I hope they’ll soon be telling a new version of the story of Noah and the Flood at Ontario’s St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School: The Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board appears to have banned rainbows from a student-run information booth at an anti-homophobic event held there this week. If the school’s officials want to be perceived as consistent, the information table won’t be the only place that using the rainbow symbol is discouraged.
I imagine that in the revised, Catholic School Board-approved version of the story, Noah won’t see a rainbow. Noah will still get his dove, of course. He’ll see a white dove, with a green branch in his beak and as a result of seeing this inoffensive (almost monochromatic) sign, he’ll under- stand that there’s dry land again. But after that, Noah will just stand on the deck of his ark, staring at the sky, waiting for a rainbow to appear, which it won’t.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board denies that they’ve banned rainbows, which are, among other things, a symbol of gay pride. Board spokesman Bruce Campbell told The Toronto Star that the board simply prefers that the students use a more generic “in-house design rather than the rainbow flag” – that is, one that isn’t about being gay.
If this tactic sounds familiar, it’s because the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association like to run things this way: These anti-bullying groups are a recent compromise made in response to a request that the Gay-Straight Alliances that exist in the regular school system be recognized in Catholic schools as well, because anything less is discriminatory. Now they’re allowed but only if they don’t use the word “gay” in the organization’s name, or use gay symbols, apparently.
They’re like camera clubs, except the students have no cameras and they mostly want to have sex with people who are the same gender as they are and because of this they may be relentlessly bullied, severely beaten and perhaps kicked out of their homes, and often struggle with depression far more than the school’s heterosexual population – but they have a lot of other things to talk about.
Again, I’d just like to see some consistency here. It is a fine solution, as long the other school clubs in Catholic schools aren’t allowed to identify their purposes either. As long as the chess club must call itself the Scrabble club and the hockey team must call itself the debate team, it’s okay. Not that there’s any shame in chess or hockey, but – well, you know.
Not surprisingly, the students at St. Joseph’s seem to have felt the suggestion that they not use rainbows was something weightier than a suggestion. “We brought signs and posters with rainbows, and we were told that we can’t put them up,” Leanne Iskander, the 16-year-old student who founded St. Joseph’s totally-not-a-gay-straight-alliance told the gay-and-lesbian newspaper Xtra. So instead the students baked rainbow colours into cupcakes. (Ms. Iskander’s thoughtful but determined work at a school she continues to attend makes a mere Stop Harper sign look pretty small, I think.)
We expect all this of the Catholic school system, but what might get more attention is what happened to those cupcakes. They were sold, raising $200. But the students, Ms. Iskander told Xtra, weren’t allowed to donate the money to the LGBT Youth Line (a helpline that offers support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids) as they’d planned. It had to go to Covenant House, a Catholic homeless shelter, instead, they were told.
A Google search suggests that if this is the Catholic school board’s policy, it’s routinely being broken. Money’s being raised for all kinds of equally nefarious non-Catholic charities such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Terry Fox Foundation. I’d like this donating policy clarified. What’s the criteria? Where’s the consistency? Rainbows for all or rainbows for no one, I say.
If Ms. Iskander can’t have a rainbow, then neither can Noah. And of course, without that rainbow, Noah will just stay on the boat. The animals will go nuts. Manure will pile up everywhere. But Noah will be in the right to just hang tough on his ark, because that rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with man. It seals the promise that it’ll never again rain for 40 days and 40 nights.
Without that rainbow, Noah and his children and our children will only live in fear that the torment will begin again, that nothing has really changed, that it doesn’t really get much better – not a very satisfying or hopeful ending.