June 25, 2020

Barbara Simon
Head of News and Campaigns, GLAAD

GLAAD has reviewed the new eight-page policy which excludes trans students in all area of school life and threatens expulsion for those who do not conform to their sex assigned at birth; policy flies in the face of research showing rejection of identity increases the risk of suicide; archdiocese moves from targeting LGBTQ teachers to students

New York, NY - Thursday, June 25, 2020 - GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today 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 comprises 67 Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana. Reports say the superintendent directed schools to not include the policy in any student or parent handbooks.

GLAAD reviewed the internal document. 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. It also discourages parents from supporting their gender nonconforming child.

GLAAD found the following harmful claims and recommendations:

  • If there’s an attempt to legally change a student’s gender, the student will be forced to withdraw from school
  •  If parents or students are unwilling to conform to the policy, the student faces expulsion
  • A student’s clothes and appearance must be “consistent with their biological sex”
  • Avoids terms “transgender” and “non-binary,” instead references “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

“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, including at least five Indianapolis educators in the past two years, 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 adolescents who are confused about their gender identity by defining ‘issues of self identity’ in accordance with the Catholic teaching.”

The Ariadne Getty Foundation (AGF) is providing legal and advocacy support to Shelly’s Voice and the educators affected by the archdiocese’s discriminatory policies and practices. This aligns with the AGF’s mission to improve the lives of individuals and communities through financial investments and social activism.

The Indianapolis Archdiocese’s policy proposal is another example of their discriminatory nature against the LGBTQ+ community, and most recently against trans students. Schools, religious or not, should be a place that cherishes authenticity and diversity, not punish it,” said Ariadne Getty, president and executive director of the Ariadne Getty Foundation. “The AGF has been committed to fighting anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the Catholic Church since Shelly Fitzgerald, a former 15-year guidance director at Roncalli Catholic High School, was fired for being in a same-sex marriage. Our fight must continue to ensure we break down structures furthering transphobia.”

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.

GLAAD has resources to accurately and respectfully cover issues of gender and identity, available in our Media Reference Guide.