In my last post about homosexuality in school, I posted this:
I live in a world where my lifestyle, or at least the lifestyle in which I am categorized, is not accepted fully. In fact, kids as young as nine years old are being programmed to think that boys liking boys is weird. How could I be mad at them? It’s not their fault. It’s society’s.
I simply said, “I really hope we’re not being judgmental right now,” and I left it at that.
What I wanted to say was, “Now, boys and girls, I happen to like boys, and that’s okay. And it would be okay if you did, too.” In my mind, it was the perfect teachable moment. The perfect segue way, not to preach that one “should” be gay, but that it shouldn’t be a source for laughter and bullying.
I received some excellent responses, but I was especially appreciative of this one (@tgeigs), not only because it caused me to be reflective, but it also helped me see that, perhaps, my message was not perfectly clear when I sent it. Or maybe my message was clear, and that I needed to step back and take things a bit less personally, and focus on my kids.
From @tgeigs: Should you have used it as a teaching moment? Here’s why I’d say no, though I’m quite conflicted about it. Do you think the majority of these kids are not going to understand who their teacher was when they get older? I sure know at least some of my teachers who were gay back in grade school, and since they were some of my favorite teachers, that impacts how I think of the situation as a whole later in life. Don’t you think you’re going to have that same effect, and is that effect better or worse than any risk you might run as a result of the actions you want to, and likely rightfully could take?
In retrospect, I think I made that post too much about me, and not enough about the bigger idea: tolerance and acceptance. I can’t help but take things like this a bit personally, but you are totally right that kids are born ignorant. That’s why we teach them: So they will learn.
Do my kids respect me? Of course they do. Do I think they’ll understand some day? Of course I do. And do I think I am making a profound effect on them each and every day? Of course I do. But here’s the part where I disagree: Will I have the same effect on them if I stay silent? No, I definitely will not.
I recently had a discussion with another good friend (@sarahmsteacy), a bright girl whom I have a great deal of respect for, someone who started off simply as my best friend’s little sister, and now someone who I consider a part of my extended family as well. We also spoke about my entry on talking about homosexuality in school, and brought up the idea of complacency once again. She actually went so far as to talk about the memorial museums that are intended to remind us of the horrors that occurred during the Holocaust. She profoundly changed my thinking on this topic when she said, in so many words, that all of those museums, specifically the two she studied, cause us, as viewers, to identify with the victim, to feel badly for the victim, which is essentially what I did the other day. And I am so sorry, because I didn’t mean to do that.
Rather, she stated, these museums should make us identify with aggressor, the intolerant being, the criminal that is inside all of us. We are all capable of such inhumanity. We are all capable of prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance. When I want to speak out about my sexuality, it is not because I want people to agree with me, and it is not because I want people to like the fact that I’m gay. Rather, I want people to accept it and to recognize that, regardless of beliefs, I have a right to be who I am without being made fun of or judged.
So, to answer this question, which I am, once again, so grateful for–my answer is no. No, I will not have the same effect if I continue to waste these teachable moments. However, instead of bringing my own personal issues into it, I should, instead, teach them how to identify with the aggressor. I should tell them how I used to be like them, and how I used to think it was weird that people were gay–well before I learned.
I should teach them that there is intolerance and ignorance naturally bred into them, and that it will only be released if they let it.