going to stay, then that transition was going to be public.'”

White, who is now the inclusion and a religious educator teacher at the school as well as LGBTQ+ Catholic advocate in other arenas, wished that there was more transparency throughout the process of his transition:

“‘If that was me now, I’d have wanted to be more open at the time. There was some tricky behavior [from pupils], with questions like “are you a man or a woman?” I wasn’t sure what I was able to say.'”

White noted that it is still unclear whether or not teachers can discuss their gender and sexuality in the classroom. According to a publication by the Catholic Education Service, teachers “should not discuss their own sexual orientation” within the school environment. That publication, Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic schools, has been applauded for its pro-gay approach. But, White commented:

“‘Transphobia is one of the obvious omissions from there, I think because it was released five years ago, and the Church was at a point where it didn’t know what to say.’

“‘I presume what they’re trying to say is you don’t have to talk about it, it’s your private life. But there is that element of fear and it doesn’t necessarily allow for honesty.'”

In terms of secular procedures, schools are currently waiting for the U.K.’s Department for Education to provide strategies on addressing gender issues in the classroom. Until then, schools are navigating student and staff transitions on their own.

Even without proper guidelines, St. Paul’s Catholic School is taking steps to better support transgender staff and students by reducing school bullying. If an offensive comment is made about the trans community, involved students must stay after school to talk with the chaplain. If they make another comment, they will be suspended.

St. Paul’s commitment to LGBTQ+ allyship is extremely admirable. The fact that they are allowing a transgender teacher to teach at the school, while also enforcing disciplinary action for transphobic behavior, shows progression and acceptance within Catholic spaces. If nothing else, it shows that Catholics schools don’t have to be transphobic, and that, in fact, they can create real inclusivity in education. And George White is to be applauded for proudly leading the way.

Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, October 26, 2022

6 replies
  1. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    Wow, looking at the faces of these kids.. . how blessed they are to have him as their teacher. As a mom of a trans daughter, it is heartwarming to know they have him to go to with any identity struggles they may have, a safe place for them to go to.

    Reply
  2. Hilary
    Hilary says:

    I do think that transgender issues, and LGBTQI+ matters generally are much less divisive here in the UK than in the States. I’ve just read that the majority of Church of England clergy are OK with the idea of single-sex marriages.

    Reply
    • Carolyn
      Carolyn says:

      That is 100% correct. Here in the US, it depends on what city/diocese you live in whether you’ll find a welcoming LGBTQ+ pastor/church or a horrific one like Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki who actually performed a church wide exorcism towards our LGBTQ brothers & sisters! Deplorable acts.

      Reply

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