Homophobia in the hallways: LGBTQ people at risk in Catholic schools

Homophobia in the hallways: LGBTQ people at risk in Catholic schools
Catholic pronouncements about LGBTQ people can be summarized as, "It's OK to be gay—Just don't act on it," a position some Catholics reject. Credit: Shutterstock

Recently, a Calgary woman filed two human rights complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The employee, Barb Hamilton, says she was pushed out the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) because of her sexuality and was refused employment on the grounds of marital status, religious belief and sexual orientation.

Hamilton says she knew of 10 LGBTQ students in the school where she was principal who had hurt themselves, including by cutting themselves or attempting suicide because of homophobia at home or school. She says she went to the district for help but nothing changed.

Many Canadians may believe that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination. But my research into religiously inspired homophobia and transphobia in Canadian Catholic schools since 2004 shows there are other LGBTQ-identified teachers who suffer similar fates.

I personally experienced this risk when I taught high school English for CCSD.

It might seem strange that someone like me, a publicly "out" lesbian, sought employment with a Catholic school. But I was raised in a Catholic family that counts clergy among its members and I regarded myself as culturally Catholic. Having a Catholic background also made it easier for me to find a teaching position at a time when they were hard to get.

In the years that I taught for CCSD, I experienced homophobia daily. I knew I could no longer work for CCSD when a student where I was teaching died by suicide after suffering months of homophobic bullying because he was gay.

I left teaching to research homophobia and transphobia in Canadian Catholic schools and also to begin to question and understand how these phobias are institutionalized. In other words, who or what systems are responsible for creating and implementing homophobic and transphobic religious curriculum and administrative policies?

Hotbeds for homophobia?

Using Catholic doctrine to fire LGBTQ teachers and to discriminate against queer students in Catholic schools violates Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the equality rights provision. Shouldn't publicly funded Catholic schools respect the law?

Publicly funded Catholic schools currently have constitutional status in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. These separate schools are operated by civil authorities and are accountable to provincial governments. Religious bodies do not have a legal interest in them, and as such, Canadian Catholic separate schools are not private or parochial schools as is common in other countries.

Of course, the Charter also ensures freedom of conscience and religion. However, when the expression of particular religious beliefs calls for the suppression of another's equality rights, freedoms are curtailed rather than safeguarded.

This recurring discrimination against sexual and gender minority groups could be due to the central contradiction within Catholic doctrine itself: the church's teaching best summarized as "It's OK to be gay, just don't act on it,"—a position some Catholics reject.

An influential 2004 Ontario curricular and policy document, "Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Orientation", presents a variety of guidelines, personal stories and sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church pertaining to homosexual attraction to convey a contradictory position. While homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered," people experiencing homosexual attraction are called to chastity and "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and therefore are in need of "pastoral care."

The pastoral guidelines document includes a statement on building safe communities and a 1986 letter to Canadian Bishops from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (a Vatican office). The letter elaborates on the official Church teachings, stating the "inclination of the homosexual person" is a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil." Many LGBTQ people refer to this document as the "Halloween Letter" because it is so scary and was issued October 1 (1986). The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario shares the resource, with this letter, on its website.

Where schools promote such contradictory messages associating respect and depravity with LGBTQ people, they have made Alberta and Ontario Catholic schools potential hotbeds for homophobia —places where dedicated teachers fear for their jobs, and where LGBTQ youth are denied true acceptance and as a consequence are at risk of bullying and depression among other things.

Impact on students

My recent book Homophobia in the Hallways: Heterosexism and Transphobia in Catholic Schools explores causes and effects of the long-standing disconnect between Canadian Catholic schools and the Canadian Charter of Human Rights vis-à-vis sexual and gender minority groups.

Charter rights regularly clash with Catholic doctrine about sexuality in schools as this doctrine is selectively interpreted and applied regarding how employees embody a "Catholic lifestyle," as suggested in Catholic lifestyle teacher contracts.

I sought to document how such homophobic policies and views are impacting teachers and students and to uncover what is actually happening.

Through interviews with 20 LGBTQ students and teachers in some Alberta and Ontario Catholic schools, and through media accounts, I found that publicly funded Catholic schools in Canada respond to non-heterosexual and non-binary gender students and teachers and in contradictory and inconsistent ways.

