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Matthew’s Place

A Student’s Response to the Latest Anti-LGBTQ Attacks by the Archdiocese of Denver

By Madelaine Johnson

As a politically engaged undergraduate student, I am dedicated to the success and wellbeing of all students. Ensuring that diversity and representation is embraced to its fullest in our community is a mission I strive for. Alongside my peers, I do not stand for hateful or discriminatory thoughts, behaviors, or groups that seek to harm the human dignity of any particular group. No group, ideology, or practice has superiority over the undeniable right and existence of an individual’s value and identity. All students, including Transgender and LGBTQIA+ students are worthy and deserving of an education.

In response to a pre-existing document, titled “Guidance for Issues Concerning the Human Person and Sexual Identity,” which was created by the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, as a Jesuit educated student I respect the Jesuit values in that they affirm the queer community and beyond. Reflecting on the Jesuit principles, I encourage others to be committed to upholding “Cura Personalis,” “Men and Women For and With Others,” and “Unity of Heart and Mind.” The guidance by the Denver Archdiocese uses dangerous rhetoric to attack our queer community, and does not represent the Jesuit values in any facet. It is without question that this guidance leaves an impact of feelings of hate, homophobia and transphobia, and seeks to divide our Denver community of faith. To use faith as a weapon against an entire group of people is contrary to their own establishment. Human rights come first.

Additionally, the guidance references that “Christian anthropology is unalterably opposed to many aspects of the gender ideology currently affecting the culture nationally and internationally.” This statement supposes that free gender expression from the binary is invalid under Christian heteronormative doctrine. Therefore, this assertion sets a negative precedent that discrimination, hate, and exclusion can be shielded through one groups’ perception of what their faith means.

The Archdiocese’s guidance further makes it clear that “A Catholic school cannot affirm a student’s identity as transgender, gender nonconforming, non-binary, gender-fluid, gender-queer, or any other term that rejects the reality of the student’s given male or female sexual identity; any asserted identity that rejects the reality of biological sex is incompatible with Christian anthropology.” This statement highlights Christian-based rhetoric that censors freedom of identity, which encourages others to act violently and with discrimination. The LGBTQIA+ community has survived a history of attempted erasure by religious leaders, states, and domestic-terrorist affiliates. Regardless of any creed, transgender individuals are wholly valid. It is our responsibility as individuals dedicated to human rights and freedom to continue to affirm our transgender community and provide long-lasting advocacy.

While discrimination is not a new danger to us, we must find strength in our unity and our dedication for social justice.

The guidance continues to state, “schools should avoid validating or affirming the premises of gender ideology, even indirectly, by silence or inaction.” According to The Trevor Project, suicide rates among queer youth show that 45% considered attempting suicide in the past year. Additionally, queer youth are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and a lack of affirming support. Catholic institutions that support and follow the Guidance for Issues Concerning the Human Person and Sexual Identity, put their queer students in danger. This is a crisis that we cannot ignore as for many queer youth, this could mean their life. However, queer youth who found their school to be queer-affirming cut that rate in half. What faith leaders need to do now, is take a stand for basic human rights. We all have a personal responsibility to be inclusive, thoughtful, and in community with diverse and intersecting groups, and in this specific moment, our queer peers. I call on our Denver community to provide grace and acceptance of our most marginalized communities. What that can manifest as, is: valuing and creating safe and inviting spaces for these students, being respectful of pronouns and diverse backgrounds, holding accountability in the face of injustice and discrimination, and standing for values of human worth.

It should be made aware that prominent Catholic Jesuit leaders have expressed similar sentiments to my own.

Fr. John Cecero, the provincial superior of the US Northeast Province of the Jesuits recently states “I would encourage you to face the kind of hatred that exists in all forms of homophobia in our church and in our country so that you can — be — beacons of light and hope. And show people that our way…is to be respectful and listen to one another. And not standing apart from each other — to judge that which we don’t understand.”

Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit, expressed support for same-sex unions. The Pope said that “homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family…They’re children of God.”

The Bible, Jesuit Superiors, and the Pope state that homophobic judgement is wrong, if the Jesuit values in Catholic faith affirm this, then it is supported that we take action. Become leaders, advocates, and allies for social justice, and continue to create spaces of resilience, radicalism, and responsibility. Become a community in which others can follow and an institution that promotes love.

Statement by,

Madelaine Johnson (she/her/hers)

Madelaine is a current undergraduate student studying Gender Justice and Law with a minor in Psychology. Her goals of public service and diplomacy are represented in her work towards collaborative thinking, diversity, and equality. She is the current student body president for her University and has been a prominent leader of her Queer Student Alliance. She strives to work towards anti-racism projects, dismantling genderism, and discrimination within our community. She is an active volunteer for both the non-profits Dragutante and Envision:You and seeks to collaborate with youth leaders and activists on promoting human rights and equality.

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Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate

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MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org