Catholic Schools Keep Kids Away From Lesbian Astronaut

Teaching kids that homophobia is A OK

James Finn
Oct 26 · 6 min read
Anne McClain at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Public domain photo by NASA/Elizabeth Weissinger on Wikimedia Commons

Respected religious institutions drive homophobia in the United States. They teach it in both churches and schools. Three Catholic schools in the Spokane area just handed kids a vivid object lesson in how to stigmatize LGBTQ people. While diocese leaders are being publicly coy, teachers, parents, and students all know that a trip to see NASA astronaut Anne McClain was cancelled because she’s married to a woman.

Roman Catholic teachings gravely insult LGBTQ people

Recent news coverage of McClain’s marriage is “not in accord with Catholic Church teaching on the nature of marriage” and would not prove appropriate for elementary-aged children.

Doesn’t the Church teach respect and oppose discrimination?

Calls FOR respect and AGAINST discrimination probably don’t mean what you think they mean

By citing harm to kids, Tobin was being neither sensitive nor respectful. How did he square his statement? He claims he has an “obligation before God” to teach the faith clearly on “sensitive issues,” and that he will continue doing so. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that being closeted causes severe mental health issues in LGBTQ people, and that zero evidence shows that children raised in LGBTQ households or around LGBTQ people suffer any harm.

So much for respect and sensitivity. How about discrimination?

Actually, the key word is “unjust.”

It’s too bad that Catholic officials are teaching queer kids to hate themselves and their peers to believe that disrespect is ordinary and acceptable.

Catholic leaders routinely argue that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is actually “just” discrimination, rendering the guidance of the Catechism rather more than moot.

Actions speak louder than words

Three Catholic schools backed out

School administrators tell parents why they cancelled

“I was not happy when I heard about the school not being allowed to go, and I wanted to find out why,” explained Emma Owen, who has two daughters at Cataldo. She says school staff told her the cancellation was due to McClain’s sexual orientation.

She’s upset because in her own words, “It’s not about [McClain’s] lifestyle (sic). It’s about her coming from Spokane, being an alumnus of Cataldo, being an alumnus of Prep, and she’s an astronaut. She’s going to speak about her experiences. She’s not going to speak about being gay.”

Higher authorities spell out the homophobic bigotry

Mee told a reporter that, “I think school kids should be in the classroom. To spend half a day going to see some speaker … some parents might like that. Other parents paying tuition might want their children in school.”

When pressed to explain why the school had gone back on prior plans and when asked if McClain’s sexual orientation played a role, Mee said only, “No comment.”

That “no comment” speaks volumes

Combining Mee’s “no comment” with the Governors’ statement and parents’ assertions that school officials told them the trip was cancelled because McClain is a lesbian, the truth is apparent:

Students were taught that lesbians are bad role models, regardless of their accomplishments

Church officials are wrong

Honoring a married, lesbian astronaut is not in the least inappropriate, no matter how young the child. Teaching children that same-sex couples are bad role models is, however, deeply inappropriate and dysfunctional. Americans don’t live in a theocracy ruled by Catholic bishops. Pretending to young children that we do isn’t just inappropriate, it’s actively harmful.

Some children heard an inspiring message anyway

Twenty years ago, I was on the same starting line as you are. I was no different than any of you, I hadn’t done anything special that would make anyone think I was destined for any high achievement. I was Anne McClain, Gonzaga Prep, Class of 1997.

Then she told the students about a powerful mantra she clutched when she needed to remember that she could do great things.

“I am loved. I am proud of myself. I am brave. I can do hard things.”

What a great message for kids to internalize. It’s too bad that Catholic officials at three Spokane schools have decided that being a lesbian disqualifies McClain from delivering that message.

It’s too bad that Catholic officials are teaching queer kids to hate themselves and their peers to believe that disrespect is ordinary and acceptable.

Are you an active Catholic? What can YOU do to pressure your church and diocese to treat LGBTQ people as fully human and fully morally equal?

James Finn is a long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Act Up NYC, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot.

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade