Recently, there has been a hashtag circulating on social media that looks to expose intolerant practices within the Catholic Church. #exposechristianschools started in response to Karen Pence teaching at a school that openly denounces homosexuality. Momentum for the hashtag increased when a video of boys from Covington Catholic high school mocked a Native American man surfaced.

Since then, the hashtag has exploded across social media platforms as an outlet for students to expose the secrets of Christian schools. With the use of social media, finally, light can be shed on some of the secrets that remain hidden behind their preppy and exclusive names.

Coming out will always be one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Regardless of how long I have been out as a lesbian, a pit still forms in my stomach each time the subject is brought up. It is not that I am embarrassed of my sexuality; it is the uncertainty of others’ reactions that makes me anxious.

Not only is this experience nerve wracking, it is recurring. With every new person who enters my life, the subject, along with the tension, eventually gets brought up. The first few moments after coming out are spent assessing the listener’s response. In most cases, the response is positive and one of support, but unfortunately this is not always the case.

When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality, I was a senior in a Catholic high school. I had been dating my first girlfriend for several months without saying a word about it to my friends. I loved my friends, but the subject of anything LGBT was not brought up within my school.

During senior year, it was mandated that all students enroll in one of two religion-based classes; bioethics or community service. Bioethics was advertised as a class where students would be able to express their opinions on a variety of subjects that were considered controversial in the Catholic Church. However, this was far from the reality.

Every class began with the teacher presenting a topic that was considered controversial, and explaining why it was an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church. There would then be a few minutes of class time to allow students to express their opinions.  

On numerous occasions these few minutes of so-called discussion led to students being kicked out of class for voicing their opinions. During a lecture on why stem cell research was an insult to the Catholic Church because it devalued human lives, several of my classmates were asked to leave because their individual discussions showed support for the research. Students who expressed differing opinions from those being taught were dismissed, and those that were submitted in homework assignments received lower grades.

Nearing the end of the school year, the subject of homosexuality was broached as an unforgivable sin in the Catholic Church.

I sat in class surrounded by friends and classmates who did not know I was gay while we were lectured on why gay marriage was an insult to the idea of marriage. I had to sit there quietly as my teacher droned about how it would never be legitimate, because marriage was only to be between a man and a woman for the sole purpose of having children. She also assigned a journal article on the illegitimacy of gay marriage.

After that came time for discussion. The viewpoints were mixed, but one of my guy friends expressed that he didn’t believe that gay marriage should be legitimized. As someone who was not out yet, this environment just made me feel even more isolated.

In general, I have never considered myself a religious person, and after my experiences within the Catholic schooling system I find it even harder to accept some of the teachings of the Catholic faith. It’s not that I do not believe in some of the values and teachings of Christianity, it is more the way in which they are presented. Religion has always been correlated with feelings of unity through a common belief, but in an environment that considers your lifestyle to be “immoral” it is hard to feel anything but isolation.