Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager
Lance Sanderson is a senior at Christian Brothers High School, a Catholic all-boys prep school in Memphis, Tennessee. Like many of his classmates, Lance was looking forward to bringing a date to his homecoming dance this weekend. While the school previously given him approval to bring a male date from another school, the school changed its policy this month and told Lance he could not bring his date.
“My date goes to another school and they’ve created this new rule that allows us to bring a date from another school, as long as it’s not another guy,” Lance told HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program. “I really hope they come around before prom. I’ve never danced at a school dance before.”
This morning, the school released a statement, citing its efforts to have “a more pro-active outreach to gay students” and asserting that the school is “not homophobic” and that it is “welcoming of students from all backgrounds.”
“The Homecoming Dance was changed to a format similar to our courtyard dances,” the statement explained. “No longer is it a date dance. The school has never let boys from other schools attend these dances as the mixing of boys from other schools in such an open atmosphere can cause problems.”
The contention that the event is no longer a “date dance” seems in conflict with the school’s Homecoming Court announcement. The announcement featured female students from other schools and their homecoming dates.
Lance’s parents are fully supportive of their son, and many classmates and others in the school community have reached out to him with words of encouragement. Unfortunately, he also told HRC that he received a threatening text message from a classmate.
Lance has a lot going for him. He’s an Eagle Scout, owns his own wedding photography business and is looking at several universities and colleges.
However, as a lifelong Catholic, he is now questioning his faith.
“When I started high school, I was Catholic,” he recalled. “But the attitude of a lot of people here has shifted my views. I’m not as religious anymore. And what my school is doing, it just doesn’t seem like they’re following the messages Pope Francis is sending.”
Lance’s story is all too familiar for many LGBTQ youth and people of faith who experience rejection at the hands of their families, churches or communities. Even as American Catholics show overwhelming support for LGBTQ equality and Pope Francis’ messages of non-judgement have been encouraging to LGBTQ Catholics, conservative dioceses across the county have made headlines for using so-called “morality clauses” to fire LGBTQ employees.
HRC stands in support of Lance Sanderson, LGBTQ youth and LGBT and allied Catholics across the country. Together, we hope to work towards a world where LGBTQ youth are accepted and supported in their homes, schools and communities and where no one has to choose between who they are, whom they love and what they believe.
We join other advocates and LGBT allies in asking Christian Brothers High School to #LetLanceDance.
For more information on creating safe and supportive schools for LGBTQ youth, visit www.welcomingschools.org.