Catholic Diocese of Cleveland’s new policy rejects transgender people, same sex couples

By: - September 12, 2023 4:50 am

Graphic by WEWS.

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland created a new policy around gender identity and sexuality, and more than 80 schools around Northeast Ohio will have to follow what the Diocese calls “God’s Intentional Design.”

The Catholic church was the first real community Eliana Turan had. She was forced out at age 12, she said.

“While I am still a woman of God, I feel that I’m a woman without a church,” Turan said.

She knew she was transgender when she was just four years old.

“Not everybody that God creates is going to match the gender binary,” she said. “My body doesn’t match the gender binary.”

But the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland’s new policy on LGBTQ+ expression makes her relive all the emotions she felt decades ago.

“I feel excommunicated again,” she said.

Students must act and dress as their “God-given biological sex.”

Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau had a multitude of questions about this provision. What does acting “inconsistent” with sex assigned at birth look like? Are there guidelines around acting in a manner  “causing confusion or scandal regarding” one’s sex or gender? Does this reinforce gender stereotypes? If a student is not transgender, but is, for example, a “tomboy,” liking sports, not liking pink, etc.  – does that mean they are acting “inconsistent” with their sex assigned at birth? This provision could result in disciplinary action, but the Diocese did not answer what that would look like.

“This means that every person is expected to refrain from acting in a manner the purpose of which is to hold themselves out as being a sex or gender that is inconsistent with the person’s God-given biological sex or which, regardless of intent, has the effect of causing confusion or scandal regarding the person’s sex or gender relative to the person’s God-given biological sex,” the policy states.

Other policy provisions include:

  • No gender transitioning or ability to use gender-affirming care while in the schools.
  • No one can “advocate or celebrate” LGBTQ+ community, including displaying the pride flag or rainbows.
  • No same-sex couples at dances or “similar events.” Schools will use discretion to allow a “platonic friend” to attend a dance.
  • No preferred pronoun usage other than the sex assigned at birth
  • Each individual must use the bathroom or “facilities” that corresponds with their sex assigned at birth.
  • If a school is a single-sex school, trans children who are now that gender are not allowed to attend.
  • Only single-sex sports teams, except girls can join boys’ teams “when deemed appropriate.”
  • There will also be a parental notification if a child is questioning their gender.

The policy applies to the diocesan schools and its parishes. While there are 106 schools in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, the number directly impacted by this policy includes 79 elementary schools and five high schools. This does not include independent or religious order schools, according to the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
“They need a way to protect traditional family values,” state Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) said. “They need a way to protect their children.”

Bird is the chair of the Primary and Secondary Education Committee and believes the Diocese is doing the right thing.

“They’re trying to promote traditional family values, and same-sex couples at a dance does not represent family values,” the lawmaker said.

The Diocese said its policy is in response to “societal trends,” which the lawmaker believes he is also trying to address. He introduced a bill requiring trans children to use the bathroom with their sex assigned at birth.

“I want to help solve the problem that’s come from the confusion that’s being created from those who are part of this ‘trans cult,'” he said.

Public schools are becoming too progressive, the lawmaker added, so the church putting forward these policies is a good incentive for the voucher system.

The EdChoice voucher system is a controversial policy that takes public school dollars and gives them to families to spend on private schools. Thanks to the state’s latest budget, any family in Ohio — even if they make millions of dollars — can get at least some of their child’s private education paid for. This means that the state would be funding these types of policies.

“Public school is being a part of this ‘trans cult’ that is occurring, and it’s not reality,” Bird said.

Public school policies follow Title IX in equality for all students regardless of identity. Bird said it is going too far and leaving parents behind.

Northeast Ohioans that OCJ/WEWS spoke to did not support the church’s new policy.

“Catholic means universal, shouldn’t that universal aspect include every person?” asked Cameron Mays, a Brecksville resident. “Let the kid explore what they wanna explore, do what they want to do.”

Danica VanHorn also supported LGBTQ+ rights and care over the church’s doctrine.

“The LGBTQ+ community does deserve care,” VanHorn said. “I think people have a right to say who they are, what they are, how they feel.”

Others told OCJ/WEWS that they didn’t understand why the church was getting involved and that this was an “overreach.”

“There is no hope for any organized religion if they don’t become open for everyone on this earth,” added Mays, a practicing Catholic. “It’s their own funeral.”

Churches are going directly against the teachings of Jesus Christ, Turan said.

“They actually are not doing God’s work by shunning and exiling,” she said.

The Cleveland Diocese’s stance comes seven months after remarks from Pope Francis on the LGBTQ+ community. Back in January, he called laws that criminalize homosexuality “unjust.” He also called on Catholic bishops who support those laws to welcome the queer community into the church. He added that he wants those bishops to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

Despite all of the provisions targeting transgender adults and youth, the Diocese told OCJ/WEWS that “each and every person is welcome and invited to be a part of the Church.”

This policy will likely be challenged by equal rights groups.


This article was originally published on and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.