Note: this article was previously published in a slightly different form on May 21, 2011 at BusinessClarksville.com. It’s important to note that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is up for consideration once again. The measure will go before the State House Education Subcommittee this week. The fact that Sen. Campfield is pushing the bill through despite the rash of suicides by gay teens lately, including young Phillip Parker, who was in the eighth grade — and would have been directly affected by this completely ludicrous bill if it became law.
I am republishing this post here so that my readers can know exactly why this bill is so dangerous, and so completely wrong for our state — or any state. Legislation based on bigotry has no business being considered. Ever.
I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to TN Senator Stacey Campfield for getting his “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed and simultaneously making Tennessee a laughingstock for the entire country. Campfield, a confirmed bachelor, has fought to get this bill into the light of day for six years, and finally got it passed in the state Senate.
The bill would outlaw any discussion or materials on “any sexuality other than heterosexuality,” apparently because the fact that some people are attracted to members of the same sex are just too “complex” for middle school-aged children to understand. News flash — they understand a lot more than you realize, Senator. Clearly, you haven’t dealt with the fact that teen pregnancies don’t begin in high school.
Now that this inane bill has been passed, it will be considered in the house next year. Hopefully, grown ups will prevail and we’ll put this sad chapter behind us once again. Campfield’s little pet project has been the brunt of jokes and comedians around the country, leaving little hope for reprieve for our state.
This bill is as absurd as it is ludicrous. Our state’s economy has been in the tank for years, and this is what is so important that we have to spend our time and resources on?
Aside from pointing out just how ridiculous this proposed law really is, I should point out the two major elements of this bill: It prohibits classroom discussion as well as any distribution of materials. Not only does it prevent teachers from answering relevant questions about sexual orientation in an age-appropriate way, it prevents guidance counselors from presenting gay-positive materials to gay and questioning students.
Now, let’s pretend that for a moment, adolescent kids enter puberty in middle school and that tweens and teens are totally horrible to each other. No. Wait. Let’s not pretend. This is reality. Add to this the horrifying and brutal attacks on a transgender teen in Memphis and the suicides by gay teens because of bullying.
Thanks to this travesty, counselors won’t even be able to properly do their job: to counsel! This, of course, requires discussion and distribution of literature to struggling kids. If someone is being bullied because they’re gay, well, tough. They can’t talk about it. It’s just bullying.
Sure, we don’t need to be discussing the specifics of sexual relationships in elementary school of any form of sexuality, but middle school is a time where hormones are bouncing off the walls, and yes, when puberty kicks into high gear. From ages 11-14, kids are beginning to realize that they’re attracted to certain people, and they’re beginning to notice certain body parts.
Despite all of this, gay kids will continue to become aware of their sexuality, and often times during middle school. If this bill becomes law, they will be driven further into the closet, and deeper into potentially serious mental illness — all because they can’t deal with the very important issues they’re facing.
Proponents of this bill claim that such topics should only be discussed with the parents. Unfortunately, when it comes to complex matters of sexual orientation and the issues that gay kids face, parents are often either closed minded (no child of mine will be a faggot!) or just ill-equipped to answer the very real questions that their child has.
But let’s be honest here. This bill isn’t about controlling the conversation. This bill is about avoiding the conversation. It’s not that parents don’t want someone else talking about sexual orientation to their elementary or middle school kids, they don’t want the conversation to be held at all.
As is often the case when topics of gay marriage and relationships come up, anti-gay parents or “leaders” will whine about the fact that they have to explain to their kid that two men are married, as if that’s at all complicated. They’ll complain about having to discuss the kind of sex that men have (or might have) with each other, and talk about it being disgusting or “against God’s law.”
This bill has but one design: to avoid the topic. In that avoidance, parents are theoretically spared the “embarrassment” of talking about the matter, and all will be well. There’s only one problem. Once we remove the professional teachers and counselors from the equation who can discuss it properly, who’s left?
- Parents who would do anything to make sure their child doesn’t turn out to be gay
- Churches who teach that all homosexuals will burn in hell
- Other peers who berate and talk about how stupid and nelly those faggots are
- Internet commenters who will add their own boorish “thoughts” to conversation, usually with such pearls as “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” (as if it really advances discussion or makes any point except in revealing their ignorance)
- News and information websites that post gay-related articles
- Pornography (and don’t pretend that kids don’t go looking for ways to skirt parental control settings)
The point is simple: Someone is going to be talking to your child about sexual orientation and sexuality. Thanks to Sen. Campfield, we’re about to remove the very people from the conversation who can help them the most. The simple fact of the matter is that adults need to start acting like adults and have these important conversations without letting childish anti-gay bias govern their actions.
Without the support of teachers, guidance counselors, and school nursing staff, these struggling kids will be facing something far more dangerous and far more damning than any mere bully: A black wall of silence that looms over the despair of depression and suicide.