Fr. Donald Timone of COURAGE—an organization that encourages chaste lives for members of the LGBT community—will be speaking at Cardinal Spellman High School on November 19, 2013. Allowing Fr. Timone to speak at Spellman will do a disservice to its student body by causing LGBTQ students to be ostracized in their school environment, potentially endangering their lives.
Fr. Timone “seeks to assist persons with same sex attraction to lead chaste lives,” as stated in a recent Spellman Alumni newsletter. Conversion therapies have been denounced as harmful as evidenced by numerous organizations that champion optimal mental health. These organizations include:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association of School Administrators
American Counseling Association
American Federation of Teachers
American Psychological Association
American School Counselor Association
American School Health Association
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of Social Workers
National Education Association
School Social Work Association of America
To date, studies fail to show any evidence that conversion therapies achieve the goal of changing sexual orientation. Instead, these therapies add to the history of rejection and discrimination stemming from socially instituted homophobia.
If in fact the talk is aimed at encouraging student’s chastity because of who s/he is, what Cardinal Spellman High School is advocating and endorsing is adding to the already existing social stigma that makes students vulnerable to being bullied. Students who receive this message of chastity in lieu of their sexual orientation will feel unsafe. The message communicated to LGBTQ students is that because of their sexual orientation, they cannot love or receive love in the same fashion as their peers.
By instilling a message of unworthiness, our children will develop feelings of shame, resulting in the development of a false self, based on the expectations of others. Additionally, messages aimed at soliciting a specific behavior from a group—that is contrary to who she or he is at the core—creates a higher risk for depression, anxiety, repetitive self-mutilation syndrome, suicidality, as well as substance abuse and addiction.
We implore you to change the overall discussion of same-sex attraction from one of ostracization to one of inclusion and student welfare. Rather than aiming our efforts toward marginalizing students because of their identity, we should be celebrating student’s dignity and the courage it takes to show who they are; we should be exercising compassion and love; and we should be developing and fostering a sense community and understanding within the wide array of expressions that encompass the human spirit.
José F. Mata, Spellman Class of 1993, M.A., Clinical Psychology
Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari, Spellman Class of 1993, M.A., English Literature/English Education (Secondary)