SACRAMENTO, Calif. — They self-identify as a 16 going on 17-year-old, gender fluid queer student at St. Francis High School in Sacramento, who loves “everybody equally.” However, Emma Houle is facing disciplinary action as they push for inclusion on the all-girls Catholic campus.
This all started after Houle was recently elected a princess on the school’s homecoming court, where she began vying to be crowned the school’s first openly queer homecoming queen.
Houle is in their fourth year at St. Francis and is an active member of the school community where they play rugby, water polo and are a member of Inclusion 360, an on campus ministry for LGBTQ students. They come from a Catholic family who attended parochial school in the Sacramento area.
During the rally to announce the homecoming queen, Houle waved the rainbow-colored Pride flag. Houle did not win homecoming queen, but they felt they won the support of peers, some school staff, as well as the ire of administration.
“To make all the queer students and you know allies of course, feel welcome on campus,” Houle said. “That I see them and they see me and, like, we’re here.”
The following week, Houle and her parents were contacted by administration at St. Francis who threatened disciplinary action for their actions at the rally.
Houle, 16, has the full support of her mother Katharine Smith, who is deeply concerned her daughter could be removed from school.
“You can still teach your message and support these girls at the exact same time,” Smith said.
Houle later took to Instagram to express frustration over the treatment of LGBTQ students on the St. Francis campus. Houle said queer students on campus feel discriminated against, unwelcome and have not been allowed to establish clubs on campus.
“I carry the weight of your shame and guilt. I don’t deserve to bear the consequences of your unwillingness to accept me," Houle wrote. “I don’t need or want your validation but somehow I still get stuck with your abashment. I don’t have control of who I am; I can only control how I carry myself and pride in my existence.”
Numerous students and St. Francis alumni responded to the Instagram post with support. The post now has more than 2,400 likes.
In a statement to ABC10 News, a spokesperson for the school said that officials understand many students and alumni want their school to have a more supportive stance on LGBTQ+ issues.
The school wrote that it recognizes the pain of the women calling for changes at the school and that officials can do a better job to make everyone feel welcome.
“At the same time, we are a Catholic school that must abide by and uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church,” officials with St. Francis High School said in a statement. “This sometimes puts our mission at odds with what many want from us on this important social issue.”
School officials said there are limitations to what the school can support or endorse while remaining in accord with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
“At this time, we believe we cannot establish an LGBTQ+ club on campus for this reason,” St. Francis High School officials said.
Houle is expected to graduate at the end of this school year, though she’s unsure what discipline she may face. Houle said she will continue to seek creating an inclusive group for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
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