by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The Archdiocese of Seattle has refused to allow Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs in local Catholic high schools.
Despite the necessity of such clubs and repeated lobbying by local students, the Catholic hierarchy remains stubborn. But so too are the students, who have started an online petition that is picking up speed and galvanizing a movement.
According to the petition, a GSA is a student-run club that allows for students to meet in a safe and welcoming place where they may discuss any challenges in their lives, make new friends, and find the loving support of their schoolmates. These clubs are not overtly political - they simply seek to foster awareness and understanding and to welcome all students.
'While homosexual acts are a sin in the Catholic faith, homosexuality itself is not,' say student organizers. 'Thus, these clubs do not conflict with the teachings set forth by the Vatican.'
BENEFITS OF GSAs CITED
The students have done their homework - no pun intended. They accurately report that 'in schools with Gay-Straight Alliances, studies have shown that students experience less bullying and contemplate suicide less often.'
The need for GSAs in the Seattle Archdiocese is imperative. LGBTQ students often feel forgotten, lost, sinful, or even suicidal at a school that refrains from even discussing 'the Gay issue,' say the students.
Still other students demonstrate a lack of understanding of what being Gay even means.
By allowing GSAs in Catholic high schools, organizers say, the Seattle Archdiocese can ensure that every student feels safe at school, that every student has a support network, and that every student has the right to question their identity.
In short, the students say, a simple 'yes' will create a community of solidarity and love.
They are asking that you help tell the Archdiocese of Seattle to allow Gay-Straight Alliances in Catholic high schools. You can sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/archdiocese-of-seattle-allow-gay-straight-alliances-in-catholic-high-schools
The actual petition is quite short. It reads, 'Please Allow Gay-Straight Alliances in Catholic High Schools for the well-being of all your students. These student groups provide a safe place for students to discuss issues in their personal lives and in the modern world. Support of GSAs does not, in any way, 'sponsor' homosexuality. It simply states that the Seattle Archdiocese wishes for all its students to be welcome and happy in their schools.'
MEETING ON THE Q.T.
In many cases students have formed GSA clubs in Catholic schools across the country, but these 'underground' meetings are often compromised when students talk about them and a teacher or parent hears what's going on and shuts them down.
'It's important to have that support and have that community of people you know you can always go to when you're having a bad day,' said Katie, a recent graduate of a high school where she helped found a GSA group.
To avoid endangering the school's accreditation, the Ballard News-Tribune, which interviewed Katie, did not name the school.
Katie told the newspaper she had a relatively positive experience when she came out as Lesbian around the age of 15. Friends accepted her and her family caused no fuss, except her mom wanted her to stop dressing like a 'tomboy.' Indeed, when she showed up to chat with the News-Tribune, she was clad in jeans and a Russell Wilson Seahawks jersey.
'She got over that within a week,' Katie laughed. 'I was totally fine.'
Still, when she did discover that she was Lesbian, Katie said she didn't know what to do, or who to go to.
'Finding students like you is just encouraging. It's a scary time, 15 year old. I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic since kindergarten. I just wasn't educated,' Katie said.
She said the same is true of many LGBTQ freshmen and sophomores in Catholic school settings.
Moreover, Katie said, it was hard for the underground, unofficial GSA to find potentially LGBTQ students who were in need of help and support.
'It's hard to get freshmen,' Katie recounted. 'You really have to target them and say 'Hey! I think you might be Gay, join our group!'
The group met off campus a lot. Now the GSA will meet on campus, but it wouldn't look like anything more than a group of people just hanging out and chatting after school in a classroom or in the cafeteria - and for all intents and purposes, that's all it is.
'As unofficial as you could be,' as Katie put it.
However, having an official GSA club would have a lot of benefits, she said.
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