In the last several weeks there has been much discussion in my high school and our community about the school's health curriculum and, in particular, its unit on diversity. In seems that some people object to the idea that homosexuality is mentioned in the classroom. As in most communities, the faction is a small but vocal minority (in our town it is essentially two mothers and a small supporting cast) who fill the newspapers with letters to the editor chock full of half truths and convoluted logic which they believe "proves" that they are right in their stance on gay and lesbian issues.
These people firmly believe that the words "gay", "lesbian", and "bisexual" should never be uttered in the classroom, as if by ignoring these issues they will somehow go away. If we never talk about homosexuals, their thinking goes, then they'll never have to worry that perhaps their own children will be negatively influenced and turn out "that way". Of course their thinking ignores almost all of the current research that says that sexuality is determined genetically and is no more a choice than whether or not you have blue or brown eyes.
These people also ignore the fact that sexuality is everywhere. Parents may be able to control what goes on in their own home to a certain extent but they can't monitor their children 24 hours a day. If students don't learn about sex and sexuality at school they will find out about it on television, in their local bookstore, at a friend's house or over the Internet. It just makes more sense for teens to learn about these things from people who are trained to teach and in a supportive, non-threatening environment where they can feel free to ask questions and engage in thought-provoking discussion.
Unfortunately many of the people who oppose the discussion of homosexuality in school can't be reasoned with in this way. They are sure that they are right and no matter how many facts you present them with, they won't change their position. Recently a letter to the editor in our local paper by one of the two mothers who lead the charge in our community spoke out against a pink triangle on the door of one of our guidance counselors. The triangle's purpose, as we all know, is to let gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning students know that they have a safe place they can go to if they want to discuss issues surrounding their sexuality. Anyone who has seen the statistics regarding suicide rates and depression among glb teens knows how invaluable having someone to talk to can be. Too many times, we feel like we are the only ones out there, that no one else in our school or our town could possibly be gay. Having someone to talk to can make all the difference in the world. And yet this women objects. She thinks that the school has some sort of hidden "homosexual agenda" that is being forced on the students. What does she envision, perhaps inside that counselor's office is a sign-up sheet where any one who has been influenced enough by a lesson in diversity can decide to turn gay?
Fortunately, the people who have adopted these archaic positions, while vocal, are few in number. And it seems to me that with each passing day more and more people are becoming aware of gay issues and learning to be tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians. That new attitude comes in part from a willingness by schools to discuss gay and lesbian issues openly and honestly in the same way we discuss racial and ethnic diversity. We'll never totally be rid of people like the two mothers in my town. After all, they don't want to be confused with the facts. But we need to recognize their bigotry and ignorance for what it is. Hopefully other people will too.
Comments can be sent to me at BCEagleGuy@aol.com and if you're looking for a glbt youth support group near you, be sure to check out the directory on my web page.