»Gay. It is a word that, over the course of history and especially in recent years, has sparked both controversy and revolution.
Last year, a piece of Tennessee legislation called SB0049 — nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — was passed in the state Senate, sponsored by Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville. It was scheduled for a hearing in the House Education subcommittee Wednesday, Jan. 18, and is now waiting on review from the panel.
If this bill were to become law, it would prohibit instructors in public schools from using the word “gay”— or teaching about any lifestyle other than heterosexuality.
This is problematic for a number of reasons.
For one, a refusal to teach children about real-life issues, keeping them in ignorance, is a serious failing on the behalf of public education.
The truth is there is a vibrant, flourishing gay community, and it will not cease to exist simply because it is not discussed.
To prevent education about this part of culture is a disservice to the children, who trust their schools to provide them with essential knowledge, and the parents, who pour their tax money into what they assume will be quality educational facilities for their children.
Censorship is associated with inappropriate content, such as societal taboos, obscenity, graphic violence or profanity. To censor the word “gay” as if it belongs with these is not only a slap in the face to all the gay men and women who want nothing more than to be afforded the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, but also it teaches children being gay is perverse and unnatural.
For young, developing minds who are just beginning to form sexual identities, this could be catastrophic. Gay children would be discouraged from being who they are, while straight children would feel justified in bullying those who are different.
These messages are not fair to children, nor are they just or warranted. There is always the issue of age suitability. The bill explicitly illegalizes curriculums including discussions on homosexuality from kindergarten until the eighth grade.
In early, formative years, it is understandable legislators do not want sex being discussed in the same breath as the “ABCs.” However, this should apply to sexuality of all kinds — not homosexuality specifically.
In many children’s cartoons, a man and a woman can be seen dating and even kissing one another, and this is portrayed as sweet, romantic and natural.
What some may fail to realize is a children’s animated feature starring two men or two women who become romantically involved and share a kiss in the end would not be any more unsuitable for children than the more traditional boy-meets-girl.
If anything, it would show children love of all kinds is both beautiful and natural, and being true to one’s self is okay, even if one happens to be gay. It is never too early to teach that lesson.
Obviously, sexuality does not need to be discussed with children in kindergarten or elementary school; at that point, their minds and bodies are not fully developed, and such lessons would not be fully comprehended and would be grossly inappropriate for a school setting.
However, when children reach middle school and begin to reach puberty, it is essential they begin to be educated, and homosexuality is just as worthy — and necessary — a topic to discuss as heterosexuality.
With this bill, Tennessee legislators have done the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting, “Na na na na na, we can’t hear you” to the gay community, but ignoring what one disagrees with does not make it disappear.
Perhaps the lawmakers should be a little more concerned about providing children with a fair, balanced, well-rounded education and trust them to form their own intelligent, informed opinions rather than keep them in the dark about such a major issue.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a misstep in Tennessee legislature that will hopefully be remedied very soon. TAS