Quick… What's the Answer?

Stacey Campfield recently introduced a piece of legislation to prohibit discussion of homosexuality in Tennessee elementary and middle schools. The bill landed in the sub-committee of a committee of some other committee, you know – the one which meets in a dark secret room in the basement of some state building, where these bills are sent to die without ever seeing the light of day. Ah well, it was just the House Education K-12 Subcommittee. Point is this bill had about as much chance of surviving as Frosty two miles outside Hell.

Campfield said the ban is not anti-gay: but intended to place parents in charge of what their children learn about sexuality.

I do not think that classes on sexuality should be taught to children under the eighth grade no matter what direction it goes. […] The topics of sexual orientation are topics best left to parents and guardians. They should be the ones who decide what and when those issues are appropriate to discuss. Not schools.

I have a confession to make. Deep down, in the innermost recesses of my mind, amongst those thoughts I would normally never confess to anyone – I support this bill and any other bill banning the discussion of sex in the classroom but not just same-sex sex, but all sexes having any kind of sex with any other sexed sexes.

I would prefer if parents were allowed to determine when these discussions are appropriate. I, being one of those totally cool & hip moms, would probably have this discussion with my kids early – around age 20 perhaps. You know, if I felt they were ready.

Then, I wake up and I’m in the real world. In the real world, five-year-old Ms. Diva already knows there are same-sex couples because… um, well, there are same-sex couples.

Plus, last year during her 5th Birthday Sleep-Over Slumber Party, the Delightful Miss M, who is all-knowing and wears lipstick because she’s 7, informed Ms. Diva girls could marry girls. Technically, this means Cinderella could wed Sleeping Beauty.

Ms. Diva was shattered… shaken… her world tumbled upside down. She had trouble wrapping her head around news, which could alter every fairy tale she’d ever been told. What do you mean Princesses don’t always marry Princes and live happily ever after?!
She wasn’t being judgmental or intolerant. Heck, her Auntie Deanna is a lesbian. (Well, Deanna is a cousin, but in the South, we take the liberty of assigning our kin more appropriate seeming labels.) Apparently though, the lesbian concept doesn’t register until you apply the same couple composition to to Disney Princesses – at which time it becomes mind-boggling sh!t.

At some point, Mr. Smartypants wandered into the living room and announced girls marrying girls was illegal in the law of the laws – Uncle Lukey said. So, they go to prison for that.

A heated discussion followed. Finally, Diva slapped on the surly liberal-leaning girl attitude, which she most certainly inherited from her Mama, and yelled:

“Shut Up Liar-Face Liar-Pants! Can’t nobody be the boss of that! You marry whom’in you want to marry if’n you got a poofy dress. If you got a poofy dress and the Bible man, you can so too! So, you’re a big Fat Liar Liar! There, yeah so there! Liar!”

(Man, you’ve got to envy the enormous margin of freedom afforded to kindergarten discourse. I cannot count the number of times have I wanted to scream at various folks: “Oh yeah, you’re a big fat liar-pants!” Somewhere along the way, we matured into using only civil words… most of the time.)

When the girls started advancing on my 8-year old future Evangelical Conservative Republican, I entered the room to calm the lipsticked mob.

I tried to remain calm. I concentrated on all the vodka I was gonna drink when the party was over. I mean – my God, this was worse than the whole “How come I am penislessness?” question. (For the record, penislessness means the state of not having a penis. I’ve been assured this is a common question amongst little girls who’ve barged into the bathroom while their brother is taking a leak – only to realize he has something she doesn’t have, which may or may not be normal or even fair for that matter… and you don’t know until you ask.)

I answered the questions in a straightforward and concise manner. No elaborating. I told them: “Yes, girls can marry girls. No, they cannot go to jail. Girls can live with Girls in the same house like mommies and daddies do, but the President Guy says it doesn’t count as being married because they’re both girls.”

Hell yeah, I blamed George Bush. He’s taken credit for so much confusion, laying on this on him wasn’t going to make a big difference.

“No, I don’t know if girls married to girls share their fruit snacks and eyeshadow- probably, I guess. No, there is no law saying you must wear a poofy dress to get married. I don’t know why. There’s just not. Because not everyone wants to get married in a poofy dress. ”

The discussion veered off in 24 different directions, landing finally on how all the girls had Days of the Week Bloomers and wore them on the wrong days, which is some brand hilarious I’ve gotten to old to appreciate. And I was an utter fool because I thought this was the end of the discussion.

Yesterday, on the way home from soccer practice, Diva announced she had figured out why the President Guy won’t allow same-sex unions.

There was that instant and acute discomfort which comes when grown-ups are required to talk about grown-up subjects with people they’ve recently potty trained. Then, I felt a bit of pride. If my kid had figured out the whole gay-rights conundrum, she’s smarter than I am.

And I went on to give that intelligent type response that only a highly-intelligent, well-educated Mommy with a Masters Degree could give. “Uh… Umm… … uh… well, er…. oh, you uh… have?”

“Yes. It is on account of if girls marry girls, they’ll fight over who wears the poofy dress. Fighting is illegal. You go to the Principals office for that.”

“No Diva,” I said, “I don’t think that is it.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure, Diva.”

“Why then?”

“Uh, er, um, I, eh… ”

Quick… what’s the answer?

Here is where I get confused.

Diva and I are not talking about sex. We’re talking about who wears the poofy dress and who is allowed to live together. Yet I’m thrown – why? Because I haven’t planned for this question? Because it’s political? Religious? Because society, at large, has made the topic so divisive, anyone would stumble over it for fear of stepping in the wrong place?

Hell, maybe even same-sex parents have a hard time explaining why they’re living together and they can’t get married. Seriously, how do you communicate about such complicated matters to a person who believes the Barbie Dolls and the dog talk when she’s not looking?

I have friends and family members who are in same-sex relationships, but I can’t discuss this with them. What if I unintentionally offend them? What if I use politically incorrect terms? What if, ultimately, they do not approve of my decision?

I have friends and family who, based on religious beliefs, are vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage and the same-sex concept in general. What would be the use of talking to them? They’ve left no room to move.

So -here I am, essentially standing on middle ground with no one to have an honest conversation with but you. Consequently, Friends of the Internet, we’re going to talk and tell some truth here: and if I offend you or violate your rights, well then, you should’ve had better sense than to wander over here in the first place.

First of all, I am very much a “live and let live” person; however, I’ve always respected the right of Christian people to reject same-sex relationships. I can understand how they feel “gay-rights” is in violation of their rights… or as though the rights of another group has taken priority over their own.

Personally, however, I’ve never been quite certain about using the Bible to support the argument. I’ve studied the Bible and seem to interpret things differently than most.

I’ve always thought Jesus’ message of love, acceptance and compassion overruled those contradictory laws of the Old Testament. This meant no more sacrificing the cows and the kids. No finding a wife by snatching her from the village and raping her. No more stoning the whores, pagans, thieves and people who worked on the Sabbath.

I’ve since been told this is not the case. Apparently, if Jesus made no reference to a sin in the New Testament, you resort to the Old law, unless the Old is direction violation with the New, in which case… you know, this would all be so much easier if we could call in a few lawyers to sort out the Bible.

Even still, let’s go back. There are violent and abusive acts of homosexuality condemned in the Bible – otherwise, it’s not high ranking on the sin chart – but tossed in with fibbing, spitting on the floor and… what to do when you are unclean due to childbirth and menstruation.

This raises questions for me.

We don’t demand a blackout for lying or Kotex. Why do we demand a blackout here? Will it go away if we pretend it doesn’t exist? Can you force others, who do not share your beliefs or values to pretend it doesn’t exist? And what about those other huge sins, big sins, universal, all-denominational type sins, such as murder? We don’t even demand or expect a blackout there – why is this bigger?

The typical reply is “we don’t want our children indoctrinated to the gay lifestyle.” This has always been the battle cry when parents oppose the presence of a gay friend, teacher or flip their lid over *various books portraying same-sex couples. If we show pictures or tell stories about two mommies and two daddies: this constitutes a discussion about sexual orientation.

So, why is it when we show a child a storybook with pictures of mommies and daddies, we are not considered to be discussing sexuality? Because if they’re indoctrinated to heterosexuals, then that’s more than okay – right?

Here is where we need to get honest. This fight, for the most part, isn’t about protecting religious rights or values, upholding the constitution and glorifying the Lord. The fight is about protecting our children from becoming gay or lesbian themselves. It seems homosexuality isn’t only the sin: it’s the modern day pillar of salt curse too.

If they look, they may turn.

I say this fear is normal.

In fact, last week, in the back of Smartypants’ closet behind the outgrown Easter Suits, I found a picture of a half naked lady clipped from the Victoria Secrets catalog and taped to the wall. I’ll admit I breathed a sigh of relief and even left it there. For now anyway. And I was relieved. I won’t feel bad about admitting this.

