[OPINION] Being gay in an all-girl Catholic school
Towards the end of Pride Month this year, the hashtag #MCHSDOBETTER began a whole new Twitter movement, which led to students criticizing the management of their respective Catholic schools. Instances of harassment, homophobia, and several other forms of discrimination that took place within campus were thoroughly narrated by both alumni and those currently enrolled. I would like to use this platform to highlight the internal homophobia (which is only a small portion of the many systemic problems) inside my school — which most people might disagree with or define as “tolerable.” (READ: #MCHSdobetter: Groups condemn sexual misconduct of teachers, call for justice)
Just to clarify; I am enrolled in a school wherein being part of the LGBTQ+ community is generally accepted by many despite being under a religious institution. I am extremely grateful to have been raised in environments, both in school and at home, that have allowed me to freely express my sexuality and own my preferred identity. However, this is not the case for most Catholic schools nor is it the case for some of my schoolmates. There are still numerous forms of systemic problems that need to be (not necessarily called out, but instead:) recognized by others.
I have been enrolled in the same Catholic school for over 13 years now. Typical school rumors have labeled me as the “resident gay person” in the past – when everyone was 10 years old and nobody had come out about their sexuality yet. It was a basic middle school story — people would make up rumors about me being gay, assume my sexuality because of my haircut, etc. I am more than glad that these became less prevalent as more people started coming out as all of us became more mature.
Soon, my batch will be entering its senior year (Grade 12), and the community is very different now. Students have gradually become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Some people would even call it a “safe space” to express their sexuality, since several people come from families that refrain them from doing so at home. In my opinion, the campus has become a safer place as compared to other environments, but still, it has several problems that need to be addressed. (READ: [OPINION] Drawing the line on sexual harassment in all-girls schools)
It’s more than just CL teachers being homophobic — because that is no surprise at this point. Instead, it is the community not being able to recognize the system for its mistakes, which eventually became “normal” for the school to do. When the student handbook requires everyone to get haircuts at a certain length and bans students from cross-dressing during events, when teachers shame gay students during class, when trans students are being outed to their parents, and when all topics related to the LGBTQ+ community are being censored from the curriculum, people are angered but are never listened to.
Much ruder incidents have happened with overly conservative CL teachers, but the instances of shaming and outing I mentioned were actually done by different English and STEM teachers over the years. I have been on the receiving end of some of their insulting words, and I know others also receive them regularly. These incidents happen often and become regular concerns — which eventually turn, instead, into a tolerated culture.
I am thankful to have grown up with my schoolmates in probably the most progressive generation so far. It has felt like the largest LGBTQ+ community I could ever ask for. These words, with the intention of fighting for gay rights, would have never come out of my mouth if not for the education offered by my school (from Social Sciences classes) and the enriching conversations with my schoolmates who knew more about the LGBTQ community than I did (especially in middle school when I barely knew what the letters meant). However, having a support system is not as powerful as it sounds if the structure it resides in is hesitant to change. Students made the first step a long time ago. The student body needs the system to do the same. (READ: MCHS family council 'alarmed' by high number of sexual harassment complaints)
This is not an article exposing the school, specific teachers, nor the academic curriculum of Catholic schools as a whole. I am writing this for several reasons, including sharing the perspective of a Catholic school student in the LGBTQ+ community, and letting others recognize the structural deficiencies that have been tolerated for generations.
I understand that religious institutions will have to remain religious, so I personally do not hold any anger or grudges against them. However, religious institutions can still be religious without discriminating against minorities that simply disagree with its beliefs. If a curriculum teaches its students about basic human rights, the school should also be able to implement these rights in the handbook.
P.S. I’ve never really come out about my sexuality before because it’s always been such a personal topic for me. People have just been assuming my sexuality because of all the rumors made over the years. I guess this article also serves as my “coming out” as well. – Rappler.com
Charlie is an incoming Grade 12 student under the Humanities and Social Sciences strand of an all-girl school. She spends her leisure time engaging in competitive debating, filmmaking, and serving youth organizations, which have all helped her learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and formulate her own identity.