The father of a transgender son is objecting strongly to a set of school policies on LGBTQ+ identity issued recently by the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.
“Students may not advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events,” says a document titled “Human Sexuality in Educational Settings.” “When discussing homosexuality or homosexual inclinations, the use of the term ‘same-sex attraction’ is preferred, as it is a more appropriate description in accordance with the truths of Catholic faith and morals. For the purposes of this policy, advocating for civil unions between individuals of the same sex and/or civil rights to be granted to the individuals participating in the union shall be considered equivalent to advocating for individuals experiencing same-sex attraction.”
It continues, “Students may not advocate, celebrate, or express transgenderism in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events. … All policies shall reflect appropriate considerations for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria. These accommodations shall, however, be held to strict limits. To the degree it is possible, these limits are to be made known to all parents so that informed decisions can be made while they journey with their child who is experiencing gender dysphoria.”
To John Wilka, these policies and a companion letter from Bishop Donald E. DeGrood amount to bigotry. The letter contends that “transgender ideology undermines the very basis for marriage and family, which are foundational to human society itself.”
“These policies in that letter are very frightening and very dangerous,” Wilka recently told Sioux Falls TV station KSFY. “It is my fear that it will cause more harm to children. That there will be suicide attempts. That there will be actual suicide occurrences.”
Wilka’s transgender son, Kris, who is 15, is the only out trans student athlete in South Dakota. Kris made national news when he transferred from the Catholic school system in Sioux Falls so he could play football. Wilka said he thinks the diocesan documents, issued this summer, are in reaction to his son’s transition. They tell LGBTQ+ students and their supporters that they’re not welcome in the Catholic schools, he says.
The policy states that “regarding the admittance or continued enrollment of any student at a Catholic school who claims to be transitioning or transitioned, the bishop is to be consulted and shall serve as the final decision maker.” It adds that “no student shall be admitted, enrolled or allowed to continue as a student at a Catholic school if that student’s expression of gender, sexual identity or sexuality is the cause of confusion or disruption to other students in the Catholic school system.”
This amounts to telling students to think, “Oh, no, that’s different. That’s bad. I must attack that. God doesn’t like that,” Wilka said.
He also denounced the bishop’s use of the term “transgender ideology.” “It does not exist,” Wilka told the station. “That is a phrase [used] by people who do not understand it, who are just against it. They are the same people who thought maybe you could ‘pray away gay.’ That is not going to happen.”
The policies and the letter reflect “the new culture wars in America,” Wilka added. “They lost on gay marriage; they lost on interracial marriage years ago. And now they are attacking trans and nonbinary youth.”
Part of these culture wars, he said, is the implication that trans people are trying to “convert” others. “My son is no threat to you,” Wilka said. “He’s not going to come into your home and try to convert your children and win an air fryer. He just wants to grow up to be the young man God wanted him to be.”
DeGrood was not available for comment to the station.