Transgender Student Decides to Skip Graduation After Discrimination

May 26, 2013

Damian Garcia protesting outside his high school

Damian Garcia and his supporters hoped St. Pius X High School would let him walk outfitted in graduation robes fitting his male gender during graduation this past week . However, Damian refused to participate in the ceremonies last Wednesday because school administrators insisted that the transgender student wear white female robes.

KOB News out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, reported on Damian’s absence from graduation, noting comments from the boy’s father that Damian chose to hang out with friends rather than participate and cause a scene. The station also captured student reactions, which were supportive of transgender rights as Catholics:

“Amid the tremendous joy of their achievement, some students are a little disappointed in their alma mater.

“‘It’s a little ridiculous that they wouldn’t let him chose what he wanted to wear,’ said graduate Nolan Wain Wright.

“‘We pride ourselves in being a Catholic community and we don’t let him walk because of that, so it’s very sad,’ said graduate Erick Hernandez.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, St. Pius X alum & “Modern Family” star

Another voice support Damian was a famous alum of St. Pius X, the star of ABC’s Modern Family Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The Advocate notes Ferguson helped the cause of transgender students, and quotes from the actor’s Facebook profile:

“‘I am writing to ask you to do the right thing and let all your students graduate with dignity…Do not force someone to identify them self as someone they are not! It is as ridiculous as having a priest conduct mass in a nuns habit! Gender identification goes way beyond a check mark on a birth certificate…I know St. Pius X has changed a lot since I graduated in ’94. I['m] proud of the changes and strides you have made but this is not a time to hold to a rule book. Continue to grow and accept ALL of your students.’

“As a gay former high school student in a Catholic school, Ferguson can relate to 18-year-old Damien Garcia’s victimization…

“Out actor and Modern Family star Ferguson may have taken the issue to a much higher level, bringing attention to the frequent and persistent harassment and discrimination to which transgender youth are subjected.”

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center is holding a graduation for Garcia on May 30th. While this is a wonderful offer by the University, transgender students should not have to agitate in Catholic schools for equal treatment and respect; honoring their dignity should be assumed.

New Ways Ministry congratulates Damian on graduating and sends our blessing for his future endeavors.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Media Award to “Modern Family”

May 12, 2012

Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) awarded its highest television honor this year to Modern Family, an ABC comedy which includes a gay couple with an adopted baby as part of its regular cast.   According to the organization’s website:

“This remains far and away the best prime-time sitcom: crisp and farcical, but very kind. This fast-paced mockumentary perfectly captures the experience of parenthood.”

In describing the depiction of the  gay couple, Mitchell and Cameron, and their adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily, the CIMA site states:

“They’re learning all the parenting ropes as they go. Fortunately, they have the loving support of their extended, eclectic, ever-funny family.”

CIMA’s description of itself on its website is:

“Catholics in Media Associates was formed by working professionals in the entertainment industry whose initial purpose was to share personal concerns of faith and spirituality as it is experienced in the workplace.

“From that early beginning came the CIMA Awards, recognizing those projects and people in the entertainment industry who, by their work, have made clearer the Word of God. These awards were created to promote and applaud films, television programs and other entertainment forms that uplift the spirit and help us better understand what it is to be part of the human family.”

Their awards to television and film are sometimes referred to as the “Catholic Emmys” and “Catholic Oscars.”

Presenting the award to Modern Family certainly raised a few eyebrows in the media world, but certainly in a positive direction.  The award went a long way to help dispel the enduring myth that Catholics don’t support marriage equality.  Some responses from news accounts about the award tell the story:

Yahoo.com News:

” ‘Modern Family’ might not be the most obvious choice to be showered with accolades by a religious organization, but the ABC comedy was honored by the Catholics in Media Associates over the weekend anyway.”

LezGetReal.com:

“There are those on both sides of the LGBT debate who love to push this false decision between religion and sexual identity. There are, of course, those in between who want to make it clear that you do not have to choose between religion and being gay. Catholics in Media Associates honored the show ‘Modern Family’ this past weekend.”

The Hollywood Reporter:

“Referred to as the ‘Catholic Oscar,’ though in this case it would be the ‘Catholic Emmy,’ the Catholics in Media Associates has given ABC’s Modern Family its 2012 television award.

“That may come as a shock for some as the series has come under fire from conservative groups for its representation of alternative lifestyles with Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitch’s (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) gay marriage.”

The Human Rights Campaign:

“The 11-time Emmy winning Modern Family can add another accolade to its list: the Television Award from Catholics in Media Associates.

“Conservative groups have targeted the ABC comedy for featuring a loving and committed gay family, or even for acknowledging that gay people exist.

“However, this award from a leading Catholic body sends a strong message that ‘family values’ can incorporate all kinds of families, including LGBT ones.”

Congratulations not only to Modern Family, but to CIMA for their wise choice!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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