Okay, before you read this, I highly recommend you read Andrea Houston’s piece “Discrimination in Ontario Catholic Schools,” because it’s both a) ridiculously well written and b) something that will get you in the right mind-frame for the rest of this.
Anyway, surprising as this might be, I’m the product of a Catholic high school. Specifically a Montreal Jesuit school (same basic thing). I can’t outright say the name of the place, but… let’s just say that it starts with an “L” and rhymes with “Crayola.” Vague enough? Good. Anyway, it, too, placed a heavy emphasis on its religious influences, and I think out of the entire student body there was literally one Jewish kid. The sad thing is, they heralded that as progress. Seriously.
I think I was the only openly gay student in my class at the time, and during one of the many classes I attended based on the Catholic religion — taught by a priest, just for kicks — he answered a question someone posed about homosexuality by saying that asking why God “allows” gays to exist is like asking why he allows cancer and murder to exist.
I tried to talk about this in the school newspaper because… I mean, holy shit, who says that to a bunch of impressionable kids? That is what is known as “severely messed up.” But as it turns out, when faced with whether they should side with the priest who said these words or the student who was compared to cancer and murder by his own teacher, guess who they went with?
To this day, the fact that I didn’t fight back and that this situation led to the firing of the only gay teacher in the school, who tried to stand up for me and any other gay kids in the school, is one of the most shameful moments of my life. It’s true what they say: someone can’t make you feel like less of a human being with your permission, and for all intents and purposes, I gave it to them.
All I can tell these kids is that you may or may not win this battle, but keep fighting anyway. Look: you’re not going to win all the time against these people, but as long as you fight, you tell them that you’re here, and you’re not going to let them make you feel powerless, and that feeling goes a long way.