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Catholic schools can't neglect LGBTI students

  • 06 April 2017


Recently Gilbert Baker, the man who designed the rainbow pride flag, died. The rainbow flag, created in 1978, was designed to be a symbol for the LGBTIQ movement, representing the diversity of the community.

However, within the same news cycle, in Australia, it was reported that Catholic Notre Dame University in Sydney had had pride flag stickers torn down from the window of its student association office.

The stickers were there to convey a sense of allyship and welcome to LGBTIQ students. 'You have queer students that are struggling,' student association president Dylan Gojak told Buzzfeed, 'and there's nothing, there's no public statement, there's no sign that you're welcome here.'

The official statement from Notre Dame's vice chancellor Celia Hammond was that while they didn't approve the way the sticker had been taken down, the 'symbol is divisive, and the university does not support all that has come to be associated with the rainbow flag'.

Schools' main concern should be the welfare of their students, but that is made difficult when they have an arm tied behind their backs in regards to supporting LGBTIQ students. When even such small gestures like a sticker are deemed 'divisive', it's no surprise that LGBTIQ students can feel isolated and ignored in the Catholic education system.

Religious freedom is important, but with rates of suicide and self harm among LGBTIQ youth worryingly high, using it as a shield to ignore LGBTIQ issues is harmful.

While there were thankfully only a few instances of homophobia in my schooling, silence wasn't the same as welcome. LGBTIQ issues felt illicit somehow. There was an unspoken 'don't ask, don't tell' attitude, where teachers were often mandated not to speak about LGBTIQ issues. When LGBTIQ friends of mine asked for help from counsellors, the best they could do was refer them to outside services.

Micah Scott, the chief executive of youth-led LGBTIQ network Minus18, has seen the effects of this firsthand. 'Many topics, including sexual and gender diversity, are unspoken,' he said. 'It sends a message to already vulnerable young people that who they are is institutionally forbidden, and that they should be ashamed of their identity.'


"The rainbow flag, to me, means safety. When I went to my first pride parade, I felt like crying with relief. The happiness and exuberance on display were the opposite of the shame I had felt."


Gender and sexuality sneaks into education whether we want it to or not. Though my Catholic