Towards the end of a recent article on a Canadian’s campaign to end homophobic bullying, an interesting discussion takes place about how to bring an anti-bullying message to Catholic schools. You may recall that we reported on a controversy that has been brewing in Ontario, where state-funded Catholic schools are mandated to institute gay-straight alliances, but that church officials do not want to refer to these organizations by those terms.
The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association is devising a list of names other than “gay-straight alliance” which it will recommend to local school boards. Nancy Kirby, the Association president, comments on the naming controversy:
“Everyone is getting so caught up on the name of what the club should be that they’re getting away from what we’re trying to do and that’s to help protect our students, help support them.”
Ms. Kirby misses the point. By not using the word “gay” you are already not protecting children because the omission sends the message that there is something wrong with the word, and by extrapolation, the reality. Not to use it sends the message that this topic is shameful, dirty, secret.
In using the word “gay,” the schools would be acknowledging that the reality is something that can be discussed.
In another earlier post, we mentioned that the first step for parishes who want to welcome LGBT people is to use the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “transgender” in natural, normal, and affirming ways. To do so sends a message of acceptance.
How can there be protection and support of youth if the adults who supervise them are afraid to use words honestly and accurately?
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry