Now that Tennessee state senator Stacey Campfield has found a House sponsor for his Super Don’t Say Gay bill, gay advocates throughout the state have dug in to fight the measure with everything they have. Unfortunately, Tennessee isn’t alone in their battle to give our kids the freedom to be themselves. One county in Florida is fighting like hell to keep gays from even forming a club.
The Super Don’t Say Gay bill, as we call it, would not only prohibit any discussion of “any form of human sexuality other than heterosexuality,” but would also mandate that teachers and counselor tell a child’s parents if they discussed their own sexuality. In short, it would force kids to be outed when they’re not ready. The very people they are supposed to trust would have to become the ultimate snitch.
In a time where kids are bullied to the point of suicide, and when one out of every 4 gay teens is kicked on to the streets for being gay, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the potential harm that Senator Campfield’s widely panned bill could cause. Of course, none of this phased Representative John Ragan, who filed the house version of Super Don’t Say Gay. The New Civil Rights Movement reports:
As The New Civil Rights Movementreported in January of last year, “Rep. John Ragan, a Southern Baptist, pro-life, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-education Republican, responded to a constituent’s letter asking him to oppose a now-infamous Tennessee bill that essentially delivers a license to bully to anyone who claims religious or moral prerogative. Ragan used the phrase ‘mentally healthy adult human being,’ as in, gays and lesbians are not mentally healthy adult human beings, three times in his letter.”
Ragan’s bill, ironically introduced on Valentine’s Day, is identical to Sen. Campfield’s, and legally requires that any school official approached by any student with questions or comments about “inconsistent with natural human reproduction,” i.e., homosexuality, contact that child’s parents.
In other words. if Johnny is gay, bi, or trans, or questioning, and approaches his favorites trusted teacher, that teacher would now be required to contact Johnny’s parents and out him. In the state of Tennessee, where it’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of parents likely would not be welcoming.
Middle school, a time where children are learning more and more about themselves, and when most of them go through the turmoil of puberty, are to be denied the ability to learn facts about themselves and their gay classmates. In fact, if Campfield and Ragan have anything to say about it, those gay kids will just shut up and take their rightful bullying like big boys and girls. Their law would apply to all classrooms and schools up through the eight grade. Including middle school.
The reality is that gay kids become aware of their own attractions usually during middle school. It’s a time when every child learns about their bodies, their hormones, and yes, their sexual attractions. Because being gay is so different, so ostracizing, and so damning, these kids rarely have anyone to confide in.
If the Campfield/Ragan bill is passed, it would strip these vulnerable teens from even the few people that CAN be a positive voice in their lives.
Fortunately, many of their peers are standing beside them as true friends. Today’s kids are more supportive of their gay friends than ever before, despite the vicious cruelty of those that step into the poisoned well of bullying. Gay-straight alliances have formed all around the country. We’ve seen them in high schools and colleges alike. Now, they’re beginning to pop up in middle schools.
One Florida county school system, though, is fighting the trend with everything they have. A Lake County student has been barred from starting a GSA in her middle school. Bayli Silberstein, a Leesburge eighth grader in Carver Middle School attempted to start the club in order to provide a safe haven for her gay friends. The club was first denied by her principal, and then the school board itself. But don’t take my word for it, hear it from Bayli herself:
The ACLU stepped in to help, but the board is steadfast in their refusal. In fact, they are considering banning every extracurricular group in order to prevent the GSA from forming. After all, being gay is the worst of all evils. Or something. The organization has formed an online petition to encourage the School Board to allow the GSA to form at Carver Middle. Those interested in signing the petition can do so here.
Now, I don’t know what kind of imaginary world these anti-gay “leaders” live in, but let’s get a few things out in the open. First, these kids are exposed to sexuality at a much, much earlier age than their parents — or even their older siblings might have. Thanks to the power of the Internet, Facebook, and God knows what else, these kids are learning about sex and sexuality from every source imaginable.
Except their parents. Now, these political “leaders” want to keep their kids from learning about sex and relationships in the safe and guided environment of school curriculum. They don’t even want kids to form clubs to support each other. As a result, those who feel ostracized will continue to separate themselves from their peers and often engage in risky — or even outright dangerous sexual activity.
It’s a vicious cycle. First, we pretend that homosexuality doesn’t exist. Then we deny the ability for gays to form relationships. Then, when we discover that it does exist, we’re horrified to learn that it involves risk and danger because we’ve actively worked to prevent any form of stability in the lives of LGBT people. Finally, we condemn it because of the risk and danger, further alienating the people it affects.
One of the primary “bad things” about LGBT people that conservatives are quick to point out are the health and psychological problems that are prevalent in the alphabet community. However, in states where marriage equality is legal, overall health in the gay community has shown a dramatic improvement.
By further alienating gay kids in middle school, it only adds to the potential problems that they’ll deal with. Aside from the shame heaped on them by their church youth groups — despite the fact that most gay and lesbian kids are not sexually active, they have to deal with an extraordinary amount of bullying. Sadly, though, bullying is viewed by many “leaders” as a normal part of life.
Tell that to the parents of Phillip Parker and Jacob Rogers, two gay teens — among many — who were bullied to the point of suicide. In a time where we are more aware of the horrors that gay teens face every single day from their tormentors, we must speak out with one voice that the time has come for these kids to be embraced for who they are.
Those who have been through schools in Lake County, Florida have been vocal about the Carver Middle School GSA. Their local newspaper recounts a few personal stories that help to clarify the situation:
Another supporter, Christopher Donohoe of New York City, said he attended school in Central Florida and “struggled throughout my K-12 education, constantly feeling like an outsider who needed to hide and/or change his sexuality.”
Directing his comments at Lake school district, Donohoe added: “You are not only denying these students the right to start an organization that they believe in, but you’re denying them the right to fit in and feel accepted.”
The fact is that gay kids don’t identify as gay because they have “gay sex,” which is a common view among the anti-gay crowd. They’re gay because they are attracted to members of the same sex. Despite this, schools and governments to continue to drive their heads into the sands of bigotry and ignorance. We see it in Tennessee, and we see it in Florida.
It’s long past time for us to not see it… at all. Give our gay kids a chance to live. To dream. To hope. And a dream to marry.
Only then will we have truly won the battle — not to exist, but to live well.