GLAAD responds to Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ new, extreme, and harmful attempts to target and exclude transgender students

GLAAD denounces the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ new policy which targets transgender young people for rejection and exclusion in all areas of school life.

The archdiocese’s “Policy and Complementary Norms on Sexual Identity in School Ministries of the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis” is signed by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and Chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz, effective June 8, 2020. The archdiocese is comprised of 67 Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana.

The eight-page policy is filled with inaccurate claims and terminology regarding gender identity, and even avoids using the word “transgender” in its push to exclude transgender youth.

“The Indianapolis archdiocese’s attempt to target transgender young people rather than create safe and accepting environments for them is shameful and dangerous,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Research shows transgender youth face a higher risk of suicide from just this kind of rejection and refusal to see their authentic identity. To codify this rejection further isolates and threatens the very young people in need of love and protection.”

Shelly’s Voice, the Indiana-based advocacy group formed to defend and protect LGBTQ teachers from discrimination and unjust dismissal, called out the policy’s hurtful exclusions and goals:

“Shelly’s Voice Advocacy is frightened and dismayed by the new Archdiocesan policy which denies the trans community their dignity and rights. Within the eight-page policy that refuses to use the term transgender, it states ‘any student whose ‘gender’ has been legally changed from their biological sex, or who has chemically and/or surgically altered their given biology, may not be eligible for enrollment.’ This policy advises schools to not allow transgender students to enroll, and advocates for ‘trained’ professionals to help adolecents who are confused about their gender identity by defining ‘issues of self identity’ in accordance with the Catholic teaching.”

GLAAD found the following harmful claims and unjust recommendations in the policy, which contradict:

  • The policy does not use the term “transgender,” referring only to students’ “so-called gender identity” and exclusionary language such as “his or her biological sexual identity”
  • Extreme and graphic claims - calling hormone therapy or surgery “mutilation”
  • Spelling out areas to exclude transgender students including enrollment, sports, dances, school trips, bathrooms and other facilities
  • Rejecting the chosen name and pronouns of the transgender student, which is an attempt to undermine their authentic identity
  • A student’s clothes and appearance must be “consistent with their biological sex”
  • If parents or students are unwilling to conform to the policy, the student faces expulsion
  • If there’s an attempt to legally change a student’s gender, the student will be forced to withdraw from school

Multiple studies over several years, including from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, as well as The Trevor Project, show transgender youth are at significantly higher risk for violence, emotional distress and self-harm. Transgender youth reported significantly increased rates of depression and suicide compared to their cisgender peers. According to a 2019 Trevor Project study, one in three transgender youth reported attempting suicide, almost a third reported being a victim of sexual violence, and more than half reported a two-week period of depression.