Why Catholic High Schools Need LGBTQ+ Student Groups

Last month, a St. Louis, MO, Catholic high school, Nerinx Hall, made news when it turned down a student request to establish a gay-straight alliance (GSA). Questions arose about how Catholic high schools can best serve their LGBTQ+ students while retaining their Catholic identity. 

To aid Nerinx Hall and all other Catholic schools when deciding whether to start an LGBTQ+ student group, Bondings 2.0 has compiled data on the experiences of LGBTQ+ high school students and the proven impact LGBTQ+ student groups have on high school campus climates. 

Educational Consequences of Unsafe Environments

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network’s (GLSEN) 2015 National School Climate Survey Executive Summary spelled out the problems students face

op-story-lgbt-safety-300x250“A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. LGBTQ+ students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being.” Additionally, the GLSEN document said that unsafe school environments also lead students to drop out of school early, “42.5% of LGBTQ+ students who reported that they did not plan to finish high school, or were not sure if they would finish, indicated that they were considering dropping out because of the harassment they faced at school.” 

LGBTQ+ students who experienced discrimination were “more than three times as likely to have missed school in the past month, had lower GPAs than their peers, and had lower self-esteem and school belonging and higher levels of depression,” according to the GLSEN report. 

“We see that LGBT youth are being deprived of an equal education based on these hostile school climates,” Emily Greytak, GLSEN Research Director.

School climate directly impacts how well students learn and socialize. Heightened stressors like bullying, discrimination, victimization, and lacking a sense of community are proven to make LGBTQ+ students more likely to have negative educational and developmental outcomes. LGBTQ+ student groups provide a space for students to create a sense of community and support so they can better perform as students as they develop into adulthood. 

Do LGBTQ+ student groups work? The data says, “Yes!” 

According to a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, data from as early as 1998 shows that LGBTQ+ students attending schools with LGBTQ+ student groups “were less likely to report being victimized, skipping school because of fear of victimization, or attempting suicide.” The same report showed that LGBTQ+ student groups are “significantly protective” in decreasing suicidal ideation and attempts by LGB high school students. 

More recent data in GLSEN “Safe Space Kit” 2016 and GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey shows students who did have an LGBTQ+ student group were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation, experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation and gender expression, reported a greater number of supportive school staff and more accepting peers, were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault, felt more connected to their school community, and were less likely to miss school because of safety concerns than LGBTQ+ students in schools without an LGBTQ+ student group. 

LGBTQ+ student groups have even been found to benefit school climates on issues beyond sexuality and gender identity. According to the GLSEN “Teasing to Torment” 2015 document, even non-LGBTQ+ students in schools with LGBTQ+ student groups “experience less victimization based on race/ethnicity and based on appearance than students without a GSA” and reported “greater feelings of safety for the general student body.” 

Catholic Schools Need LGBTQ+ Student Groups

Some Catholic educators and administrators are worried that granting students an LGBTQ+ student group would negatively impact the Catholic identity of the school, but this fear is by no means an excuse to deny students what they need: an LGBTQ+ student group. 

rolingAccording to a GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, barring students from forming or promoting an LGBTQ+ student group clearly sends “the message that LGBT topics, and in some cases, even LGBTQ+ people, are not appropriate for extracurricular activities.” GLSEN claimed that by denying or hindering LGBTQ+ student groups, the school administration marks “official school activities distinctly as non-LGBT” and that such discrimination prevents “LGBTQ+ students from participating in the school community as fully and completely as other students.”

In Pope Francis’ directive for Catholic education, listed on the Catholic education web page of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he calls us to care for the needs of all students, which, of course, means LGBTQ+ students, too: 

“Our generation will show that it can rise to the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space. This means that we have to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be.” 

Catholic school administrators and educators cannot ignore the needs of LGBTQ+ students as they raise themselves to the promise found in their own selves. Denying them the space to grow and heal does not rise to their promise, it denies that their promise exists. 

So, paraphrasing Pope Francis, Catholic school administrators should ask themselves: “Can we rise to the promise found in your LGBTQ+ students and guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be?” 

Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, March 28, 2017


Would you like to start an LGBTQ+ student group at your school? The GSA Network has resources available here. GLSEN also has resources on how to start an LGBTQ+ student group and general resources for LGBTQ+ student groups

Come to New Ways Ministry’s symposium this April for our focus session “Youth, Young Adult Ministry, and LGBT Questions.” Find more information on our symposium website.

