A Trans Catholic Teacher Explains the Importance of LGBTQ Visibility
In August this year, Suella Braverman (then Attorney General, now Home Secretary) said it was “lawful” for schools to name trans children dead in education.
In July, Nadim Zahawi (Chairman of the Conservative Party) raised fears of a new Article 28 for trans people when he said he wanted to protect young people from ‘harmful and inappropriate nonsense forced upon them by radical activists’ .
This is why people like 29-year-old George White are so important in British schools.
George is trans, and he teaches religious education at St Paul’s Catholic School in Evington, Leicestershire – where he went to school as a teenager.
He says it’s “really important” for kids to hear about LGBTQ+ issues from an early age and hopes his journey and openness to being trans will help others struggling with their gender identity. .
“Whatever the beliefs of the child or the family, at some point in life they are going to meet someone different,” he told PinkNews.
“I think it’s virtually impossible to follow the Christian call to love your neighbor if you don’t know what your neighbor might be going through.”
He acknowledges that not everyone needs to fully understand each other, but says it’s important to be “compassionate” and “recognize that you’re talking to another human and not a statistic or something. that you read in a book”.
“When I tell my story, I noticed a real change in attitude in the children that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
“This aspect of the story gives us a level of humanity that facilitates compassion.”
“It doesn’t make you any less of a Christian because you’re reaching out and including LGBTQ+ people”
George thinks there is a ‘misunderstanding of what faith asks us to do’, when used in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, and says he finds negativity around faith and the Catholic religion “particularly disappointing”.
“I think there’s a view that you can get these things [being part of the LGBTQ+ community] away from people,” he says.
“Look at conversion therapy that believes you can take these things away from people.
“It’s an unhealthy way to look at it, it’s not recognizing the vast diversity in which God can create people, and it’s not recognizing the call to love one another.”
The 29-year-old says he is involved in “liberal Catholic circles” which “pay attention to what is happening in society”.
George refers to Pope Franciswho is the head of the Catholic Church, as an example of how religion can adapt to become more tolerant.
He happily mentions some of the Pope’s kind acts, which he says include “giving funds to struggling trans people and telling a gay person that God made them that way and has no problem with that.”
“It doesn’t make you any less of a Christian because you’re reaching out and including LGBTQ+ people.
“You have to separate the rules of human experience from what people experience.”
“Include” does not just “tolerate”
George explains that Catholic Church teaching says, “LGBT people should be accepted with sensitivity, compassion and respect, and any signs of unjust discrimination in this regard should be stopped.”
He says all religions should do their best to “include” rather than “just tolerate” those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community.
Moving forward, he thinks it’s important for churches to be open to LGBTQ+ inclusion, which includes recognizing people’s pronouns, celebrating community through inclusive prayers, and offering leadership roles for women.
Offering advice to young gay men coming to light, George said it was important to “take your time and figure out what’s important to you”.
“I went through a phase where I thought I had to be one or the other,” George shares, while referencing the decision he felt he had to make between his religion and his gender identity.
“It sounds cliché, but it will be fine. There are many more spaces of acceptance than you might think, there are places online, in person, but take your time to understand what is important to you.
He also shares good advice for those who are not supported by those around them: “If you are in a place where people do not respect your identity and your background, go somewhere else.
“Do not stay where you are not wanted, for there are many spaces where you will be recognized as having full human dignity and as a special creation.”