Monday, May 2, 2011

Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" Bill and The Mistake State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) and Other Homophobic Politicians Are Making

So legislators in Tennessee have decided to create and move forward through their Senate committee a bill that would

"prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom before the ninth grade...

The bill requires that “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."

This is so messed up, I need to tackle it from a few sides:

1. Being attracted to members of the same (or opposite) sex is not "catching." Discussing men falling in love with men, or women falling in love with women, won't make a straight child gay any more than my growing up surrounded by images and stories and movies and a whole world of men falling in love with women made me straight - it didn't, I'm gay, and it just made it harder to figure things out as there were NO gay role models or even examples I could find to say, "Oh, that's who I am."

2. Discussing someone's being gay (or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, or questioning, or queer) is not the same as discussing sex. There are age-appropriate ways to discuss sexuality and gender identity without being graphic or inappropriate. I, like many other gay parents, have a child, and we talk about a prince falling in love with another prince (as opposed to a princess) and it's an easy and natural discussion. Talking about my family (my husband, myself and our child) is no more a discussion of sex than talking about any straight person's family. Think about someone straight you know. When you talk about their family, are you talking about sex? Probably not. Well, it's the same thing.

3. Given that this is the same Tennessee lawmaker who has proposed issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses and permitting guns on college campuses, it makes me wonder if it's all a cynical publicity stunt - say inflammatory things against an unpopular minority, and mobilize the conservative base that put you in office in the first place. Get those donations up. Make some headlines.

But the tragedy of this is that a gay kid growing up, afraid of coming out, is going to hear about this and perhaps think, Oh, God. The authentic me is such a terrible person - the people in charge don't even want it mentioned to kids that people like me exist! And then we wonder why we have a culture where GLBTQ kids feel so alienated. Why parents still throw their children out of the house when they come out. Why we have such a higher rate of gay teen suicides.

This kind of prejudice, ignorance and hatred-of-those-different-from-you does not belong in our world, let alone in any of our laws.

This bill makes Tennessee and our world a worse place, and we need to be heading in the other direction.

My hope is that Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield (pictured above in the Huffington Post article on the 'Don't Say Gay' Bill) and his colleagues who voted with him might come across this post. And learn where they are so, so wrong.

Because we all need to be moving our world towards letting every gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and questioning and queer kid growing up know that it's okay to be the REAL people they are. That they are perfect just as they are, flaws and passions and in-process journey to become themselves, and that we'll be here, cheering them on as they undertake their adventures to adulthood.

That's the real job of being an adult.

Perhaps Tennessee's lawmakers might consider that as this bill continues it's journey to hopefully not become law.



Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

I write for teens and younger kids both, and what struck me about the little ones is how strained it would be for them and their parents.

Would they be reprimanded for saying, "my mommies" or daddy's partner" or would their parents be expected to present themselves and their beloveds as "just" friends?

I wondered how it might extend to books, especially picture books. Would Nancy Garden/Sharon Wooding's lovely Molly's Family be forbidden? Or even Liz Garton Scanlon/Marla Frazee's All the World, which offers diversity on several levels through the gorgeous illustrations?

That said, I hope you're right, that's it's simply political posturing to attract donations. However, I likewise wish that wasn't such a proven strategy.

Anonymous said...

Scopes Trial, anyone? That was for teaching evolution in public schools n Tennessee, but that was in 1920ish, and it was dismissed even then. This makes me so mad. It's bad enough when teachers leave out the fact that gays were persecuted during the holocaust. No discussion until the ninth grade? That's insane. I think that the evolution law was ruled unconstitutional. Hopefully this one will go the same way, or just not get passed.