All of the research participants experienced some form of homophobia or transphobia in their Catholic schools. None described a Catholic school environment that accepted and welcomed sexual and gender diversity.

I documented the firing of lesbian and gay teachers because they married their same-sex partners; the firing of lesbian and gay teachers because they wanted to have children with their same-sex partners; the firing of transgender teachers for transitioning from one gender to another.

Something as simple as discussing holiday plans can reveal that a teacher who is a lesbian has a same-sex partner. If this detail is revealed to leaders, this teacher can be at risk of being deemed to be living contrary to Catholic teaching and therefore subject to punitive action.

The teachers are given very little, if any, warning and find themselves in meetings without the support of a union representative or lawyer.

I also documented how schools seek to prohibit students from attending their high school proms with their same-sex dates, bar students from appearing in gender-variant clothing for official school photographs or functions like the prom; and deny students the right to establish Gay–Straight Alliances.

I noted a similarity of experiences among research participants in the distant provinces of Alberta and Ontario, in terms of how they were subject to heteronormative repression where schools are legally accountable to provinces but look to Bishops for pastoral leadership.

Oppression is a problem not only for LGBTQ people and our allies, but for all of us concerned about human dignity, human rights, love for our neighbours and social justice.

Explore further

Study gives Catholic schools poor marks

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The Conversation

Citation: Homophobia in the hallways: LGBTQ people at risk in Catholic schools (2019, January 21) retrieved 22 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-homophobia-hallways-lgbtq-people-catholic.html
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Jan 21, 2019
Why would LGBTQ kids want to attend catholic school? Are their parents hoping that the nuns will beat it out of them?

At any rate they should thank their lucky stars for the secular world we live in.

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them." Lev20:13

-Religionist behavior has only changed, for the moment, due to secular laws. But gods law has not changed has it?

The REASON the surviving religions vilify non-procreative sex is because it is contrary to their primary strategy of outgrowing and overwhelming the competition. This is why it carries the most severe penalties of any sin.

And the reason that the secular world has so recently embraced and encouraged it is because of the need to reduce population growth by any and all means.

Jan 21, 2019
The questions that no one wants to ask... what is it that determines sexual orientation? Is the incidence of homosexuality increasing, and if so could it be due to exposure to modern hormone-affecting chemicals? What chemicals might these be and how long has science known about their properties? How pervasive are they?

Other questions: could gaydom be an epigenetic response to perceived overcrowding? And if its artificially induced, might it be possible to change a person's orientation through treatment? And why is that question considered so heinous?

We could go a long way in finding out the answers if we had more data on the demographics over time; where they're being born, are they increasing in % in certain regions, etc.

Jan 21, 2019
What about the relationship between feminism and male homosexuality? is the new kind of women making men attracted to men? Does having a feminist mother makes a man to become gay? are women raised without a father more likely to be lesbians?

Catholicism is a hate religion, look at its history. They had no problem with slavery, genocide, holocaust, etc etc. Catholic countries are violent, ignorant, sick and poor.

Jan 21, 2019
is the new kind of women making men attracted to men?
Or to the point, is it fostering female gaydom? Divorce laws and 'me too' movements make people afraid of traditional relationships. This too contributes to reduced fertility rates, BY DESIGN.

But the tropical human animal still wants to reproduce ie craves sex. Non-procreative sex is promoted in the media. Very fashionable and career-advancing for female actresses to play lesbians on tv and in movies. Male gaydom - not so much. How come? The gay flash killed the justice league movie.

No matter, ratings be damned. Whatever it takes to REDUCE GROWTH.

Jan 21, 2019
Homosexuality is a mental illness. If you believe in evolution this makes perfect sense. If you are religious this also make sense. There is absolutely no way it makes sense on either side of the fence. Homosexuality, if left to its natural conclusion would end all life on earth. Period. Religiously it is satanic in origin, scientifically it is an evolutionary smudge and needs to be stamped out, not encouraged. Arguing in favor of the LBGTQ community is ignorant and nonsensical, maybe even insane. It is a disease and needs to be treated and stamped out like the blight it is, not encouraged. There could be a for this cancer if we would get past the PC culture and admit the truth behind this perversion and start searching. It is a great injustice towards these poor people to simply accept this behavior instead of trying to help them.

Jan 21, 2019
Homosexuality is a mental illness. If you believe in evolution this makes perfect sense. If you are religious this also make sense
If you believe that chronic overpopulation has affected our behavior at the genetic level, just as it has with many other species, then gaydom makes perfect sense.

If you believe that the religions that have survived to the present have done so by maximizing their growth rate for the purpose of outgrowing and overrunning their now-extinct counterparts, then expecting that they would vilify any and all forms of sex that would expend the urge to procreate unproductively, also makes perfect sense.

The former is a possibility, the latter a certitude.

Overpopulation does make us sick both individually and collectively, and in many different ways. But a purely biological response cannot be considered an illness. Religion on the other hand, certainly can.

Jan 22, 2019
Overpopulation does make us sick both individually and collectively, and in many different ways. But a purely biological response cannot be considered an illness. Religion on the other hand, certainly can.

That is wrong at its base level. "Overpopulation" in terms of population density currently covers a huge value span, from remote villages up to crowded metropolises. Yet the range of illness inside this places does not follow population density. One would expect for the highest density places to be teeming with problems to the point of stopping functioning. Yet those are precisely the places where most research and most progress is done. Cities are generally far from being non-functional.

Actually high population densities promote progress, which is what humanity needs to thrive.

Jan 22, 2019
Sounds like Catholics are the trailer trash of Canada.

Jan 22, 2019
That is wrong at its base level. "Overpopulation" in terms of population density currently covers a huge value span
I'm talking about chronic physiological and mental conditions that become genetic over 100s of gens.

Overpop creates tribalism. Continuous intertribal conflict over resources caused people to live in cramped walled cities. It caused the domestication of plants and animals which were continuously selected for quantity at the expense of quality.

Living in close quarters with food species created new diseases. Eating low nutrition foods made us weak and susceptible to disease. Our immune systems became overactive leading to chronic autoimmune disease.

Humans were also domesticated, selected for farming. We became weak and stunted. The tensions between instinct and domestication led to chronic mental illness. Our brains were forced to grow to their current bloated, fragile, energy-hungry size; few now function adequately which worsens as we age.

On and on.

Jan 22, 2019
Actually high population densities promote progress, which is what humanity needs to thrive
You call this thriving?

You call this progress?

You call this functional?

Jan 22, 2019
Among other things, sex deviants, including homosexuals, "transgenders", "bu genders", transvestites, have the highest rates of self loathing, drug abuse and suicide of any group even when they live in accepting conditions. They claim they hate themselves because they are "hated", but "hate' is a word sociopaths use when someone simply disagrees with them. And, if you know what you're doing is right, no one can make you hate yourself! Sex deviants engage solely in malignant and foul practices that they themselves despise, but they can't help themselves. Their actions toward themselves seem to come from their inability to control themselves not to do things they hate. And, face it, religion is based on such fundamental facets that to be "culturally Catholic" is a laughable concept.

Jan 22, 2019
@Otto, I'm surprised you don't seem to believe Susan Blackmore or quote The Meme Machine. Given what you say you believe you should have read it long ago.

Jan 22, 2019
Among other things, sex deviants, including homosexuals, "transgenders", "bu genders", transvestites, have the highest rates of self loathing
Before I begin I'd like to thank julian and all the godders on this site who continue to provide invaluable opportunities to confront their lies with the obvious.

Ahem. Jesus the caucasian savior. Not the swarthy, curly haired canaanite he would have had to be, but a long haired, soft-spoken, robe-wearing love guru, traveling about the countryside with his all-male entourage, the token woman (a harlot of course), and his mum... the only woman ever to have given birth without being sullied by the touch of a man.

These are archetypes of homosexuals. By design. They were meant to intice gays into the clergy, a safe haven where they could practice their lifestyles free from scrutiny.

Gays make the best clergy. It removes them from the general pop where they would tempt heteros to stray from their duty to propagate.

Jan 22, 2019
As it turns out, some 50% of catholic priests are gay. I would guess an even higher percentage for nuns. The oath of celibacy frees them from having to maintain a sham marriage. And gays would be better at keeping church secrets, having had much practice at keeping their own.

Rome adopted xianity for use as a backfire against the rapid spread of monotheism throughout the known world. They wrote a book condemning jews very specifically for the murder of their god, thereby condemning them to unending persecution.

Jews were perhaps the first religion to set their strategy of forced reproduction for the purpose of outgrowing and overwhelming, in writing. So Rome cleverly incorporated this book into an expanded version about their own god.

Central to this strategy is the sanctity of the family. Adultery carried the highest penalty. The roman god was conceived by the Hebrew god, with a Hebrew woman, out of wedlock.

An outrageous example of jew baiting, obviously intentional.

Jan 22, 2019
Susan Blackmore "Of course we're machines, we're biological machines. But people don't like that. Free will and consciousness is an illusion, and the self is a complex of memes."

-Some of this I agree with, and some I dont.

Jan 22, 2019
She sure gets it right about religion though.

You might want to read it anyway.

Jan 22, 2019

Overpop creates tribalism.

Wrong. Tribalism is caused by adverse conditions affecting a small group of people. They gather in order to better cope with adversities. Tribes disappeared with increase in population. Life generally became easier, longer, safer. Today we have probably the best living standards in human history. Conflicts are seen in a bad light, even shunned upon. We progressed a lot with the increase in population.

And there's also the Judaeo-Christian ethos saying "Do not kill". Pretty strong force against conflict, slavery, exploitation etc. for the past 200 years.

Jan 22, 2019
Wrong. Tribalism is caused by adverse conditions affecting a small group of people
Protohumans coped with the same environmental conditions as any other species, yes? They were neither herd or pack dwellers. But they began using technology to overcome attritive elements that were keeping their numbers in check; crucially they became able to hunt the predators that were hunting them.

Their numbers exploded as a result. Man became the chief enemy of man. They began coalescing into tribes in order to acquire and protect resources. Group selection supplanted natural selection.
And there's also the Judaeo-Christian ethos saying "Do not kill"
Joshuan hordes broke every one of their commandments in their genocidal rampage through the holy land.

Internal amity + external enmity = the tribal dynamic. Tribal law does not apply to outsiders.

Jan 22, 2019
Tribes disappeared with increase in population
Ha no it didnt. You obviously dont know what tribalism is. Fraternities are tribes. Street gangs are tribes. Sports teams have tribes of fans, some extremely violent.

The greatest expressions of tribalism are religionism and nationalism. Both were conceived to spread the tribal identity artificially across wide regions and among disparate peoples.
Today we have probably the best living standards in human history
See my above links for the realities of living standards around the world.
Pretty strong force against conflict, slavery, exploitation etc. for the past 200 years
"There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old."

-Due to overpopulation.

Jan 22, 2019
She sure gets it right about religion though
I read dawkins 'The God Meme' some years ago. I dont know if they understand or are willing to admit the extent to which religions are willfully designed and refined via lessons learned, to achieve certain sociopolitical ends.

LIke that 'jehovah impregnates the married jewish woman' meme. I just realized that this morning. What an incredibly brilliant joke to engineer into the foundations of a religion. It belies its original purpose as an anti-jew machine.

The xian roman empire of course destroyed the jewish state but then went on to take away most of their rights throughout their empire. They were religated chiefly to lending money; a banker caste, a very useful profession... during the growth phase of an economic cycle jews would lend money to finance new projects without interest. But during the decline and collapse phase, when debts could no longer be paid, the king would enact a pogrom and take all their money.

Jan 22, 2019
Before this new system, it was the rulers who would have to finance growth. And when the decline commenced, as it always does, it was the rulers who would be blamed for the peoples suffering.

But the jews were made the eternal enemy of the people. They were tolerated because of this valuable service they could offer. And during the latter stages of economic growth they would begin to charge usuary and nobody would complain. This would fatten their coffers for eventual slaughter by the rulers, who would remain blameless.

Crucially, the actual money lenders would move on and set up shop elsewhere to begin anew. This happened when they were expelled from the iberian peninsula in 1492... they surfaced in constantinople to begin financing growth.

I compare this to the actual structure of israel itself; the 12 tribes serving the kohannin priests and their levite lackeys. It was the tribes who did the dirty work; the conquering, the ethnic cleansing, and the sacrificing.

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