No parent wants their child to be different. No parent want their child to be the object of ridicule, rejection, and scorn – or worse: to be physically abused and tortured. So, I say there’s nothing wrong with this fear and it’s rather common:

But don’t we need to acknowledge where our hesitance, refusal and fear are coming from?

Then, when it comes to legislating the rights of others, allowing them to be acknowledged and seen: we need to ask – is basing our decisions on this fear fair?

Your child may not grow up and become homosexual: other children will. So, if we continue to ignore the issue or treat it like something terrifying, dark and looming — are we teaching tolerance? How far is this method going to go toward protecting other kids from ridicule, scorn or death.

This is like spending years screaming: “No, we don’t want our children to talk about Purple People! We don’t want them to know about the Purple People ! How dare you push your Purple People agenda on Us! Purple People are against our Religion! We have a right not to expose our Children to Purple People! The Purple People are not entitled to be portrayed in the same places we other people are! They’re asking for special considerations! Damn those Purple People! They’re taking over the world!”

Then, someday telling your kids: “Theres a group of Purple People. They’re different from us and we don’t agree with them, okay? Be tolerant though. What is tolerance? uh, I don’t know.”

Is that going to work? I don’t see how. Seems to me, if we can’t overcome our fear: we’re just going to keep the cycle going and kids will end up dying because of our fear.

I don’t think I can do that to that someday kid. So as much as I’d love to scream, “Hey, let’s talk about where babies come from instead because Mommy is way more comfortable with that.” I won’t.

I said, “Honey, Mommy really doesn’t know the answer to that question. I think it’s mostly because many people are scared of others who are different from them.”

(*These books are on the ALA’s most challenged/banned book list. My favorite books, which begin to introduce the subject, are this and this. Then again, you might not want to trust my opinion as my children have these books as well.)

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4 thoughts on “Quick… What's the Answer?

  1. Thanks for the link to the bill.

    Technically it doesn’t prohibit discussion, just instruction or dissemination of materials:

    “no public elementary or middle school shall permit
    any instruction or materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality”

    So if it comes up you could still talk about it, but Heather Has Two Mommies would have to be sent from the library to the incinerator.

    Essentially this bill puts homosexuality and prayer on the same level playing field. The teacher can’t lead the class in prayer, but they can pray on their own.

    State or federal laws telling schools what sorts of books are prohibited is seldom a good idea. It’s better to leave it up to the individual school districts to do what they think is best.

    That said, I think if a teacher wants to bring in a team full of gay activists to lead a day’s lessons in safe ways to do gay sex, written parental permission should be obtained in advance.

  2. Should also clarify that I think if a teacher wants to bring in a team full of free love activists to lead a day’s lessons in safe ways to do straight sex, written parental permission should also be obtained in advance.

  3. Deborah, I have just laughed myself silly over the gay activists and free love bit.

    No – technically, the bill doesn’t ban discussion. However, there has been a great deal of debate over how banning “instruction” might include “teachable moments.” If the subject matter is introduced, can we discuss this in class? If the discussion were led by an instructor – would this count as “instruction?”

    Grrr “technically” is such a problematic word – and seems to always mean “but open for interpretation.” For this reason I don’t think we should be legislating either way. Either way, we restrict or eliminate parental/personal choice. So ABSOLUTELY these things stay at a local level. If the system opts to address any issue, which may be controversial. then send home an outline of the curriculum and a permission slip. Thereby leaving the decision in the hands of the parent.

    Of course, you’d want to keep in mind that this is the viewpoint of a gal who truly believes high school students should be allowed to study the Bible as a historical text with student-led discussions on translation, interpretation, why they vary and how religion has influenced society.

  4. It’s true what you say about the teachable moments, the law is worded too vaguely, in addition to its other flaws.

    Its focus, homosexuality, is kind of an emotionally laden distraction that hides its problems. If we replace that word with “Topic X”, its flaws are easier to see, that it’s trying to control what teachers can discuss with students.

    The Bible is definitely one of the foundation documents of Western civilization. Not covering it is like not covering Shakespeare.

    I had a good class on Bible studies in school back in the day. I am not sure all parents would be thrilled to have a good Bible class taught. First thing I remember was reviewing papers about linguistic style analyses that showed that there were three different editors that contributed to Genesis, this material could prove controversial to some parents.

    If studying religious influences on the development of civilization, the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, and writings of Confucius should be included as well. This could also provide to be a can of worms to the folks initially most enthusiastic about a Bible class.

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