Transgender student Damian Garcia elected to stay home after the school told him he had to wear a white robe, for girls, instead of the black worn by male students. Garcia was born a girl named Brandi until he legally changed his name last year.
He’s been a student at the school since he was freshman and has said his transgender identity was not a secret to staff or other students. However, he said the school and archdiocese told him they would refer to the gender on his birth certificate, which is female, and require him to wear the white robe.
Garcia posted to Facebook on Wednesday morning, thanking people for their support and saying the school was sticking to its decision.
“I’m fully respecting this and myself by not walking and/or attending the ceremony at all,” he said.
The archdiocese did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday. Although Garcia has received a lot of support from the community, there are also those who support the school’s decision. In letters to the Journal and on the Journal’s Facebook page, people have praised the school for not giving in to the request.
The graduation ceremony started at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Michael J. Sheehan, the archbishop of Santa Fe, addressed the nearly 200 graduates. He talked about discrimination, telling students that “following Christ means sometimes we have to take a stand for what is right. … This goes beyond social groups or labels.” He warned students they may be persecuted for standing up for their Christian values. He talked about the Jackie Robinson movie “42.” Robinson was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.
“He and his manager had the courage to crack the color barrier and end racial discrimination,” he said. “They knew it was what God wanted them to do, and they knew a majority were opposed to it. They knew they would suffer.”
Luis Garcia, Damian Garcia’s father, said he had mixed emotions about the day.
“You have to move on,” he said. “You can’t let it eat you up.”
The University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center will host a graduation ceremony for Garcia from 5 to 7 p.m. May 30 in a courtyard next to Scholes Hall on main campus.