Addressing LGBT Issues With Youth: A Resource for Educators is an 11-page PDF booklet which provides “strategies for assuring that our institutions and ministries promote understanding, respect and acceptance for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation,” according to the LGBT Initiative page of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative website. The Collaborative describes itself as:
“a joint initiative of the Marianist Lay Network of North America, the Society of Mary (brothers and priests) and the Marianist Sisters. . . . It is a network that provides mutual support, resources, leadership for peace and justice, and links to other peace and justice groups.”
The document stresses the importance of creating safe space for LGBT students and provides a number of suggestions for educators can become “caring and supportive adults who will talk with them and guide them.”
The need for such a resource is described in the booklet’s first section:
“LGBT youth need reassurance from people who represent their faith if they are to integrate their self-understanding into their faith commitment. Catholic teaching often is misrepresented or misunderstood, which can cause turmoil for those who may conclude that God doesn’t love them. . . .
“While bullying affects a wide range of students, LGBT students or those perceived to be LGBT endure particular ridicule. . . .
“If adults don’t support their students, if they ignore bullying, if they remain silent when they should speak up, what is an LGBT youth to conclude? That he or she is not loved and valued, a flawed human person.”
The booklet situates its message within the Catholic tradition of non-discrimination towards LGBT people, which is taught in the Catechism. Additionally, the rationale for their approach is supported by various bishops’ documents calling for pastoral care of LGBT people. The Marianist charism itself is also referred to as a source of backing. One of the “Characteristics of Marianist Education” that is quoted states:
“Educate persons to accept and respect differences in a pluralistic society. As the people of the world come increasingly into contact with one another, differences among them become more apparent. If the world of the future is to be peaceful, students of today must learn how to appreciate cultural difference and how to work with people unlike themselves.”
The booklet provides tips for how teachers can show support to LGBT students, but it also adds suggestions for how to educate the entire school community–administrators, faculty, parents–about sensitivity to LGBT people. One significant section offers practical answers for how to answer critics who would oppose this type of approach.
The resource suggests a variety of practical ways to transform a school into a safe space, including updating the curriculum, adopting inclusive policies, establishing support groups, and ways of talking about LGBT issues in the classroom.
The booklet neither condones nor condemns sexual relationships, but does note that this topic is not connected to the idea of creating a safe space:
“Supporting LGBT students does not condone sexual activity any more than support ing heterosexual students condones sexual activity. Your care and support simply honors the dignity of each person and provides a place where he or she is accepted and valued.”
Connected to this topic of sexual relationships is an important concluding section on the Catholic Church’s call to all individuals to develop and follow their consciences.
Many Catholic educators can benefit from the suggestions offered in this resource. If all Catholic schools adopted such an approach, our church and its educational system would be a much more welcoming place for LGBT students.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry