The Archdiocese of Indianapolis governs its 67 parochial schools with an iron fist under the auspices of Archbishop Charles Thompson.
While the schools themselves lay empty with students under quarantine, Thompson teamed up with Schools Chancellor Annette Lentz to draft a gender-identity policy with the unwieldy title “Policy and Complementary Norms on Sexual Identity in School Ministries of the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”
It’s about as pretty as the title suggests.
Roughly half of the eight-page document is spent justifying the actual policy decisions with a blend of Bible quotes, catechism snippets, and good-old fashioned invalidation of trans people’s lived experiences. Yet in spite of all that justification, school administrators were asked not to include this round of policy updates in official handbooks for parents, students, or faculty.
Perhaps if Thompson and Lentz feel so defensive, that’s a clue that they should pause for a moment of critical self-reflection. They don’t, of course. Why bother, when they can just blame the culture?
Today’s cultural and societal norms stress personal “happiness” above the common good. Additionally, young people today are inundated with hedonistic messaging as well as false influences through imagery and language that idealize tolerance (“live and let live”) over sacrificial love and what we know to be the Truth. A loving community can help counter the myths, misinformation, and societal pressure present in public discourse.
So what does a loving community look like, anyway? Well, now we get into the meat of things.
The heart of the plan is “accompaniment,” the process by which parents, teachers, pastors, and “other trained professionals” help young people with “clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic Church teaching.” It’s a polite way of describing conversion therapy, only you never have to call it that if you refuse to understand LGBTQ identities as anything more than a delusion to be fixed, or a moment of confusion that can be “clarified” into non-existence.
That’s no exaggeration. The document outright says that treating people according to the gender they say they are is tantamount to encouraging a delusion:
School officials, teachers, and students are to interact with students according to their biological sex at birth. To do otherwise would in fact be uncharitable, as it would be confirming such persons in their mistaken understanding of their identity.
Accordingly, the identities of trans and gender-non-conforming children are forcibly tied to their sex assignment at birth. Everything about their school life — what they wear, who they befriend, how they date, which extracurricular activities they can access — is dictated by what the doctors thought about their genitals on the day they were born.
On top of that, students are also expected to use only the name and pronouns assigned to them at birth. The document mentions a process for requesting the use of a different name “to reduce the child’s psychological distress,” but the heavy-handed approach to gender in every other area of student life makes it seem untrustworthy. Call me cynical, but it likely exists to create a loophole for cis children who have non-gender-related problems with their names while leaving space for educators to dismiss trans kids’ concerns.
There is no process in place to request the use of different pronouns for a student.All this pertains to students who begin to explore their gender identity after becoming students at one of the Archdiocese’s parochial schools. But for those who have already begun their transition, the policy outright states that they’re not welcome:
Any student whose “gender” has been legally changed from their biological sex, or who has chemically and/or surgically altered their given biology, may not be eligible for enrollment.
There are any number of reasons to chemically or surgically alter one’s given biology, usually because it’s not compatible with one’s medical health. But this document isn’t about kids who’ve had their tonsils out or taken drugs to ward off precocious puberty.
It’s about denying opportunities to a very specific subset of students who don’t conform to preconceived expectations around gender.
It’s about control, and it has nothing to do with the students’ well-being.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, concurs. She denounced the anti-trans policy in a statement, pointing out how much harm exclusion causes:
The Indianapolis archdiocese’s attempt to target transgender young people rather than create safe and accepting environments for them is shameful and dangerous. Research shows transgender youth face a higher risk of suicide from just this kind of rejection and refusal to see their authentic identity. To codify this rejection further isolates and threatens the very young people in need of love and protection.
But for the Archbishop of Indianapolis, your authentic identity is whatever he says it is.
None of this will come as a surprise to those who’ve been paying attention to the state of LGBTQ rights in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where the schools they support have a long and ugly history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination. They’ve forced gay staff members to choose between their spouses and their jobs, or else just outright fired them without ceremony at the Archbishop’s request. They’ve also threatened gay students with expulsion for speaking up about their rights.
Yet, as reported by Bil Browning for LGBTQ Nation, their schools have received close to $40 million in state education funding, all drawn directly from Indiana’s tax dollars.
So if you live in Indiana, your taxes may have gone towards funding schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ students as a matter of policy and punishing those who complain.
Public funding for schools that exclude whole swaths of the public on religious grounds is its own issue. But to fund schools that choose to actively harm those included in the name of religious dogma? That’s unconscionable and deeply disturbing indeed.
(Image via Shutterstock)