Youth, Young Adult Ministry, and LGBT Questions

During Schools Week, Celebrating LGBTQ+ Studies in Catholic Higher Ed

This week is National Catholic Schools Week, a time for Catholic schools across the United States to celebrate their identity, gifts, and service. The week often includes special Masses at the schools as well as open houses and other events for students, parents, and community members who are looking to learn about Catholic education.

To celebrate the week, New Ways Ministry contacted select Catholic campuses to encourage their campus ministry offices to include their support for LGBTQ+ students in their National Catholic Schools Week celebrations. While our readers might remember our Bondings 2.0 posts about the negative experiences of LGBTQ+ students in Catholic education, we invite you to celebrate with us the steps some Catholics schools have taken to include care for LGBTQ+ students in their school identity.

As part of New Ways Ministry’s celebration of  Catholic education, we have compiled a brief list of courses on LGBTQ+ topics available at several Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S..

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Common course topics across campuses include introductory classes to LGBTQ+ issues academically referred to as “queer theory,” a perspective on interpreting and critiquing culture through the eyes of LGBTQ+ people. Many schools also have courses on the intersection of LGBTQ+ studies with other academic departments and fields (e.g., ethnic studies, literature, theology, history, drama, communications, psychology, sociology).

Some of the more unique courses are listed below  with links to other related courses and the school’s LGBTQ+ student resources.

All of the listed universities offer the courses through their respective Women’s and Gender Studies major/minor programs, except for DePaul University which has a dedicated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Studies minor. All the colleges listed are Jesuit institutions, except for DePaul, which is run by the Vincentians, and the University of San Diego, a private Roman Catholic university. 

If you know of other Catholic colleges offering courses on LGBTQ+ topic, please share the information with us either by making a “Comment” on this post OR by contacting New Ways Ministry’ college outreach coordinator at glen@NewWaysMinistry.org.

depaul-university_416x416DePaul University

(Chicago, Illinois)

Queer Writers Of Color

Movements For Gender And Trans Justice

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

Fairfield University20070906_fu_logo_186_k_vert_03

(Fairfield, Connecticut)

The Battle over Family Values in American Politics

Sociology of Gender and Sexuality

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

fordham_university_text_only_logoFordham University

(New York City, New York)

Bible and Human Sexuality

Love and Sex in Early Modern Literature

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

Georgetown Universitygeorgetown_university_logo_04

(Washington, DC)

Sexual Politics in the Arab World

Violence/Gender/Human Rights

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

Gonzaga University1280px-gonzaga_university_logo-svg

(Spokane, Washington)

Philosophy of Sex & Gender

Gender and Pop Culture

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

university-logos-product-thumbnail1Loyola Marymount University

(Los Angeles, California)

Christian Marriage and Sexuality

Sex and the City of God

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

Loyola University Chicagoprimary_3color

(Chicago, Illinois)

Theology Capstone: Queer Theology

History of Sexuality

Complete Course List (click summer, fall, or spring semester links)

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

1280px-marquette_university-svgMarquette University

(Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Gender, Sexuality, Literature

Human Sexuality

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

Santa Clara Universityscu

(Santa Clara, California)

Gender and Sexuality in East Asia

Catholic Theology and Human Sexuality

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

1015px-seattle_university_seal-svgSeattle University

(Seattle, Washington)

Topics in Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Gender Roles and Sexuality

Complete Course List

 

University of San Diegojane-marquardt-university-of-san-diego-college-of-law-logo

(San Diego, California)

LGBTQ in Business & Economics

Sexual Ethics in the Catholic Tradition

Complete Course List

LGBTQ+ Student Resources

 

–Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, February 1, 2017

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Beyond One Day

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Around the world, participants in the Transgender Day of Remembrance are attending vigils to commemorate all the transgender and gender-nonconforming people lost to anti-transgender violence in the past year. These vigils will include reading the 87 names of those know to have died this past year, along with the where, when and how they were killed. To find a vigil near you, click here.

As described in a previous Bondings 2.0 post, the Transgender Awareness Week (November 14th-20th) began with a National Catholic Reporter article by Catholic theologians who described our church’s moral imperative to, “promote wholeness for transgender people.” While today’s vigils bring the Transgender Awareness Week to an end, our work to end anti-transgender violence cannot end. These vigils serve to remind us of that moral imperative.

We can all take small incremental steps throughout the year to educate ourselves on the realities of transgender people. Below is a list of actions that New Ways Ministry suggests parishes, schools, and other Catholic communities take to raise awareness of and to support transgender people.  

Following this list is a list of  links to help you continue learning about transgender issues. Click the link to read the material or view the video.

New Ways Ministry’s Suggestions for Including Transgender People and Families in Your Catholic Parish, School, or Community

  1. Have a specific meeting to watch videos and read some of the resources listed below.
  2. If you have a book club, include some of the books on transgender experiences.
  3. Speak about needs, concerns, joys of transgender people in homilies, prayers, group sharing, talks, bulletins.
  4. Be visibly supportive of transgender people in work, prayer, and social environments.
  5. Develop a transgender-friendly resource library; subscribe to transgender-friendly periodicals.
  6. Recognize and/or participate in public transgender events.
  7. Invite support groups for transgender people to use church/community space.
  8. Hold an inclusive Mass celebrating all forms of diversity.
  9. Sponsor a retreat or day of recollection for transgender people and their families.
  10. Include transgender topics in adult religious education and youth ministry programs.
  11. Put an ad in the local LGBTQ paper inviting transgender people to your parish events and liturgies.
  12. Sponsor a panel inviting transgender people to speak about their faith.
  13. Form support groups for transgender people and for their parents, families, and friends
  14. Become involved and/or educate parish around pro/anti-transgender initiatives in legislation.
  15. Work with neighboring parishes to sponsor education days on transgender topics.
  16. Include transgender organizations in potential parish stewardship opportunities as both donors and recipients.
  17. Have your faith community host New Ways Ministry’s “TransForming Love” workshop, which introduces transgender issues from scientific, social, and religious perspectives. Email info@newwaysministry.org for more information.
  18. Provide an all-gender restroom.
  19. Respect a person’s pronoun preference.
  20. Email info@newwaysministry.org for more information on transgender issues.

Online Resources 

What Does the T in LGBT Really Mean?

The Genderbread Person

Trans Teens Tell Their Stories

Trans Identity and Mental Illness

Challenges and Prejudices Faced by the Trans Community

The Human Rights Campaign’s post on Addressing Anti-transgender Violence: Exploring Realities, Challenges, and Solutions For Policymakers and Community Advocates

Learn about six notable “Transgender Heroes.”

Becoming Who God Created Me To Be, by Jes Stevens—Queer Catholic (from Believe Out Loud’s 10 Transgender Christians Share Their Journey Stories)

How To Be A Trans* Ally

CatholicTrans blog

What Does the Bible Say About Gender Identity?

Videos

Transgender & Catholic

DignityUSA’s A message for Roman Catholic bishops from a Transgender Catholic

Is Your Youth Group Trans Friendly?

What Are God’s Pronouns?

How You Can Be an Ally to Trans People and Others

What Is the Gender Binary?

Gender is Complicated: Growing Up Intersex

Laverne Cox on Issues facing the Transgender Community

Jazz Jennings’ 10 Things You Need To Know About Transgender People

A few TED talks on Transgender stories

Beyond the Gender Binary | Dr. Margaret Nichols | TEDxJerseyCity

Books

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves

The Gender Book

 

For Students, Parents, and Schools:

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS A Guide for Trans and Gender Nonconforming Students

How to Be An Ally To Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Students

Connect with Transgender Student Rights (TSR), a community of youth dedicated to creating safe spaces for transgender and gender nonconforming students

Watch the Educators! Support Trans and GNC Students! webinar.

Watch the Gender Identity and Expression in the Classroom: The Experiences of Gender Nonconforming and Transgender Students in School webinar.

Bondings 2.0 Posts on Catholic Transgender Resources

A Catholic Introduction to Transgender Issues

How the Gender Binary Affects So Much of Catholic Thinking

DignityUSA Highlights Transgender Spirituality in Essay Series

Transgender Awareness Week: Promote Wholeness for All in Our Church

(For all previous Bondings 2.0 posts on transgender issues, go to “Transgender” in the “Categories” section of the right-hand column of this blog or click here.)

–Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, November 20, 2016

Don’t Forget! Spirit Day is THIS Thursday, October 20, 2016!

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, October 18, 2016spiritdayatcatholicschool_facebook

What is Spirit Day?

It is an annual national event reminding schools to confront anti-LGBT bullying and bias. Click here for more info from GLAAD.

When is it? 

THIS Thursday, October 20, 2016.

What happens? What can I do?

Wear as many purple clothes as you can on Thursday, October 20th. The display of purple will show that you are against anti-LGBT discrimination and you support your LGBT students, faculty, and staff. Wearing purple will show you want to have a safe and inclusive school! 

What if I am a student and have a dress code or uniform?

If you can’t wear a purple shirt or skirt/pants/dress, your school might allow you to wear a purple sweater, a ribbon pinned to your shirt, or a bracelet that is made of anything purple (ribbon, yarn, etc.). If you are comfortable, you could ask your parents for advice. Or, you can usually find your school’s dress code online if you Google your school’s name and “dress code” or “uniform.” If your school allows a non-uniform sweater and/or jewelry, wear them in purple!

What about social media? What should I post?

Spread the word! Share this page with your friends and teachers.

Use #SpiritDayAtCatholicSchools, @NewWaysMinistry and @GLAAD on all your social media posts and photos to join our new hashtag campaign. It will help you find fellow LGBT and ally students, faculty, and staff at Catholic schools while helping them find you!

Share our social media banner (download here).

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banner

Post our social media image (download here). 

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image

 

Follow @NewWaysMinistry on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Use GLAAD’s app (iPhone & Andriod) to make your profile pictures purple.

Important!

We know we’ve said this a lot, but don’t forget to use #SpiritDayAtCatholicSchools for all your Spirit Day photos! This hashtag is new and making it go viral can bring attention to the work needed at Catholic schools. You can join this new social media trend!

Want to find out more? Need help explaining Spirit Day to others or to your school? Wondering about the Catholic school context?

Download and print this resource from New Ways Ministry explaining Spirit Day from a Catholic perspective! (PDF download available here).

Click here for our original post calling Catholics to participate in Spirit Day 2016.

Spirit Day 2016: Catholics Should Go Purple!

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, October 8, 2016

New Ways Ministry encourages all of our readers to join us in participating in this year’s Spirit Day on Thursday, October 20th, 2016.

Spirit Day is an international event organized by GLAAD to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bullying and bias in schools. The first Spirit Day was in 2010, when 1.6 million Facebook users in 2010, according to ABC, joined GLAAD by integrating purple into their social media posts.

According to GLAAD, LGBT students experience high rates of bullying from both their peers and their school teachers and staff. In most cases, when bullying was reported the school staff did not intervene. The following  GLAAD visuals show specific statistics from this year’s Spirit Day Resource Kit.

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Our Catholic Context

In an America magazine post days before the 2012 Spirit Day, Fr. James Martin, SJ, encouraged all Catholics, regardless of their views on LGBT equality, to take heed of Spirit Day. He told readers:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that gays and lesbians should be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ and that ‘every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ … For Catholics overall it is an opportunity to demonstrate their ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’ for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and thus heed the call of the Catechism.”

A New Ways Ministry Campaign

New Ways Ministry has published a brochure (see below) for Catholic schools, colleges, and universities explaining Spirit Day, why Catholic schools need to participate, and connecting the mission of Spirit to the call from the Catechism. We hope that Catholic educational institutions will use this resource to both better understand the problem their LGBT students face and to take action on Spirit Day and beyond.

Click here to download a PDF of the brochure.

Participate Now!

Pledge to go purple for #SpiritDay
Wear purple on Thursday, October 20, 2016.
Join #SpiritDay on Facebook
Join New Ways Ministry’s new hashtag campaign: #LGBTmercy
Use these too:
#SpiritDayAtCatholicSchool, #SpiritDay, #SpiritDay2016, @NewWaysMinistry, @GLAAD
Tweet to your school about #SpiritDay
Tweet the pope! @Pontifex
Check out the #SpiritDay Resource Kit
Learn how to stop anti-LGBT bullying with GLAAD’s kit for students and the kit for parents and educators.
Sign up to be a #SpiritDay partner
Download the #SpiritDay App
Spread the Word
On Spirit Day, use GLAAD’s  pre-made print-outs, available here or below.

