The Archdiocese of Omaha’s Gender Policy is Dangerous to Kids

Maddie Genoways, Staff Writer

In August, the Archdiocese of Omaha released a policy that threatens drastic consequences for the students and faculty of the diocese’s 70 schools. 

Under the “Policy of Human Sexuality,” all staff and students enrolled in an Omaha Archdiocese school must present and identify by the name and gender they were assigned at birth. 

The policy also forbids schools to “sponsor, endorse, facilitate, host, or provide any accommodation to any person, group, entity, event or activity that would condone or promote a view of sexual identity that is contrary to the church’s teachings.” 

After significant backlash, the policy was quickly rescinded and rescheduled only a few days after its release. Students, staff and parents alike criticized its vague and aggressive wording and intent. However, Archbishop George Lucas has stated the policy will still be enacted in the 2023-2024 school year after the archdiocese has made the “proper revisions.” 

This policy comes amidst a recent frightening wave of anti-LGBT legislation in schools, including Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and the Virginia Board of Education’s reversal of transgender protections. Each new policy stripping the rights of transgender people in school systems is another slap in the face for every queer person who has fought for change and equality.  

As evidence by the immediate backlash against the original policy draft shows, the schools of the diocese are not taking this news lying down. The Omaha Archdiocese spans over 16 counties, including Wayne. While many of these private schools are controlled directly by the archdiocese, the Omaha sector does contain several independent schools that are led by their own religious order. 

So far, Marian High School, Duchesne Academy and Creighton Prep High School have all taken steps to distance themselves from the Archdiocese’s gender policy. In a letter to the school community, Creighton Prep voiced support for its students, saying “while questions about sexuality and gender can be complex in the context of Catholic teaching, it is our duty as a Catholic school…to meet anyone who has these questions with pastoral care and sensitivity that embodies God’s limitless love for each person.” Marian and Duchsene echoed this sentiment. 

So, if there was enough backlash to warrant pushing the policy implementation back another year, there must be a pretty solid reason the archdiocese is insisting on policing its transgender students…right? 

Well, so far the Archdiocese of Omaha’s main reasoning behind this policy is that a child or employee of the school altering their gender identity could “confuse” students, and “cause a scandal” for the diocese. Yes, because the conflation of the words “catholic church” and “scandal” are a shocking new occurrence for everyone, I’m sure.  

In the past, the Church has backed up their hateful policies under the guise of “thousands of years of tradition,” without recognizing that their so-called tradition is straying hugely from the path set in the Bible. If the man you’ve chosen to base your entire belief system around could kiss the hands of lepers, you can stand to share the room with a trans person. One sentence in a thousand-year-old book should not nullify the validity of human life. 

In a letter to the parish addressing the release and subsequent withdrawal of the policy, Lucas brought up another point that made my hair stand on end.  

“The thought that gender can be a matter of personal choice threatens the well-being of children and young people,” Lucas said. “It threatens the relationship between parents and their children established by God… It is incompatible with our Catholic faith and the mission of Jesus.”  

Here, the archbishop brings up the Catholic concept of free will, in which all of humanity is made in God’s image, and has inherent freedom to choose. How can you tell your children that their god-ordained free will does not extend to what they choose to do with their bodies and not expect them to fight back? It is an insult to their intelligence and pushes the line between ignorance and outright hatred. It is not a respect for God or human dignity we lack in our lives, but a lack of respect for the teachings of a church unwilling to grow and change with the course of history. 

Even more baffling, the document’s first rule under appropriate responses reads: “bullying or discrimination against students experiencing gender dysphoria is prohibited.”  

Hold on a second. Bullying and discrimination? As in actions that would prevent this student from feeling safe and respected in their chosen learning environment? Actions that single them out as being physically different based solely on their chosen gender presentation?  

There is no denying that’s exactly what this policy is. It’s outright discrimination. Children are going to be singled out by officials they are meant to trust. If that’s not blatant discrimination, then I don’t know what is. 

However much anger and disgust this policy has stirred up in me, it has stirred up ten times as much terror for the Nebraskan children currently enrolled in Catholic schools. Speaking from my 13 years of experience as a student in the private school system, it was downright terrifying to grow up in an environment where being yourself in front of the wrong people could end in social isolation, horrible bullying, abuse and the dreaded report home.  

Not only will this policy destroy trans kids’ self-esteem, mental health and social lives, but it will also endanger hundreds of children living with transphobic families who will have to be kept informed under the new regulations. Perhaps the church could focus its time and resources on protecting these children, instead of giving their abusers all the more fuel to add to the fire. 

The Omaha Archdiocese’s Policy on Human Sexuality is yet another item in a long list of grievances that prove the Catholic church has been consistently ignoring the needs and voices of its parishioners. Yet they still ask, why aren’t people coming to church anymore? Maybe it’s because this generation is sick and tired of being told they are unholy and wrong for simply wanting to live a happy and fulfilling life.