Don’t Say Gay (Includes Taped Interview with TN State Senator Stacey Campfield)

Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield has proposed a law:

SB0049 Abstract: Education, Curriculum – As introduced, prohibits the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8. – Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10.

My friend, Rene Syler, the Good Enough Mother, brought it to my attention this morning, and it caught my attention like a whiplash.  First, I thought, these are policy issues that should be managed at a local level, by local school boards made up of members elected by the communities they serve.  Then I thought…

What materials on human sexuality are they furnishing to kids in Tennessee, anyway?  And if they are furnishing said materials, why legislate the exclusion of a point on the spectrum of human sexuality?  Why legislate ignorance of anything?

I thought I’d ask State Senator Campfield.  So I did (courtesy KRLD)…

I brought up my sister’s suicide not because she was gay.  She committed suicide, in part, because of the unrequited affection of a boy.

My sister and me after her 8th grade graduation, at which she sang a lovely solo. Five months later, she committed suicide.

Some children called her gay. In fact, this seems to be the go-to insult for kids who are bullied.  However, I brought up her suicide solely because of her age.  She was barely 15 and in 9th grade.  She was working on this decision, I’m sure, in 8th grade, when bullies were calling her gay.  Kids who were ignorant of what it meant to be gay.  Kids who had access to only bad information about homosexuality.  Kids, some of whom surely were gay and may have bullied in a desperate attempt to ease their agony over emerging feelings they didn’t want and had no way to understand.

Kids.  Kids on the upper age limit impacted by Campfield’s proposed legislation.

But how about the younger kids he briefly claimed needed to learn about reproduction but not homosexuality?  If their teachers don’t say gay, do they?

Yes, and again, yes.

I wrote and produced a news story about a 9-year-old who hanged himself in the bathroom of the elementary school nurse’s office; a 9-year-old labeled gay by his peers for years.  A 9-year-old whose educators turned a blind eye to the relentless attacks on this child and derisive comments about his percieved “sexuality”.

His sexuality.  Yes, at nine.

It seems to me kids already know how to say gay.  It seems to me we should teach them what they are saying when they say it, or what they are hearing when they hear it.  It seems to me we should be teaching kids this is not an insult worth dying over.  We should be teaching them it’s not an insult at all.  It just is.

Campfield says he is protecting parents’ rights to teach their children about homosexuality in their own way.  OK.  I’m down with that.  Four of my 5-year-old’s closest friends have two mommies.  We don’t talk about bedrooms or XY chromosomes or reproduction.  We talk about going to the movies or swimming or church or dinner.  We have birthday parties.

That’s my way.  It may not be yours.  I get that.

But where does the state fit into this scenario?  Nowhere, that I can see.  Parents elect representatives to a Board of Education.  School boards write policy, then vote.  They implement the policy or they don’t.  If voters don’t like it, they throw the bums out.

As a parent and an American, I don’t think schools should promote homosexuality.  I don’t think they should promote heterosexuality.  I don’t think they should promote sexuality at all.  The should offer simple, accurate information.  Teachers should be available to students in emotional distress (no matter what the cause of that distress may be), and should be able to gently guide them to resources that will keep them from a casket.

My teacher friends tell me there is no legislation that could keep them from helping a child in pain, anyway.  Thank God.

-Bonnie

ETA:

…when it came before the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, contended current law already prohibits such instruction by deeming it a misdemeanor to teach any sex education that is not part of the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education.

Writing legislation where legislation already exists is a pet peeve of mine.  Usually it means someone is doing some moralizing, although I can’t speak for Sen. Campfield (bills sponsored and co-sponsored). -b

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Comments

  1. I agree with your statements about sexuality in school. Simple and accurate information when asked for it. I even think promoting the students to ask any and all questions they have about ANYTHING would be great. Just so they know they can ask, and maybe that could help young kids stay away from self-destructive thoughts.

    I find it ridiculous to prohibit one part of a subject matter while allowing another. It may be subtle and understated but it is promoting both one over the other and the nonacceptance of the other.

  2. It’s been my experience and I’m sure most other parents, that when you try and suppress information about things like sexuality, drugs, race and other important social issues that kids will learn about it anyway but in unhealthy, errant ways.

    There is this Victorian notion that the more you conceal one’s sexuality and side step it for as long as you can then your kid is less likely to be “harmed” by it. It’s like failing to properly potty train them. If you don’t start before they fully understand what bowel movements are all about, you’re going to have a mess on your hands.

    My only daughter is gay but we never knew it until she was in her late teens and she didn’t even confide in us about it until her early twenties. Neither my wife or I talked negatively about homosexuals and yet somehow she sensed that we would be offended if we discovered this. It’s an emotional setback of course to discover such a thing but we adjusted quickly and we always told her that we loved her.

    It perhaps is the culture here in Texas where most people speak pejoratively about gays with so many fundamentalist christians and it may have been that atmosphere that poisoned the well for her. She knows I condemn those who belittle gays and though we still don’t openly discuss it, I think she feels comfortable about who she is and where we are at with it.

    Nice piece Bonnie

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