 

Community Rallies to Support Fr. Warren Hall

By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, September 25, 2016

Catholics and other members of the Hoboken, New Jersey, community gathered to support Fr. Warren Hall, a gay Catholic priest who was recently suspended from ministry by Newark Archbishop John Myers.

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A local clergywoman speaking at the rally

According to NJ.com, parishioners, LGBT community members and other locals gathered in a rally organized by Hoboken Pride and Jersey City Pride to show their support for Fr. Hall. The rally took place at Stevens Park in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In 2015, Hall was assigned by Myers to be a parochial vicar at both St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Weehawken, New Jersey, and Saints Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken, after he was dismissed from his position as the Director of Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University for supporting the NOH8 campaign. One reporter said that the suspension from priestly ministry came after Hall openly supported unofficial LGBT events at the World Youth Day last July, as well as PFLAG New Jersey, Gays Against Guns and New Ways Ministry.

Hall also publicly supported counselor and coach Kate Drumgoole, who was fired from Paramus Catholic High School for being in a same-gender marriage. As New Ways Ministry reported earlier, Paramus Catholic’s alumni organized and signed an open letter condemning the school’s decision and showing support for Drumgoole. After receiving the letter, the school announced that two top administrators have been suspended.  

Hall spoke at the rally thanking the organizers and attendees while reinforcing his stance against Paramus High School’s dismissal of Drumgoole. NJ.com quoted him:  

It seems to me she was fired because of her sexuality… We don’t see schools letting people go because they’re divorced and remarried or living with someone

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Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride

Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride, also spoke at the rally saying:

Change is here, it can happen, it has happened, it will happen… Let’s pray for the archbishop. Father Warren, you’re work has just begun in a whole new chapter of your life.

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Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride

Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride noted:

We the people have a god-given right to stand up for what we know is right… This archbishop is vastly out of touch with what is going on in the world.

Joyce Flinn, a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul and a supporter of Hall, spoke about Archbishop Myers’ decision, telling a reporter, “This is a terrible outrage… I appeal to this archbishop to retire.”

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Fr. Hall being interviewed at the rally

Hall explained in a video interview (see below) from NJ.com that while he understood the rationale behind Myers decision, which was reported as being based on breaking the vow of obedience, Hall insisted that he never actually spoke against the church or church teaching.

In the video, Hall explained:

I think by being involved with the groups I was involved with, who are viewed by the archbishop and some church leadership as being opposed to Catholic teaching, I think in that regard they believe i am being disobedient because in a letter or notice that the archbishop sent out last year, you know, he made clear that groups that have positions opposite of the Catholic Church, we should not be involved with.

Hall clarified:

However, my belief in that is that my involvement with those groups were for positive reasons: PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay Children. I went to those groups to talk about how God loved their children and that we should welcome their children. And so I think I see why I’m accused of being disobedient. But I don’t believe it’s disobedience because the message that I brought to those groups, in every case, was not anti-catholic.

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Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco

According to NJ.com, Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco, a gay man and parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Church, read Mary Oliver’s poem, “Sunrise.”

You can die for it —

an idea,

or the world. People

have done so,

brilliantly,

letting

their small bodies be bound to the stake,

creating

an unforgettable fury

of light.

DeFusco concluded with his own words, saying, “Thank you, Father Hall.”

While instances of retaliation against LGBT workers in Catholic organizations and LGBT-supportive priests continue, the support of communities to those discriminated against is truly encouraging. When Catholics gather together in support of their LGBT and LGBT-positive family, we find new life in our faith. For those who support Fr. Warren Hall or other dismissed church workers, being at a rally or signing a petition is an authentic way to live their faith.

Rev. James Martin, SJ, to Receive Bridge Building Award at Ceremony

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As New Ways Ministry announced in a prior post, Rev. James Martin, SJ, will receive our Bridge Building Award in recognition of his work to bridge LGBT people and the Catholic Church.

Event Description

After introductions and receiving the award, Rev. Martin, SJ, will offer a reflection. The event will conclude with an hors d’oeuvre reception. Click the blue links below for more information.

Register for the Event (Details and Lodging Info)

Honor Rev. James Martin, SJ, and have your name listed in the program

Date, Time, Location:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

1726 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, Maryland 21208 (near Baltimore)


For more information, call 301-277-5674 or email info@newwaysministry.org.