By George White
As part of Pride Month, we wanted to celebrate the ways in which the LGBT+ community is, and can be, supported by the Catholic Community. So, we reached out to George White to discuss his contribution to a new educational tool:
I am fortunate to have been one selected as one of the contributors to the Diverse Educators Manifesto. The Diverse Educators’ book is structured around the Equality Act. There are ten chapters, one for each of the nine Protected Characteristics (Age; Disability; Gender Reassignment; Pregnancy and Maternity; Marriage and Civil Partnership; Race; Religion and Belief; Sex; Sexual Orientation) with a tenth chapter exploring intersectionality. I wrote a contribution for the Religion and Belief category exploring how one might simultaneously protect religion and belief, gender reassignment and sexual orientation.
My piece was entitled ‘LGBT Inclusion in Catholic Schools’ and allowed me to discuss both pedagogy and personal experience. My experience as a Catholic and transgender teacher of Religious Education at a Catholic school is certainly very unique. For the vast overwhelming majority of the time, I’ve simply been treated as a normal appointment to the job. But there have been times that we’ve encountered some difficulties, whether it be how to challenge transphobia from pupils or how to respond to right wing church groups who have claimed the school is in breach of Canon law because they employ me. In my day-to-day life, I experience very few negative situations as a result of being an LGBT person of faith but the small number of times that I have are scary and isolating. One of the most positive themes in my contribution to Diverse Educators Manifesto is discussing how the church has changed in its pastoral ministry of LGBT Catholics over the years. Pope Francis has commended those who work with and for the LGBT community, he has gifted funds to a transgender community in Italy and even advocated support for same sex relationships to be recognised by civil law. The official teaching of the Catholic Church – as stated in the Catechism- is to “accept (LGBT people) them with compassion, sensitivity and respect” and Pope Francis is showing us exactly how to do that. I hope that my story and section of the chapter inspires Catholics who are unsure how to extend a welcome to LGBT people to listen to us as Fr James Martin SJ requests in his book ‘Building a Bridge’ which seeks to develop how the Catholic Church and LGBT community can enter into a relationship of compassion, sensitivity and respect.
The Diverse Educators Manifesto is an outstanding collection of contributions from experts in their field. 114 people have shared something of their personal and professional experience as educators in the hope that it offers readers some practical solutions, accessible resources and a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of those protected by the Equality Act.