LGBT clubs in Ontario Catholic schools get neutered
Jan 27, 2012

LGBT clubs in Ontario Catholic schools get neutered

After a protracted battle over the issue of whether so called 'gay-straight clubs' must be allowed in Catholic schools, many LGBT allies thought a legitimate victory had been attained when Queen's Park ruled that such groups must be tolerated. Delaying far past the required deadline, an associated Catholic think-tank has sent in its recommendations on how these clubs should be allowed to run.

The suggested name? 'Respecting Difference' clubs. Groan. Further, the clubs get saddled with various restrictions that "they are not to provide personal counseling in a group setting" nor could they present "activism, protest or advocacy of anything that is not in accord with the Catholic faith foundation of the school".

What, exactly, are these groups actually allowed to do in this case if they can't actually discuss in a group anything that might be considered counseling such as "it is okay to be gay" nor could they advocate something like "it is okay to be gay". In my view this is absolutely the core message that needs to be propagated to prevent bullying, to build self esteem, to lower suicide rates, and the like, yet these clubs are being restricted from optimally transmitting this message on two fronts.

Remember, the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association said back in April that the whole point of this was to prevent “bullying related to sexual orientation." Yet  optimal ways to both prevent bullying (advocating to other peers about the need for acceptance) and to deal with the effects of bullying (counselling with like minded people) are not being allowed. Or take the following view that is often expressed:
Natalie Rizzo, a student trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said there is an “overwhelming response from students . . . who would really like there to be an emphasis on anti-homophobia and learning about anti-homophobia (measures) . . . not learning about that lifestyle, but they would really like there to be more systems in place to combat homophobia.”
The problem is that learning about the lifestyle exactly does help to combat homophobia among the population. It is through learning about new lifestyles of all varieties that we can realize our prejudices are false, and grow towards acceptance.

Even the name 'Respecting Difference' clubs is sending the wrong message. It isn't just that students are being restricted in their free expression of what they would like to call their club, including the very common name of 'Gay-Straight Alliance', it is that the name chosen for them is bad. Combating homophobia is about growing an acceptance that LGBT people actually are not different than the rest of us and instead are entirely normal people. We ought to identify the similarities, not differences.

However, the view of the Church is clear as expressed by the Nancy Kirby, the president of OCSTA:
 “We have nothing against homosexuals, but it’s the (homosexual) act that is in contradiction of the teachings of the church.”
Ah yes. Because they really don't care in the slightest about being gay of course not, it is just the act that they object to. Expect for all those hormone charged LGBT teenagers either want to or already have done that evil act just as the straight kids do. Say what one will about promoting abstinence in high schools, but for adults the idea of being gay (or straight for that matter) being okay, but having sex in accordance to ones desires is not, is equivalent - in fact it truly is the same - as being against being gay . It is a false dichotomy.

The reality is that LGBT youth suffer from startling levels of consequences due to discrimination. 25-40% of homeless youth are LGBT. The attempted suicide rate is 5 times higher than for straight youth. There is very real and very legitimate suffering that goes on. I get it, the Catholic Church just fundamentally doesn't believe in homosexuality and yes, of course, they have freedom of expression. But this is a human rights issue with very real consequences on the lives of LGBT youth. To have leaders of schools still saying these kinds of things, and remaining obstructionists to the free expression in clubs that have real potential to create support and ameliorate bullying, cannot and should not be accepted. 

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1 comment:

rww said...

The challenge for Catholic schools is how to combat bullying of gays without saying it's ok to be gay.

Perhaps a "Dont' Bully the Perverts" campaign.

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