The recent decision by Cathedral High School in Indiana to fire a teacher for being gay and married hits home for my family and I. My wife - a school principal and alumni of Cathedral High School - was personally hurt by the school’s choice to buckle under the pressure from the Archdiocese. Her happy memories as a student are forever tarnished. More than that, we both fear the damage this will do to current students who don’t represent the Catholic ideal; who may be shunned or bullied for being themselves or forced to hide their true selves.
We both know all too well the mental and emotional harm this can cause for LGBTQIA+ students, and the negative example that it sets for other students. That's why we believe in culturally responsive education. Every student should feel safe, healthy and connected at school, and that's only possible when differences are appreciated by all.
In this moment, I am reminded of the words of Desmond Tutu, who said that "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Tutu has championed LGBTQIA+ rights and been outspoken on homophobia, equating it with apartheid. In 2013 he spoke at a UN-backed campaign to promote gay rights and said: "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry. I mean I would much rather go to the other place." His daughter, Mpho Tutu, was forced out of the Anglican priesthood for marrying a woman.
I understand that some parents may struggle with how to respond in a situation like this. I don't want to minimize how challenging it is to deal with the complexities of the world today. And I can appreciate the desire to preserve longstanding culture and institutions. But I hope Tutu's words remind them of the importance to stand against oppression in all forms.
This has also reminded me of my personal connection to our mission at Lessonbee. I felt awkward and isolated at school and still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness as an adult. My vision is for all students to feel confident, connected and worthy of health and success; not just those who fit society’s heteronormative and cisgender ideal. The fight to change hearts and minds continues, and I hope that our family and our work as educators can be an example of what’s possible.